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No Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich Is Worth This

May 1, 2006

Last week, at our pediatrician’s request, I took Sophia to see a doctor who specializes in treating children with allergies. Sophia has a mild peanut allergy; we discovered it when she was a little less than a year old. (We had given her a taste of peanut butter Easter egg and were surprised to see her breaking out in hives an hour or so later. Called the doctor’s answering service, gave her Benadryl, and all was well.)

Nothing else has been said or done about her allergy since then. We have avoided peanuts and peanut butter, so she hasn’t had any more problems. It seemed logical to me. Mind you, there have been plenty of times when I’ve grumbled about how much more convenient it would be to have peanut butter and jelly as an option when it’s lunch time and I’ve got a bazillion things to do and not much in the fridge because grocery shopping is one of the things to do. However, we’ve managed these last three years without any major difficulty or problem, so I didn’t really understand why seeing a specialist at this stage in the game was necessary.

But we went to the appointment, talked to the doctor a little about her one and only reaction three years ago, and he recommended getting a blood test that would show if she is likely to still be allergic. If the test didn’t show a red flag for allergies to peanuts, he said, we would feed her peanut butter crackers and spend the morning sitting in a room watching her. I kind of chuckled nervously at the thought of my on-the-go daughter and me sitting in a room for an entire morning, and he said, “No, I’m serious. It will be about 4 or 5 hours.” Ugh.

So, today I took Sophia for the blood test. The bad news is that I had just had her blood drawn about a week and a half ago for a lead test (required for school registration), so she knew what was coming. The good news was that the doctor had said I could bring her by his office 1/2 hour in advance for some cream that would numb the area so it didn’t hurt so much. We breezed through that without any difficulty, but Sophia was nervous and not looking forward to the blood test. I kept reassuring her that it wouldn’t hurt as much as the last time because of the cream.

We arrived at the lab and it was PACKED. I thought that since most blood tests require fasting, the majority of the people would go first thing in the morning, so by 10:30 it would be less crowded. Wrong! We waited for at least 45 minutes. While we waited, Sophia was just as charming as she could be, talking and playing and writing her name and drawing pictures for me.

When we finally got called back there and completed the obligatory paperwork, the nurse asked if the doctor’s office had checked for a vein before putting the cream on Sophia’s arm. I told her that they had not, and she muttered something about doctors not knowing what they were doing under her breath. She put the tourniquet on the numbed-up arm and Sophia started wailing right away. She poked the needle in and, numb or not, Sophia screamed and kicked and cried. I had her sitting on my lap, one leg wrapped across hers, holding her arms as best I could. Then I made the mistake of looking at her arm and I saw the nurse wiggling the needle around in there, trying to find the vein.

Thank God I was sitting; otherwise I probably would have passed out.

After a few seconds that seemed a whole lot longer, she withdrew the needle and put a bandage on Sophia’s arm. Then, because she hadn’t succeeded in drawing blood from that arm, she informed me she would have to try to get it from the other arm. Which, I might remind you, has NOT been numbed.

More tears, more screaming, more kicking. Worse this time around because it’s hurting her more. I am trying to tell Sophia that it will be over in just a minute when I look at her arm and again see the nurse wiggling the needle around. At that point I lost it.

“Okay, stop! We are not doing this!” (I’m trying to sound calm, which is hard because I’m darn near hysterical.)

“There’s a vein in there,” she says. “It’s a little vein, but it’s rolling around and I can get it if she will be still.”

“She is not going to be still. And we are done with trying to get this test done. I’m not saying that you’ve done anything wrong, just that it is not worth it to me to put her through this. It is not a matter of life and death. If she’s still allergic to peanuts, then we just won’t give her peanuts.”

And the woman had the nerve to catch an attitude with me, and left the office in a huff! I grabbed a handful of stickers for Sophia, gathered up our things, and left. Then I treated her to an afternoon at the movies.

But not before I had a good cry right along with her.

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