Medals for Bravery

Today, Robert went to see his allergy doctor at Children’s Hospital.  He was due for his RAST tests to check and recheck his susceptibility to old and new allergens.  I was afraid of how Robert would react to a needle entering his vein. Robert was afraid too.  I told him about necessity of the tests before the visit.  He didn’t show fear, but  was clearly anxious during the whole stay at the doctor’s office.   Although in the past, he learned to tolerate regular allergy shots, he might still not be prepared for for the blood test. Drawing blood  can cause apprehension for many reasons:   syringes lined up on the counter,  a rubber tied around an arm, a phlebotomist looking for the vein, and…

The phlebotomist’s assistant held Robert’s left arm.    I held the right one and embraced Robert’s head hoping he  would not  see the needle.   But Robert  wanted to watch everything: his arm, his vein,  the needle, and the syringes in action.   He was anxious but resolved to bravely confront the anticipated pain. And he did.  He waited patiently until all the syringes were filled.  Then he unwrapped  small, circular band-aid and placed it carefully over a small puncture on his skin.

In the beginning of 2006 Robert started a series of allergy shot to address some of his environmental allergies.  For the first two appointments my husband took him to Children’s Hospital. I was told that three experienced people had to hold Robert during the first visit.  He also strongly protested all throughout the second. However,during the following three appointments,Robert behaved like a typical teenager, if not better.   I decided to switch, just for the sake of  vaccines, to the allergy office closer to our home and spare ourselves cumbersome, frequent  trips  to Longwood Medical Area in Boston.  Because the specialist  in my town refused to treat Robert  I had to find  another one in a nearby town of Needham.  The visits went smoothly.  Waiting for a shot, getting it, and  hanging in the office for 20+ minutes afterwards to make sure that there was no allergic reaction to the vaccine, were never a problem.  At some point,  Robert was walking with the nurse alone while  I  stayed in the waiting room hoping that Robert learns to be more independent and that the nurse would  feel comfortable with  Robert on her own. After each of the two shots he received, Robert insisted on unwrapping two circular bandages himself and carefully placed them on his arms.

At home, I kept finding those band-aids on the rug in Robert’s bedroom. After I removed them a few times, I ignored them until the day, I realized that the adhesive bandages were attached to the rug in a consciously planned manner.  They formed a long line of little circles almost exactly  six inches apart from each other. It was clear that after each appointment,  Robert placed one or two band-aids on the rug as if he wanted in this symbolic way to record  his experiences.  As uneventful as those appointments became to me because of Robert’s  calm demeanor, for him they were not the ordinary events.  The  circles with tiny squares in their centers confirmed that.

To warm up the floor in Robert’s bedroom during the following winter,  I placed a washable rug on top of the first one.  It covered all the little circles, but Robert continued to add them anyway. He formed a second row.  Even when he stopped getting  vaccines, he still kept all his bandages in place.

Today,  Robert added to the rug another band-aid, his well deserved, unpretentious  medal for bravery.