Gary B. Rollman,
Emeritus Professor of Psychology,
University of Western Ontario
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Tuesday, November 25, 2014
When The Doctor Says This Won’t Hurt A Bit — And Incredibly, It’s True | CommonHealth
In May, my six-year-old daughter, Julia, smashed into our front door handle and got a deep, bloody gash in her forehead.
We rushed her, head wrapped like a tiny mummy, to the medical center at MIT, where we generally go for pediatric care. Julia wept while the nurse cleaned and examined her lacerated skin. After a short exam, she sent us to the emergency department at Children's Hospital Boston for stitches. "How bad is that, generally?" I asked, having never experienced suturing either for myself or my cautious, risk-averse, older daughter.
"It can be traumatic," the nurse said.
Julia cried, "I don't want stitches."
It's a large needle, but Julia is too busy coloring to notice.
So I braced myself for the worst: an endless wait and nerve-wracking bustle; screaming, germ-laden children and brusque, end-of-shift staff. But more than anything, I dreaded the inevitable pain in store for my small child with the deep cut.
(I know, kids get banged up on the path to adulthood and some pain is unavoidable. Still, when bloody heads are involved, I tend to overreact.)
Indeed, I was in full Mama Bear mode when into our exam room strode Dr. Baruch Krauss, the attending physician that evening.
Dark, lean and intense, Dr. Krauss shook my hand and then went straight to Julia, complimenting her pink, sparkly shoes. She lit up and was eager to chat. They talked about exactly how old she was (nearly six-and-three-quarters) and what she likes to do (climb trees). Then he gently rubbed a bit of Novocaine gel on her cut and said he'd be back.
I hovered nervously around Julia, checking and rechecking the cut and generally exuding anxiety, while my husband sat quietly, telling me to calm down. Sure, that'll work.
Five times over the next 40 minutes or so, Krauss came in and re-applied the anesthetic, gently squeezing the site with his thumb and forefinger. Why, I wasn't sure. Was it a dosing thing? Was he just numbing the wound even more before the scary stitching began? With each visit, he engaged Julia to learn something new about her. For instance, she loves to draw.
And, she loves snacks. On my way back from the cafe with treats, Krauss stopped me in the hall and said something like, "I'm going to stitch her up; it really won't be bad." I rolled my eyes. But, he added, "I need you to work with me. I'm going to give you a task." Fine, I said, though the whole thing sounded a little gimmicky.
Krauss returned with an oversized 101 Dalmations coloring book and a handful of Magic Markers. He opened to a page overflowing with dog outlines. "Julia," he said. "I want you to color each dog's ear a different color, OK? Which color do you want to start with?"