“Alexx’s Plan for Back Pokes” circa 2001

A few days ago I received this wonderful memory from Child Life. At first I was really confused by the image and didn’t realize what it was. Below is my personal plan for dealing with back pokes (aka: spinal taps & bone marrow aspirations) from my leukemia treatment in 2001. Talk about flashback!

The discovery of this photo couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. I am starting my 3rd week of my Assessment, Preparation, and Medical Terminology course through UCSB and we are slowly but surely learning what it means to assess a patient and prepare a patient for a procedure. How perfect is this?! Many thanks to my Child Life Specialist for keeping this for all these years and for sharing it with me.

I’ll be honest, this prep card was tough to read at first. I didn’t even realize it was mine…until I read the last point: “After my back poke, I will try to close my eyes (to avoid seeing the monsters) and listen to music in my room or sing”… the monsters…there it is. It all came screaming back at that last line. I reacted poorly to the sedatives I was given during treatment for my back pokes, and when I woke up I saw everything in double, including people. Everyone (including my parents) that came into my room while the sedatives were wearing off appeared to have double facial features, and it terrified me to no end.

While I was reading over these points I was really excited to have such a good example, that I can directly relate to, to help me with my course. But that last point reminded me of the patients’ perspective once again. It’s scary, it’s hard, and those monsters – for that brief moment in recovery – are so so real to a paediatric patient. The monsters were real to me, and I can remember vividly what they looked like…yes, 15 years later.

For those entering the field of Child Life, and even for those who have been in it for years, please remember that the fears a child has during their treatment are real and have the ability to impact the way that they cope with their experience. Never belittle or make a patient feel like the monsters they see, or the pain they feel, is not real or not as bad as they think it is. Their concerns are valid, their fears are valid, and as Child Life Specialists it is our job to ensure that their concerns and fears are not only heard, but dealt with.

Thank you to my Child Life Specialists, Melissa and Lisa, for always making sure that my voice was heard. 

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