Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Let's Give It A Shot (Guest Blog by Philip Dunn)

The sign read “Whale Parking.”

I figured the hospital put it there for the children patients, being certain that there was a moniker reading “south level section A” or some such corporate designate for the adults. Lyda picked up on the theme as she read “Whale entrance, Giraffe section, Airplane elevators, Balloon stuff, etc”

“This is sort of like Disneyland.”  She said.

Lyda started to open a little.  The drive from Wenatchee had been a solemn.  Neither of us knew the gravity of our situation.  The clinic made an appointment for Lyda at the rheumatology department of Children’s Hospital in Seattle and we dutifully complied.  I, with my doubts, and Lyda, with her fears.

“Do you think they’ll have plastic chairs shaped like Hippo heads?”  I asked.

“. . .Or, maybe a water fountain shaped like an elephant’s trunk.”  She responded.

“. . . or . . . a soda machine shaped like a cow. . . and . . .”

. . . Maybe a bit over.

We tried to joke on the walk to the Whale entrance, but a van pulled between us and the door.   We watched while two women worked an unusual wheelchair out the side door.   I thought about offering help, but I didn’t know what to do and the women moved methodically, with experience.

It was a high back leather upholstered chair decked with all sorts of straps, hooks and holders.  A shelf for an oxygen container.  Pouches and tubes.  Stealing a glance inside the chair, I spied a little boy, maybe four-years-old, half-sitting, half-laying in a fetal position.  He wore seatbelts and a harness.  His head was strapped.  The two women talked as if discussing last week’s soap opera.  The blonde one looked exactly like the boy.

Lyda looked up at me.  I tried hard not to exude any more vibrations of helplessness.

“Whoa . . . That’s gotta be the Cadillac of all wheelchairs!”  I shakily said as we got more isolated.

Lyda navigated the building, after I put us on the wrong elevator.  (I didn’t think two elevators sitting side-by-side would go to two different places.) We entered the waiting area with ten minutes to fill out insurance forms and family history.  Then, we settled back to watch ‘The Powerpuff Girls’.  To my surprise, a girl called us to the examining room within moments.  I looked and saw it was one o’clock.

Good . . . we’ll miss rush hour.

After fifteen minutes of no-show doctor, I decided to educate Lyda on the art of doctor waiting.  I started rummaging through cupboards and drawers.  We scored some soft footies and rubber gloves, but just when I pulled out four or five of the cones used to look up your nose and in your ears, the door opened.

Dr. Sherry entered reading a file, and giving me time to discard the evidence.  Running shoes, blue jeans, tee shirt, white jacket. Dr. Sherry.  He sported a scraggy beard, long curly hair, and glasses.  Too skinny and short to be a troll, he looked like a hippy pixie.  I’d dealt with his type before.  They get you into trouble and cost money.  But they’re so damned funny, you have to keep them around.

Lyda laughed a lot as he examined.  I blabbed nervously throughout.  He told stories going from joint to joint.  I countered when I could.  He cracked jokes and hummed a Neil Young tune, then stopped after twenty minutes.

“Lyda, you have Pauciarticular Arthritis.  Have you ever heard of it?”


“Well, I have, and I can take care of it!”  He stated.

Lyda’s welling eyes searched for me.  I could see her, but I wasn’t there.  I didn’t understand Pauciarticular and that is where I stopped . . . until I heard him say he would take care of it.

Dr. Sherry looked at me . . . 

“We have to drain the fluid in her knee and give her an injection.”

“Right now?”


“Noooooooo!”  Shrieked Lyda.  “No shots!”  

She jerked her leg from his hand and curled on the table.

“Honey, we have to do this.”  I said.

“I don’t care.  I’m not getting a shot.”

“I understand the stress, so I’ll leave you alone and come back in a few minutes.”

The doctor looked at me, nodded his head once then left.

The battle between my twelve-year-old and me progressed.  I knew I would give in to her wishes because I always did.  This time I thought I needed to try as hard as I could, It seemed crucial.

The doctor stuck his head in after twenty minutes.  We still battled, both crying and hugging.

. . .

Forty minutes later, we formed an agreement.  If the doctor would give her a pill sedative, she would get the shot . . . if she could hold my hand, twist, contort, claw, and bite me every bit as much as the treatment hurt.  On my way down to the pharmacy I began to wonder if I made such a good deal.

Another half hour for the Valium to work, then we proceeded.  Dr. Sherry used a red cocktail straw to mark where to place the needle, and the ordeal began.  I held Lyda still with my right hand.  She had her nails dug deep into the back of my left alternating from pulling apart my fingers to twisting them until all of us heard them crack.

Lyda still screamed after the doctor finished.  Tears flowed down her cheeks.  Tears and sweat poured from me.

Dr. Sherry patted me on the shoulder as he departed, saying, “We’ll do this again in thirty days.”

. . .

I looked at the clock as we left the building.  Ten to Five.  Rush hour for sure.  Lyda still whimpered, exhausted, as she fell into the passenger seat.  We met bumper to bumper traffic when leaving the hospital.  By that time, I felt so relieved and tired that I didn’t care.  It was almost better to see cars, lights, and people than to continue the frantic blur of events passing at high speeds.

I believe Lyda’s sedative finally took affect as we crossed the floating bridge.  She lay with the seat back and her head on a pillow beginning to nod.  Her hand fumbled its way to the console reaching for me.

“I love you, dad.”

She seemed to drift off when I put my hand on her’s.

“I know, sweetheart . . . I know.”


Click here to read more by Philip Dunn, and tune in for future RA Friends posts!

1 comment:

  1. It's soooo hard to be a parent when your child needs these treatments. You wish you could make it go away, give yourself the disease instead of them, anything. Great job raising your daughter with such a good attitude about her RA! - Angela E.


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