My commitment to parenting in a most peaceful and respectful way alongside my children can be most challenged when visiting a medical professional. I am beyond grateful that this happens on a rare basis as my children for the most part are super healthy. It’s a side benefit of being happy and avoiding the world of germs that are a natural part of hanging out in a large crowd like school. None the less there are concerns like allergies that send us in to the medical world.
At 3 my youngest son had a scratch test done as we suspected some allergens were causing some asthma like symptoms, some chronic runny nose and because daddy has an anaphylactic reaction to tree nuts. It was a terribly horrible experience. He reacted to a large number of the things on his back in a large hive like way and was screaming for the 15 minutes we were left alone in the room. He remembers only that part and speaks regularly about how horrible it was. So one can imagine heading back to the allergist was not high on his list of things to do.
However, when your epi pen expires and you live in a whole new country these things needs to get done. We chatted about that and he agreed it was a good idea. We also discussed the idea of getting re-tested just for the specific nut allergy. Which at first he thought a bad bad idea. Yet, as the days rolled past the thought of perhaps being freed of that allergy opened in his mind and he was willing to get just that test done. So that is how we entered the building ready for one scratch test.
The reality was the boy ended up with full panel survey (which is an 11 by 11 checkerboard on the back with each box tested for a different allergen) and a requisition for a full panel nut allergy blood test. How do you peacefully get from, “I’ll let them test me with one small scratch,” to willingly engaging in a huge full out allergy investigation. I can’t take all the credit for this at all. The folks we encountered at the Allergy And Asthma Associates of Northern California where amazing. The first nurse who walked us in to get our vitals, instantly started chatting with my son. Assuring him he would always be “I heart bacon to her.” As this was the shirt he wore. She earned his trust by noticing who he was and what sorts of things made him smile.
The doctor also walked in the room and introduced himself to my son first. He asked us questions and almost immediately started drawing pictures and using 3-D models to explain things to BOTH of us. He spent 45 minutes earning our trust, explaining, exploring, answering. When he suggested a full panel scratch test I looked at my son. I knew it was the best idea. I also knew I would walk out of there if it was too much for him to take in today. We had agreed to just one test and I knew I had to keep my word to him. He looked at me with a small shrug, not a no way but a body language of maybe but I am not quite sure. So I turned to the doctor and I told him our story, of the first scratch test. The doctor turned to my son and said “as soon as we know you are reacting to something, we can wipe it right off your skin. If it’s too itchy you just tell us.”
BOOM – he heard my son, he respected, his experience he earned his trust . My son felt he had both choice and control so he agreed. When we met the nurse who was to conduct the test, we told her our story as well, before she began. She looked at my son and said “that must have been awful. I am going to check in with you every 5 minutes to make sure it’s not too bad.” She also listened and respected his experience. And she was true to her word, she set a timer, she returned and when he said it was too much she wiped off all of the allergens that were too much to handle. She then returned after another 5 minutes and he was done so she wiped it all down massaged in some anti itch cream and sent us back to the doctor. I won’t post photos of the poor boys back but it’s safe to say he had a big reaction to 75 percent of the things on his back and it looked like a terrible case of the chicken pox.
When we were finishing up with the doctor we talked about the nervousness of having a blood test. He suggested we take a bag of ice cubes with us so we could numb the area before the needle went it. He said it’s cheap and works just as well as anything he has tried. Again, my son was heard, respected and so a trust could be formed. The sort of trust that gives him the courage to do something super scary.
I am deeply grateful that this experience was as beautiful as it could be. If it had not been, I was ready to walk away. Respecting my boys choices about their bodies gives them full authority over their bodies. Trusting them to make the sorts of decisions that will support their full health also builds them to a place where they have full authority over their bodies. This is important, so important because I want them to trust their instincts, to know when something is wrong inside of themselves and more importantly to know they have the right to say “get your hands off of me, this is not okay.”
What I saw today was my son gaining a deep understanding of his allergies and the ways he can manage them. I saw him building a relationship with professionals built on respect and trust. These are things I want for him. For he will manage his health and his body for many more years outside of my care then he will with in it. To know now that he has choice and deserves to be heard and respected is the best possible possible thing he can learn.