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When a Squirming 5-year-old Needs Stitches, Imagery Saves the Day

07 Aug

My 5 year old son, a very active little boy, tripped while running around the living room and fell against a coffee table with sharp corners. He suffered a deep cut on his eyebrow. I took him to the E.R. to get him stitched up, and of course he started squirming and protesting the minute he realized what was about to go down. The more the nurse and I tried to hold him still, the more upset he became. Things went from bad to worse.

I’m a nurse with training in relaxation and guided imagery, but I’ve only used it on adults on the chemo unit. But I figured I had nothing to lose. I reminded him of our vacation last summer with his favorite aunts, uncles and cousins. When I asked him what part of the vacation he liked best, he said the day we went with his cousins to the state fair with all the animals and rides. I asked him what animals, what rides, and soon, with a little prompting for more detail, he was describing his best moments at the fair with a far-away look in his eyes and even a little smile on his face. He even remembered the smelly barn with the prize-winning cows and pigs! Before he knew it, the six stitches were done and he was good to go.

I thought you’d enjoy this story. A few "multi-sensory" memories, as you call them, sure do go a lot further than force in keeping a child still for stitches, that’s for sure.

Linda R.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award