I’m driving to the hospital complex for a story and at the same time he’s driving her to the pediatrician for her 2-month checkup and that means shots and all I can see as I drive is needles closing in on her dimpled thighs.
And we talk of research and clinical trials and what may just be possible with stem cells and he says they may just revolutionize medicine the way antibiotics did and I think of immunizations, how they changed medicine.
The pediatrician said last month that the number of babies hospitalized for pneumonia has dropped so drastically as a side-affect of the routine immunizations that the local hospital is thinking of closing their pediatric wing, it sits empty so long.
The doctor I’m speaking to today, he talks of separating cells from tissue and my pen scratches fast across the page. All this is new and it’s hard to ask questions when I don’t understand the topic so I pay close attention, try to learn and question at the same time.
He pauses the interview to take a phone call and I note the time. Her appointment is underway.
And I wonder why I’m fighting so hard to focus when really, it’s not that big of a deal but I don’t think she’s ever felt pain before – not sharp pain like a needle – and she’s so little to have to meet it already.
I tell him before he leaves to hold her close, because it’s hard that she’s learning that pain is part of living when she’s only two months old and he probably rolls his eyes on the other side of the computer screen. I’m aware that I’m being overly dramatic but being aware and stopping it are two very different things.
It’s good that I’m not there, I think on my way back to the office. The pediatrician would think I’m utterly crazy.
And I might just take her and run when they come with those needles.
(It doesn’t help that I’m quite afraid of needles myself.)
At home in the afternoon she’s tired and whimpers a bit when she rests on her thighs but there’s just a pinprick showing. He said she didn’t cry much, but she sleeps all afternoon.
She doesn’t know it, but she’ll get anything she asks for today. He holds her through one nap and when she falls right back asleep after eating, I wait to lay her in her own bed until her breathing is deep and slow and her fist uncurls.
And by evening she’s back, smiling in her bath and staring at the strange little turtle that hangs from the bar over her bouncy seat and there’s really nothing to show from morning’s events.
I think of the empty beds in the pediatrics ward and – now that it’s over – I’m grateful for the needles that mean, most likely, she won’t suffer through what were once common, and sometimes lethal, childhood illnesses.
I’m still working on the stem cell story today. I wonder what it was like when antibiotics first came in to use, when doctors first started administering immunizations.
And I wonder if I’m writing about the next game changer in the world of medicine; what diseases she’ll read about but never know; if she’ll say how glad she is to live in a world with regenerative medicine the way I’m so glad to live with antibiotics, without polio or whooping cough.
Even if it means pinpricks in little, dimpled thighs.