I stuck myself with a hypodermic needle the other day. Intentionally. The first time in over 25 years of doctoring. More surprising, a six-year-old patient told me to do it, so I had to.
The boy, who I’ll call Tyler, came to the office with his father and had a large ganglion cyst on the back of his wrist — bigger than a jellybean. I told Tyler and his father all about ganglions and their treatment and my advice to drain it with a needle. Tyler didn’t say anything when I mentioned “needle,” but his eyes and body language told me that he wasn’t liking the idea. His father in a loving way told him he needed to be brave, that some things just have to be endured. I added the standard (and true), “It’s a very little needle. You’ll hardly feel it.” I sprayed a cold liquid first on my hand, then on his father’s hand, and then on Tyler’s to demonstrate its pre-needle numbing effect.
Even so, his facial expression told me that he wasn’t going for it. Struggling to control his tears, he asked to see the needle. I showed it to him. Then with astounding wisdom he blurted, “If it doesn’t hurt, stick yourself with it.” I took a deep breath and thought, wow, how am I going to make lemonade out of lemons?
“If I stick myself, then will you go through with it too?” With his assurance that he would, I sprayed my wrist cold, tried to disguise my hesitancy, and stuck myself while he watched intently for any sign of a flinch. “Not fun, but not horrible,” I related calmly.
Tyler climbed into the security of his father’s lap and embracing arms. He buried his face and put his hand on the table. I drained his ganglion without hearing a whimper. Tyler and I got Band-Aids. We all left the room with a heightened multigenerational respect, courtesy of our amazing hands.
Roy A. Meals is an orthopedic surgeon who blogs at About Bone. This article originally appeared in the Hand Owner’s Manual.
Image credit: Roy A. Meals, Shutterstock.com