Monday, May 09, 2005

U.K. Blood

because people have asked

Note: Winston is back to his normal bouncy self. Still needs to gain some weight back.

Once upon a time, some oversensitive, child protection lunatic "with A LOT of unmet needs" became so powerful that they were able to advocate successfully “on behalf of children” regarding the methods by which any penetration of the skin occurs. This person has managed to implement policies which "protect children and their dignity."

Here in the U.K., sticking a needle into a child is a long and involved process. This process was designed "to reduce pain and trauma." First, they put an irritating white cream over the area where the needle will enter. Then, they place a clear sticky Band-Aid over the area to hold the cream inside. The cream turns the child's skin red. It becomes an inflamed puffy dot wherever the cream has touched. I am told, "This is not a reaction. It is normal and means the cream is working. " At first it is itchy, then the area becomes "numb for up to four hours." (Winston's arm was so numb that he screamed and writhed in pain when they finally got around poking him (repeatedly) with sharp instruments. And each time we pulled the tape off, it was so sticky his skin raised up a good 3 centimeters.)

IV's are administered only in extreme cases because for children - it is so "humiliating" to be "immobilized" and not have "freedom of movement" for their arm. Maybe they just thought I was a stupid American. But - this is what I was told by health professionals. You see, sick British children are so exceptionally dignified that to compromise that stoic, reserved air of composure would be the greatest indignation. Yes, yes, oh yes, this is exactly what I observed in the emergency room.

Blood is drawn in a most archaic method by a doctor (sometimes a nurse.) There are no trained phlebotomists here. They do not use a straight needle. (It's far too dangerous, not to mention scary. Oh yeah - I forgot effective and fast.) Instead, they insert some sort of tube to which a syringe is attached. Blood is drawn by pumping the syringe until you build up enough pressure to get what you need. (Repeat as necessary.)

I get the feeling that they don't draw much blood. Because, the most competent of all the doctors we saw, had to stick Winston about 8 times. Four to put in the IV. Four times in the other arm to draw blood.

If they need more blood - for example on the next day - they can't use the existing shunt to draw new blood. (Blood clots too quickly when they use what what I call "the oil pump method.”) So - the process must begin all over again. (Burning goop, sticky tape, sticking, sticking, sticking...jackpot! Red gold!!!! We've found blood! )

A sympathetic nurse who had been trained in "American techniques" told me she hated the process. She said that "by the time a kid is 3, they see the goop coming and begin screaming immediately." (The tape and goop method is also used for immunizations.)

The whole blood drawing process takes about 45 minutes. What is supposed to reduce pain, trauma and indignity is a dehumanizing, agonizing exercise in dominating your child so the professionals can do their job. In the U.S., I’ve had Winston’s blood drawn in five minutes. Sometimes, if I distract him, the phlebotomists are so fast he doesn’t even realize what’s happened.

But, I suppose swift, merciless, efficiency is more cruel to children. After all, it doesn’t prepare them for life.

1 comment:

ruth-e said...

hey christina...just a little hello from a fellow cc sister...this stuff is shocking. my girl had a dog bite a month or so ago and if we had to go through all this we'd still be there. wow.