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When a doctor performs a blood test, he or she takes a small amount of your blood to study it under a microscope.
Your doctor can get a lot of important information by studying a patient's blood. By looking closely at a blood sample, he or she can tell many things about your child's health. In some cases, this information can save lives.
Blood test results can tell the doctor how well your child's liver, kidneys, and other organs are functioning. They can allow the transplant team to find out whether your child has any infections – or, if your child is being evaluated for an organ transplant – whether he or she is more likely to get certain infections after the transplant. Blood also carries information about your child's nutrition. Doctors may test your child's blood to see whether he or she is getting enough nutrients in his or her diet.
Getting a blood test will also help the doctor find out your child's blood type. Each person has a blood type: A, B, AB, or O. Each of these types can be positive (+) or negative (-). The transplant team wants to make sure your child's liver transplant is a good match, and in order to do that they must know your child's blood type. Organs from a donor with the same blood type as your child's will be more compatible, and decrease the chances of rejection.
A doctor, nurse, or lab technician (someone whose job is to draw blood) will use a small needle to get some blood out of a vein, probably in your child's arm. Your child will feel a pinch when the needle goes in, but it is over very quickly.
Many people, both children and adults, are afraid of needles. It is not unusual, especially if a person has had a bad experience getting blood drawn in the past. No one enjoys getting blood drawn. Even if your child is older and intellectually grasps why the test is needed, he or she may have a hard time with it emotionally.
The most important thing you can do is empathize with your child. Put yourself in your child's place so that you can support his or her unique needs. Make sure to let your child know that you accept his or her emotions. Now is not the time to say, "You have to be a big boy and not cry." You might instead say, "I understand why you are angry. It doesn't seem fair." Or, "It's okay to cry. I know it hurts."
Different children experience fear in different ways, and of course it changes with age. Although there is no choice about whether or not to get an essential blood test, as a parent you have power over your child's medical care. Here are tips for getting a blood draw that will help your child have a better experience.
You might ask your child before the appointment, "Since we've got to get this blood test, how can we work together to make it as easy as possible?" Even very young children can help come up with a solution; their participation makes them want to try that much harder to make their ideas work.
For your younger child, test out suggestions like letting him or her sit on your lap during the blood draw. Your child may want you to distract him or her with laughter: tell a funny story or sing a song. Older children may prefer you to leave the room; this makes them feel more mature and in control.
It is much easier, faster, and less painful to draw blood when your child is not overly anxious and stressed. Leave plenty of time to get to the hospital. If you are tense due to traffic or other hassles, it may affect your child's mood as well. Play soothing music in the car on the way to the lab. Alternatively, you might want to distract your child with a fun game like "I Spy". Older kids may just enjoy a laid-back conversation about school or an upcoming party. If possible, bring only the child who is getting the test. This way, you can focus on him or her. After the test, perhaps you can both recuperate with some one-on-one activities.
Immediately before and during the blood draw, use any method that works to calm your child. Don't worry about how it looks to other people. Right now, your child's state of mind is all that counts. Sing lullabies, rub your child's shoulders – whatever comforts your child. Older children can be taught breathing exercises, meditation, guided imagery, or other relaxation techniques.
It may help to let the nurse or technician know beforehand about your child's fear of needles. Beyond drawing blood, his or her job is also to help your child get through it as comfortably as possible.
If your child requires frequent blood draws, he or she is bound to experience a difficult one. There is nothing wrong with requesting that another technician take over if things are not going well. Just make sure to make your wishes known courteously and respectfully. Lab technicians dread aggressive parents. A confrontation may makes them tense and cause them to miss more often.
Generally, it's best to give a technician two or three tries before requesting someone new. In some cases (for instance, if your child is dehydrated), his or her veins may be especially difficult to find. In that situation, it is better to let someone familiar with the current status of your child's veins try a third time than to get a new person involved.
Frequent blood draws can become a major emotional issue for children. If your child's fear of needles is or becomes extreme, you may want to seek the help of professionals.
Enduring a blood draw despite fear is heroic – no matter how your child acted during the draw. Also remember your effort is something to be proud of, too. Seeing someone you love go through an illness requiring a lot of medical intervention is very hard. It can be emotionally and physically draining, pushing you to your limits. You may even think it would be easier if you were the one who was sick, and not your child. Continuing to empathize with and be there for your child through it all, without shutting down, makes a world of difference.
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Children's Hospital's main campus is located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. Our main hospital address is:
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
One Children’s Hospital Way
4401 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
In addition to the main hospital, Children's has many convenient locations in other neighborhoods throughout the greater Pittsburgh region.
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Interested in giving to Children's Hospital? Visit Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation's website to make a donation online.