How to: Toddler Echocardiogram

Grady had his echocardiogram last Friday. I was so worried about how it would go after the absolute disaster that was his chest x-ray. It wasn't as horrible as I expected, though, and we've already got the results (which are not 100% great but aren't cause for concern right now so this is me not being concerned. Ha.) 

One of the main benefits of the echocardiogram was that we had advance notice (for the chest x-ray we had to go straight from the doctor's office to the x-ray place.) We knew about the echocardiogram well in advance so we started talking about it with Grady about a week before the appointment. Nothing too detailed, just a few brief mentions of seeing a new doctor who would take pictures of our chest when we took our shirts off. (I know, right? Creepy. We followed up those brief mentions with additional brief mentions that it's only okay to take your shirt off so someone can take pictures if Mama or Daddy is there too. It was a mess. Kids are hard, man.) 

I brought a bag of treats with us. A few new Hot Wheels, a new book, a new stuffy, and a bag of yogurt-covered raisins (barf, but Grady thinks they're candy so HA!) (I know they're full of sugar so they might as well be candy but they don't have artificial colour in them so I feel like I retain some of my hippie street cred.) As an afterthought, I threw in a box of Smarties (the yummy chocolate Canadian Smarties, not the American ones that are actually called Rockets.) 

The Smarties are the only thing that saved the day after the hospital was running behind and we had to wait for 45 minutes in a non-kid-friendly waiting room, and the exam room was scary and not geared towards kids at all (I should have stomped my feet and insisted we be referred to Children's Hospital after I received the notice that we were being referred to a different hospital but I didn't because the hospital we were referred to was 15 minutes away instead of 45 minutes away and I'm a horrible mother.) By the time the echocardiogram actually began, we were all frazzled and on edge and it's no wonder that Grady screamed like we were trying to skin him. 

Fortunately Shawn was with us. When Grady is upset (like, legitimately, I'm-not-safe-someone-help-me upset, not I-want-popsicles-for-dinner upset) I get all mama bear and I'm unable to process a single thought beyond "fuck all y'all." Which isn't helpful because then I'm struggling with the flailing 2-year old but also with myself. I know that the cardiologist isn't trying to skin my child but my animal instincts take over and it's difficult to not scoop Grady up and run out with him under my shirt. Shawn recognized that our soothing tones and reassurances that everything was alright weren't helping and Grady was getting more and more wound up (the stress farts were the tip-off. Grady starts farting when he's scared. That's fight or flight, right? Science? Big words? I don't know. I'm tired.) So Shawn grabbed the box of Smarties and started feeding them to Grady as he recited the colours. It was adorable. And heartbreaking. And the perfect solution because Grady was so focused on naming the colours correctly so he could eat all the chocolate that he stayed completely still for the remainder of the exam. 

So! Toddler echocardiograms. Not the worst medical procedure to endure but one that I hope to never have to repeat. But! If we do have to repeat it (or a different medical exam that requires Grady to be still) I will remember the following:

Bring a partner. I could not have done it without Shawn. I don't mean that in an sing-songy way. I literally mean that I could not have managed Grady on my own.  I have suspected it for a while but the echocardiogram confirmed it: Grady is physically stronger than I am. 

Bring chocolate. Yep, I feel crappy about bribing my child. And I feel really uncomfortable that I may have given him the idea that it's okay to do whatever adults ask you to do if they give you candy. But I have to justify it as a necessary evil. I am not bribing Grady with chocolate 20 times a day so he'll put his shoes on. We needed him to hold perfectly still so the cardiologist could see his heart. In a perfect world I could have explained the situation to Grady and he would have held still for 10 damn minutes and everything would have been peachy. If 2013 has taught me anything at all it's that we don't live in a perfect world, and if Grady has taught me anything it's that 2-year-olds laugh in the face of logic. 

Don't put your kid down. Grady had emergency room visits at around 11 months, 20 months, and 22 months of age. Every time I put him down on the hospital bed when instructed to. Every time he panicked and screamed and thrashed, which resulted in nurses coming over to restrain him while he was examined by doctors. It is really hard to write about (because it is really hard to think about) but this time, the awesome cardiologist (she really was great - Grady's reaction had nothing to do with her) told me to lie down on the hospital bed and Grady could lie down on top of me. Brilliant. Yes, Grady still panicked and cried but his negative reaction was delayed - we got his shirt off and the jelly on his chest before he started to protest and he didn't really cry until she started pushing on his chest with the wand, whereas if we had put him down directly on the hospital bed I'm guessing he would have started howling instantly. 

Breathe. I did not breathe during the exam. Partly because of the stress farts. Partly because I have a bit of hospital anxiety leftover from my last surgery. It's impossible to see when it's happening but looking back, I can see how my demeanor affected Grady. I wasn't crying or hyperventilating or anything but I was getting shrill and breathless. Grady is a perceptive little guy. I need to work harder to be calmer for him.