By Jessica Leigh Johnson
I am the mother of four children, three of whom have X-linked agammaglobulinemia (XLA), a rare primary immunodeficiency. While each day has its own unique challenges, lab day tends to take stress levels to a whole new high.
This past Friday, I found myself, along with my three XLA boys, in the clinic for their quarterly Ig level tests. Normally, I enlist the help of another adult on lab day. One against three is a little intimidating. But this Friday, my husband was out of town, my mother-in-law was indulging her Swedish side at IKEA and my mom was at a funeral. If I rescheduled, it would be another week before we could get trough levels taken, and we were already a month late getting these labs done, so I figured I shouldn't waste any more time.
As I unloaded my kids from the Suburban, I thought to myself: I can do this. I have done this many times before. Never alone, of course, but…how hard can it be?
After we checked in at the desk, we walked to the waiting room outside the diagnostic center and waited for our names to be called. As usual, Gavin, 3, and Mathew, 5, found the blue water cooler; only that day, it was empty. That didn't stop Gavin from taking all of the styrofoam cups out of the cup holder and passing them out to each of us.
"Do you want a drink?" he asked.
"Yes. I love air. Thank you."
After 10 long minutes, the nurse called our names. "The Johnson brothers?" I'm sure the other folks in the waiting room were sad to see us go.
As soon as we entered the lab room, the technician said, "I remember you guys." She says that every time. I'm sure my boys are one of the few groups of three that enter the lab all at once.
"Who's gonna be the brave boy to go first and show the others how it's done?" the lab tech asked.
I volunteered Gavin, since he has to sit on my lap. Mathew stood next to the table as Gavin's blood was being drawn, trying to encourage him with words of comfort: "Don't worry, Gavin. If you don't move your arm, it won't hurt as much." I told him to go sit down and get out of the way.
Across the room at another table, Andy, 9, bombarded his lab technician with a constant torrent of questions: "Why are you using that needle?" "Isn't it a little long?" "How many times have you done this before?" "Do you promise it won't hurt?" Then he turned to me: "Mommy, why didn't you numb me before we came?"
When the lab technician's first attempt to draw blood from Andy's arm failed, she had to try the other arm, which only led to more questions: "Why are you throwing that needle away?" "Isn't that wasteful?"
"No, it's dirty and I need to use a clean one," she replied. I applaud her for her patience.
When Gavin was all done, he wanted the pink tape, not the red, to hold his cotton ball in place. Mathew informed him that he is a boy and should ask for the red. "Gavin's favorite color is pink," Mathew told the lab technician.
When Mathew, the last to go, was done, it took longer for him to decide which sticker to take than it did for all three boys to have their blood drawn.
Before we left, we had to throw a penny in the fountain in the middle of the lobby, which we have to do every time we visit the clinic. Looking back, I have to say I did pretty well by myself. It was a good lab day, relatively speaking. And in three more months, we get to do it all again!