Next week Noah is due to have his pre-school boosters. This is worrying me. Not because I'm some hippy Mummy who doesn't believe in immunising her kids, far from it, I am a great believer in the immunisation programme and protecting the vulnerable. It's scaring me because of my phobia of needles.
My phobia started when I was 7, on a summer holiday to Cyrpus. A silly decision made by myself to climb over a wire fence into a park left me with a leg ripped open and in need of hospital treatment. We were staying with my Godparents at the time, my God father used to be in the army, so we were staying on the Army base in Akrotiri.
The hospital I attended was the army hospital. The drs were used to soldiers rather than dealing with young children who were petrified of what was happening. I can't remember much about what happened when I arrived at the hospital. I remember being hysterical after the dr said I would need to have stitches. I was so hysterical that they administered Valium. My Mum said I was drunk, high, laughing, totally relaxed..until the dr came back to do the stitches. It was as if they hadn't given me anything at all. My fear was stronger than the drugs and I snapped out of my chemically induced euphoria in seconds.
I fought the dr's who were trying to stitch me. They ended up wrapping a sheet around my arms to keep them still, and having I think 4 people hold my legs down and open so they could stitch my inner thigh. Imagine how this feels to a small 7 year old girl. Other than sheer panic, I can't remember what I was actually feeling at the time. Pain probably, stitches hurt. It put a bit of a downer on the rest of my stay, I couldn't swim (imagine being in a beautiful Cyrpiot, hot summer and unable to go in the sea), I had to sit on the beach whilst my sister went in the ocean. The snorkelling I had been enjoying up until then was no longer an option. The stitches were removed after 10 days, the wound fell open and I am now left with an ugly scar that still hurts in very cold weather.
This episode, added to an almost identical episode which led to another lot of stitches in the same leg the following summer has left me with a life long phobia of needles, hospitals and invasive procedures. So much so that I will avoid holidaying in any country that requires vaccinations before travel and I ran out of the school nurse office when it was time for my rubella jab, telling them I had booked an appointment at my dr.
This phobia reared its ugly head during both pregnancies. Especially Benjamin's, as during the last month I was having daily blood tests and cannulas as I was being tested for Pre-eclampsia. I refused to go for a gestational diabetes test, even though I know that if I did get it it could be bad for myself and baby.
When I know I have to have a needle, my body goes crazy. I sweat! I get hot, my vision goes blurry, the room spins and goes blue,spots appear before my eyes, I feel lightheaded, I cry,I hyper-ventilate, I get an upset tummy. It's not pleasant. This is a phobia that has been met with differing reactions over the years from "don't be such a baby", "it only hurts for a second" or "it's for your baby" (the ultimate emotional blackmail). People who don't have this phobia don't understand how crippling it is. It's not about it hurting, although I am sure the panic makes the pain worse. I'm not even sure what it is about? Lack of control? To have no control over what people are doing to your body, to be in pain and to not be able to stop it is a horrible situation to be in.
I use EMLA cream now and have done since I found out about it about 10 years ago. I often get disapproving looks from the nurses, as if I'm making a big deal about nothing. A couple of nurses have even betrayed my trust and jabbed the needle in an area not covered with EMLA. Why would a professional medic do such a thing to a patient they know is phobic? Power trip? "I told you so" or just pure nastiness? It takes the sting away, but it doesn't take any of the mental anguish away. I still get all the same symptoms as if I don't have the EMLA, but when I know it won't hurt that's just one less thing for me to deal with.
So how not to pass this on to Noah when I can't even watch what is happening? When he was 10 weeks old he had to have a cannula, I had to leave the room. I LEFT MY 10 WEEK OLD BABY to have a cannula because of an experience I had when I was 7! That just about killed me! I know I will have to sit and explain to him what is happening, and I am going to do what Mummies do, put on a brave face and pretend everything is ok. I hope he will be ok.
I don't think I will EVER get over this phobia, I just hope that I am fortunate enough to not have to go through anything that would require invasive procedures in the future.
One silly decision as a 7 year old has totally affected how I deal with medical issues for the rest of my life.