Overcoming Needlephobia

In September 2006 our son was diagnosed with severe haemophilia A. This was the first experience of haemophilia for our family. Also, I have always had a fear of needles. So the challenge began for me with the insertion of a port-a-cath for our son and training for administering factor for me as a parent.

I needed to suppress my fear to enable myself to hold the gripper needle and pierce his skin with it to administer the infusion. In the beginning, my body reacted to this fear with trembling sweaty palms and forehead, increased erratic bowel motions, and butterflies in my stomach. Despite my excessive stress response symptoms I did not display any of them to my son; he was totally unaware of his father’s distress. As the practice of infusion continued every second day the stress response became less difficult until they dissolved altogether.

Five years have passed since we became trained in the procedure of administering factor. We have experienced inhibitors which delayed our progress initially with use of the port and required more frequent visits to hospital, head injury’s which required unscheduled extra infusions at inopportune moments, in all of these extra on the spot experiences to give our son factor, adrenaline took over and my phobias disappeared.

Now my son is of an age where he will begin vein training. This is progress for him as the chance of an infection is greatly reduced, and it is how he will be able to self-care as he grows up, but this has thrown a curve ball to my well-practiced routine as I need to retrain this time to enter my sons vein, not a great idea for one with a fear of needles to start with.

With the portacath the image of a pincushion helped me to detach from, to some extent, exactly what I was doing; I was able to focus on getting the needle into a circular area of the portacath. Now I have no such image and looking for a vein in my child is very real. I am unable to detach from what I am doing; this has resulted in a return of the familiar stress response, but now I am using it in another way. My body’s reaction has heightened my sensitivity to the situation and I sense a strength in myself to move forward with the vein training.

My advice to others who find themselves in similar situations regarding the use of needles is to take control of the fear, don’t let the fear control you. There is no limit to what you will do for your child’s wellbeing.

Anthony O’Connor,
Parent of a child with Haemophilia

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