Monday, April 13, 2009

The Power in a Promise

My job as an Ultrasound Technologist in a busy metropolitan hospital requires an expertise in dealing with all sorts of nervous patients, especially little ones. Children, agitated about their coming sonogram, often require special efforts to ensure their cooperation.

Over the years, I developed some effective ways of neutralizing the fears of little ones, such as demonstrating how the sonogram is done on their parent or making a game out of the test; look…your tummy is on TV. Occasionally simple explanations are enough to calm them. Little did I know in one case, a special promise would be necessary.

Several years ago, I called the name of an eight-year-old girl in the waiting room. She cringed and resisted her mother’s attempts to lead her in my direction by clinging to the armrest of a chair with a death grip. Loud, exaggerated wailing and crocodile tears ensued. It was obvious she had no intention of allowing me to perform the test.

Immediately, I crouched by her side to be smaller than she was and hopefully less intimidating. My voice became strained as I struggled to be heard over her sobs.

I attempted to explain the test and soothe her fears, using every technique I’d ever learned to deal with children. Nothing quieted her vociferous demonstration. The child even screamed, “You’re a liar!” when I promised the test wouldn’t hurt. That really hurt my feelings.

She eluded her parent’s grasp and slide underneath the chair. Every time her mother grabbed her, the little girl wailed even louder. Embarrassed at first, her mom pleaded with her to come out from under the chair. She progressed to demands and threats, but the child ignored her.

I tolerated fifteen minutes of this behavior before I became impatient. It was obvious the child was not mentally handicapped in any way. This would have tempered my reaction to the tantrum.

The irritation in my voice finally caught her attention because her eyes widened as she peeked out from under the chair. I pointed my finger at her as I said through gritted teeth, “I will not hurt you. Scout’s Honor!”

Automatically, I raised my right hand, three fingers extended upward in the traditional Girl Scout’s pledge. I’m not sure why, but the habit of using that sacred pledge when I really want to be believed, ingrained itself in me during in my early years in scouting.

The sudden silence stunned me. The little girl’s eyes bugged out in surprise. “Are you a scout?” she demanded.

Stunned by the abrupt change in her manners, I paused a moment before I nodded. “A long time ago, I was. Once a scout, always a scout. You know we never lie when we say, Scout’s Honor! It’s against the Girl Scout rules. I promise this test will not hurt!”

The child emerged from her hiding place and grabbed my hand. She dragged me down the hallway towards the exam room.

Her mom and I looked at each other as we hurried down the hall. “What just happened?” I asked.

The woman just shook her head and shrugged. “I don’t know, but I bet you’ll remember us.” We both grinned in relief.

The testing proceeded without a hitch. The little girl enjoyed watching the sonogram and was a delight to work with. And I NEVER forgot the power in that special kind of promise.

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