When most kids tackle the annual “what I did on my summer vacation” essay, they struggle to get four paragraphs out of the family trip to Grandma's.
Not Esther. She wrote a book, entitled My Summer As A Human Pincushion.
"It's a true story," this third-grader from Sarasota explains. It all started when her dad took Esther to her doctor's office for a check-up. She'd had fevers and weight loss for three weeks. A quick finger-prick for a blood sample led to a diagnosis of anemia. But what was causing the anemia? To find out would require more lab tests - and a lot more blood. Esther would have to come back for a blood draw the next time she had a fever.
"One Saturday, my dad felt under my chin, clicked the thermometer and before you could say 'blood draw,' he had whisked me away to the doctor's office. Once there, we were met by a woman who said that she was going to take my blood and that everything was going to be okay. With that, she grabbed the needle and stuck it in my arm. It was then for the first time that I felt like a human pincushion."
It would become a familiar feeling for Esther and a source of concern for her dad Andrew. "When you've got an eight-year old whose doctors are not sure what's wrong and they're going to draw as much blood as it takes to get a diagnosis - that's hard on the child and hard on the family."
Subsequent blood draws led to screams and tears - including a few from one clinic staffer who'd never taken blood from a child before.
"Most clinics near us in Sarasota are set up for adults, and we would go in and they would have these really big chairs," dad recalls. "The best they could think to do was to bring in some towels to prop her up. And you wondered if they knew how to deal with an eight-year old."
"But when we got to All Children's Specialty Care of Sarasota, it's a much more child-friendly place. The waiting area is prepared for kids. There are toys. There are games. There are magazines to look at."
And there's someone specially trained in drawing blood from pediatric patients - phlebotomist Stacy Laboy.
"We get a lot of kids that have been traumatized by having labs drawn before," Stacy says. "It's really important that they understand we're not out to hurt them - that what we need to do is something that has to be done. We are going to make it as easy as possible for them, so that they realize it's not as bad as what they've made up in their minds it's going to be."
Little did Esther and her dad know how important that would be. Telethon viewers will hear the rest of Esther's story - here's a hint: Chapter Three is entitled "Hospital Happenings." And they'll also learn how Esther became part of a hospital-wide pain management initiative called "Up With Comfort, Down With Pain."
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