When I went for blood tests last friday, the hospital was jammed pack. Mostly with old people and pregnant women as usual. I don’t stay very long or wait for my name to be called because of type 1 diabetes. When I am fasting for 12 hours, I get the privilege of cutting through the line and have my blood drawn as quickly as possible. I do get mean looks though. “Why is she going through? Isn’t she going to pick a number? They let her in and I’ve been waiting for 30 minutes!” I know that’s what they are thinking because if I wasn’t type 1 diabetic and know about my condition, I would probably think the same if I would see someone “healthy” cutting through the line.
“Sorry, my pancreas is busted. For life. I get priority.”
Sometimes, there’s a line and I need to wait behind other people while we wait, and I remember one time, clearly. While my mother was still alive, she would go with me every single time. I was old enough to drive and go by myself, but she would insist on driving me and be by my side. And one time as we were waiting in line, there were people talking in front of us saying how “Blood tests every two weeks is soooo much stress” and my mother would say something along the lines of “Well my daughter has at least 5 injections per day. For life.” The people would look at me and turn around, their conversations cut dry. Of course, my mother didn’t want to insult them, or even make it awkward for me to stand there, all eyes on me, wondering why I had to use needles 5 times a day.
And I remember my diagnosis, my mother crying next to me, seeing her as white as snow when they had to draw blood from me for several tests. No, not tiny vials, big jars. I had never seen this much blood drawn from a single person in my life, and while I was fascinated that I could live without that much blood loss, my mother would wait outside my hospital room and cry, comforted by my newly diagnosed with Crohne’s disease roommate’s mother. And I would tell her not to cry, that I was lucky to have been diagnosed on time (With a BG of 42 mmol… or 756mg) and that I would live. You have to know that I lost a sister when I was 17 and so my mother was having a mental break down. Would she lose another child? Would she become childless and go insane?
Now that I am a mother, I know exactly what she was feeling.
So back to the blood tests. I was sitting down, waiting for the nurse to come to me and do her magic, when a mother walks in with what looked like a no more than 2 years old little girl, and about 5 years old little boy. They both look fine, so I assume the woman didn’t have any babysitter and had to get blood tests done. But then she tells the little boy to sit on the chair. And he looks scared. Not petrified, but scared enough that his face goes white really quickly, but he still manages to keep his cool. Then the mother asks him if he wants his little sister sitting next to him, “to help” she says. The mother looks as stressed as she can, but tries to keep cool for her children.
My nurse comes, I extend my arm, she does her magic, but my eyes are on the little boy.
A nurse goes to him and explains the purpose of the instruments she’s using. He knows, I can tell. He’s been there before. And while I’m thinking to myself “It doesn’t hurt, it just pinches a little” I still remember how I felt seeing a big needle and my own blood escaping my body. So my heart goes for him and I feel my eyes fill up with water because I am now imagining my son sitting in that chair.
The little boy starts to cry as the needle goes in and all I want to do is go over there and hug him tightly and tell his sister, his two years old sister, that she’s very brave to want to help her big brother. And I want to hug the mother and tell her she’s strong and that everything is going to be alright.
I hear the nurse tell the little boy “It’s okay to cry sweety, don’t be ashamed, when we’re hurt or scared, we cry, it’s totally normal.” And while she’s drawing blood from him, she’s talking to him telling him that he is strong, that he’s lucky to have a little sister that loves him so much, she helps him.
My blood tests are done, I get up, grab my backpack, put on my sweater, give one last look of empathy to the little boy and walk out the hospital. I don’t know if he was diabetic or if the blood tests were meant for something else, but now tears are falling down my cheeks because I am SO glad it wasn’t my son sitting in that chair.
And a father walks towards me, talking to his little boy, saying “You’re not gonna cry, right? Please promise me you won’t cry.” And my empathy is gone, in an instant, as they come by me and past. I hear the little boy say “I promise.” But I can feel the fear in his voice.
Children cry, it’s totally normal. But as the little boy cried, I felt the mother was even stronger than anyone in the room. And probably even stronger than the father who walked past me.