Thursday, June 17, 2004

Ease the pain by sharing

Got this article from the Life! section from Straits Times (16 June 2004). If I've infringed any copyrights by publishing it here, pls let me know and I'll take it down immediately. Otherwise I'm just sharing a heart-warming article.

Ease the pain by sharing

The family that hurts together, stays together. Or at least, that's what I learnt when my daughter had to get an injection

ONE of Haley's Hello Kitty earrings had become impacted in her left ear.

It was probably due to a bout of eczema. When the skin broke and then healed, the earring just got set in the earhole and was not going to budge.

'There's nothing I can do here,' said Dr Pat, our family doctor.

'I suggest going to KK Hospital where you can get her sedated.'

My wife shuddered - sedation means a needle and a needle means pain.

We have all been there. The terror of a sharp, thin, metal rod piercing your skin. Even as you age, there remains some trepidation, but at five years old, it seems like a near-death experience.

'You explain, Stephen. I can't handle this,' said my wife with all the bravery of a field mouse.

When D-Day came, and as the girls were having breakfast, I decided to bite the bullet.

'Haley, darling?'

'Yah,' she replied.

'We are going to take out the earring today. There's a hospital where the doctor knows how to do it.'

Apparently, she had been mugging up on her civil rights.

'If it hurts, I'm not going.'

'Well, that's just it. They have medicine that puts you to sleep so you won't feel a thing.'

'But if it's painful, I'll wake up.'

'This is a special kind of sleep where you can only wake up when they stop giving you the medicine,' I said.

'Daddy's had it before, it's very fun. They ask you to count backwards from 10, and before you even get to seven, you fall asleep,' I continued.

I feigned sudden unconsciousness by slumping in my chair.

'OK or not?' I asked.

'OK lah,' she replied, smiling.

At the hospital, she was her usual buoyant self. She happily laid on the bed, and her jolly demeanour quickly charmed all the nurses.

Even when they disinfected her thigh and I helped pin her arms above her head, she seemed relaxed, albeit with a slight look of curiosity.

Then came the needle.

A split second of shock was followed by the realisation that she was being injected.

Her eyes widened in shock and pain. Then came the screams that would rip out the heart of any parent and drop-kick it between the goalposts at Guilt Stadium.

After what seemed like forever, the needle was withdrawn from her thigh.

By now, her face was soaked in tears. With big, startled eyes, she implored: 'Why did they prick me? It's so painful.'

I brushed back her hair, dried her face and assured her that there would be no more. But even though she was staring with eyes wide open, the sparkle had gone and so had the trauma. She was sedated.

Twenty minutes later, a five-nurse team had removed the earring and an unconscious Haley was wheeled into the observation area.

She was expected to be out cold for another 45 minutes. But within moments, the little tiger had opened her eyes. She was aware but could not see clearly.

I felt sure she could hear me, though. Close enough to whisper, I told her I was there and that all she had to do was sleep.

But she was scared and fought against the unfamiliarity.

Her face seemed numb. Slowly, she opened her mouth as wide as she could and held it there for a scary 10 seconds, trying to understand the strangeness she was feeling.

Responding to my voice, she whispered: 'Papa?'

Despite her condition, with all the strength she could muster, she lifted her left arm onto my head to draw me even closer.

For the next 15 minutes, she drifted in and out of consciousness - her hand never straying from my head.

Soon, she asked for Mummy and got the big hug she was looking for.

It is so hard to see your little girl cry when she is scared of the unknown. In that situation, you realise that you are all that she has in the world.

But I was to realise something else that day too.

While still vulnerable though slightly more lucid, her face suddenly collapsed into tears again.

'I want Jie Jie,' she cried.

More than anything I had experienced all day, that plea for her elder, nine-year-old sister made me realise what we all are to each other.

It is natural to think that a child wants her parents when she is scared.

But for Haley to ask for Amelia, that speaks volumes for their relationship too.

Sisters, I have observed, can share a friendship, unlike brothers.

There seems to be a special closeness, born of trials of growing up together and cemented with affection, which perhaps brothers are afraid to express.

It is good to think that in their adult years the girls will still be friends. I hope our family unit stays tightly together.

After all, if I ever got my ears pierced, I would not want to do it alone.

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