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"Save Your Brave"- to help kids before medical procedures

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

"SAVE YOUR BRAVE" This is a phrase I say to patients during my Calm Fairies hospital visits when they feel anxious about a procedure (eg. a blood test or cannula). As someone who has lived with several chronic health conditions for the past 18 years (including an autoimmune disorder that requires several blood tests each year); 8 iron infusions over the past 2 years; and 6 surgeries with general anaesthetic), I have experienced my fair share of needles. Humans are wired to have an aversion to pain. We prefer to seek comfort and pleasure. Pain starts in the brain, and the more anxious we are, the stronger the pain signal gets. When kids imagine how much something MIGHT hurt, their anxiety can escalate pretty quickly and the smallest of pin pricks can be interpreted as very painful. Once kids have switched into the anxious response of “fight, flight, freeze” mode, there is no way to talk rationally to them. This is why it is ideal that Calm Fairies visit kids BEFORE the procedure starts so that we can guide them through some strategies and experiences that calm their nervous system during the “waiting time”. We help patients to focus their mind on something else in the lead up to their procedure (some may call this “Diversional therapy”, others call it “mindfulness”.) In addition to this, we also help to prepare kids to be able to do the HARD thing. One of the concepts we work with, is to “Save your brave” for the moment when you really need it (eg. when the needle touches the skin). If we use up all of our brave energy to fight fear when we are simply in the preparation phase, we will be tired by the time we actually need to brave. So instead, we find ways to stay focused, feeling safe and calm during the anticipation phase (eg. when the nurse is preparing the skin with a swab or prepping the medication). It might be with movement, with a craft activity, with a mindful treasure hunt and some slow breaths. When it comes time to actually be brave, we have another set of strategies to work with. Sometimes we simply need to ride the wave of pain and distress and then help the patient to feel safe and calm again after the procedure. Next time your young person is feeling anxious about an upcoming medical procedure, guide them to "Save your brave" for the really hard part. Up until then, keep them feeling focused, safe and calm, reminding them that it isn't time for the brave part yet!

Calm Fairy Stacey

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