Bryce the Brave: The Magical Touch of a Phlebotomist

The team at Johns Hopkins All Children’s provides compassionate care for children for procedures big and small, including blood draws. Read about how the phlebotomists at the hospital use kindness, patience and expertise in pediatrics to help patients like Bryce overcome their fears.

Bryce with phlebotomist Fatima Singletary at Johns Hopkins All Children's.

Bryce with phlebotomist Fatima Singletary at Johns Hopkins All Children's.

Published in Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital - Spring 2023

As a parent of three boys, I’ve always wanted to take away each of their fears, pain or sadness. It’s hard seeing them sick or hurt because you experience their feelings, too. But the reality is I can’t shield them from everything, and in fact, facing adversity is a part of life and what will make them strong adults.

I work on the public relations team at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, and my boys are all patients here. It never ceases to amaze me how lucky we are to have access to such talented and compassionate health care professionals, knowing that the experts who I promote and highlight, are the ones also taking care of my children. This is my first-hand account of a simple, but wonderful patient-family experience at the hospital.

Aside from ear tubes, tonsils removed, a broken hand and stitches, my boys have been relatively healthy. My oldest son, Bryce, got the stitches and that has led to years of some post-traumatic stress. One day after Bryce’s fifth birthday when we lived in Texas, he was wrestling around with his brother and his face hit a windowsill. I heard the noise, ran right over — and bam, a gaping hole between his eyes and blood streaming down his face.

This was well before my career in health care, and we took him to a nearby urgent care. They did a good job with the situation, but now knowing the level of care and compassion that comes with pediatrics, especially at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, I would never take my boys anywhere else. That trip to the urgent care has caused a bit of fear in my now 13-year-old, and I am grateful for the expertise and care for children and teens at Johns Hopkins All Children’s for simple procedures, like a blood draw.

That time came recently after an annual check-up led to a typical blood workup. We pushed it off for as long as we could due to Bryce’s anxiety, but eventually I told him, “I know you’re anxious, but we have to get it done.”

Tears fill his eyes. He’d rather do anything else in the world than to get a vaccination, blood draw or anything involving a needle.

We arrive at the lab, and phlebotomist Andrea Cardena notices Bryce’s pale face and trepid disposition.

“Is he going to be sick?” she asks.

“No, he’s just really, really, really nervous,” I reply as I rub Bryce’s back and assure him it’s going to be OK.

She nodded her head with understanding, which gave me confidence as a mom who was nervous about Bryce’s reaction. She replied, “Ohhh ok, no worries, we got him.”

They call him back and we are greeted with warm smiles by both Cardenas and another phlebotomist named Fatima Singletary. They were warm and confident in their ways and worked together to make sure Bryce felt secure, heard and understood.

Singletary explained that while getting a blood draw is not fun, even some of the smallest babies get it done every day. Together as a team, we all encouraged Bryce that he could rise to the occasion and be brave. Phlebotomists go through hundreds of hours of training and must complete hundreds of successful blood draws during their education and certification to handle each diverse patient with care and integrity.

Bryce was in good hands.

He was clammy and a bit shaky, but slowly accepted it. They used a special topical spray to help numb the area. Singletary talked him through the process step by step so there were no surprises. They invited me over to stand by him and hold his hand.

One, two, three, then came the poke. Bryce didn’t flinch, choosing to watch the entire time.

He said he still felt it, and although it wasn’t his favorite thing to do, he was proud of himself. And so was I.

I am so grateful for the phlebotomy team and their bedside manner, patience and expertise in pediatrics, which makes a world of difference for moms like me with kids like Bryce, because even a small needle poke can make a big impact on a child, no matter their age.