Last Wednesday, my four sons and I drove to the University of Utah Pediatric Diabetic Clinic to participate in a medical study called “The Type 1 Diabetes Genetics Consortium.” Since two of my sons are diabetic and two are not, we are in a unique position to help researchers find clues about possible causes of juvenile diabetes. Each of our blood samples would be compared and screened for genetic markers which would indicate a risk of contracting this mysterious disease. Of course, that meant “giving of ourselves,” like our time, effort, and of course, our DNA.
“It’s going to hurt…”
I was so proud of my sons. They were all understandably hesitant about the blood draw. Even my two diabetic sons, who have many shots every day, were somewhat apprehensive. A blood draw is a bit more painful than an insulin injection. I reassured the boys that it would be over quickly, and what they were doing was a good thing. I had quite a bit of paperwork to complete, with signatures granting permission. My boys had to sign their names, indicating that they understood the blood draw would “hurt” and that their blood would be used to benefit medical research. Each of my boys, ages sixteen, fourteen, twelve, and even my seven-year-old, willingly signed the consent forms. (I had decided not to include my three-year-old daughter, because of her age and the fact that she had a dance recital later that day.) I told the boys under my breath, “They’re not going to find a vein on me. Nobody can. I’m almost impossible to draw blood from.”
My oldest son Garrett, who is sixteen, agreed to go first. He disappeared from the examination room and returned minutes later with a bandage around his arm. He made a joke that it had been horrible, but when his brother, Riley, appeared alarmed, Garrett smiled. “No, it wasn’t bad at all,” he said.
Riley went next. He asked me to go with him, so I crouched down and held his hand. His blood draw went smoothly. He was visibly relieved when it was finished.
My youngest son, Liam, went third. He cried a little when the elastic tourniquet was uncomfortably tight on his arm. But he bravely participated.
I had been concerned about Kyle, who has autism. I couldn’t even remember the last time he’d had any kind of injection or blood draw. Would he become hysterical? Would he refuse to participate? I prepared him that “it will hurt a little bit,” and he asked, “Will it be only one time?” I told him, “Yes. Only one time.”
I helped Kyle into his seat and as the phlebotomist searched for his vein, I instructed him to look at me. Kyle began singing “Hotel California” happily, and the researchers chuckled in response. He continued to sing as the needle went into his arm. “Plenty of room at the HOOoo-TEL California. Ouch.” He made a pained expression, but he held still and sat calmly in his seat. I’m not sure what I had expected, but Kyle had, in his usual fashion, shined. That’s when suddenly the phlebotomist said, “Oops.” The butterfly needle had been bumped and fell out of Kyle’s arm. Since they hadn’t retrieved all the blood they needed, they’d have to poke him again. I had “lied” to Kyle. Ugh. Yet again, he was patient and cooperative.
Am I Human?
My turn. As I rolled up my sleeve, I smiled at my boys down the hall, who were straining to watch from a distance. Sure enough, the researchers couldn’t find a vein in my arm. A nurse was called in. She couldn’t find one either. After attempting to poke me several times, they gave up. My son Garrett teased that I had failed diabetics all over the world. I laughed, but honestly felt a bit disappointed that it hadn’t worked for me. Perhaps deep down, I am really an android.
Contemplating the Benefits
The researchers gave us a check for $125.00 for our participation. That’s $25.00 each. As we drove home, the boys discussed what they planned to do with their share. I’ll admit, I was relieved the whole experience was overwith. I was proud of my sons, and hoped that giving our blood would provide some answers. I hoped that our family’s contribution to the cause of finding a cure would somehow, someway make a difference.
Kristyn Crow is the author of this blog. Visit her website by clicking here. Some links on this blog may have been generated by outside sources are not necessarily endorsed by Kristyn Crow.