The VAT team aides in difficult IV situations and specializes in pain management. One of those team members is Krislyn Headrick. She has been a nurse at Arkansas Children’s for about eight years and a member of VAT for more than a year. She also has a child who has benefitted from pain management tools used by the team.

Here is her story:

I had no idea the difference this team had on so many patients at Arkansas Children’s or the difference they would make in my own child's life. I think the experience we provide is very unique. The patience, understanding, advocacy, and attention to every detail about what is best for the child and their vascular access selection makes this team.  

I have also been on the receiving end of the VAT team services. My youngest daughter, Madalyn, was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy three years ago. It took us nine months to find a diagnoses. During that time, we had about four lab draws a month. The anxiety my child had every time we headed to the hospital for labs was heart breaking. It is hard to explain to a 6-year old why she had to go through the pain of needle sticks every week. 

Once she was diagnosed, we were told that before sedating her for procedures, she would need an IV. Usually, IVs are placed once a child is asleep, but not in Madalyn’s case. This meant that every time Madalyn went to the OR, she would need an IV placed while she was awake. We recently enrolled her in a clinical trial in another state. They were going to do a gene transfer. This trial meant a lot of travelling, time away from home, time away from family and friends, hours of physical therapy, numerous test, and a few trips to the OR. The trial also meant maybe a treatment or even a cure. 

Madalyn was excited about the trial except for one thing: needles! This trial also meant a lot of lab draws and numerous IVs. Her anxiety about needle sticks almost prevented her from participating. At this time, I had worked on the VAT team for a little while and knew about some tools for pain management for needle sticks. Madalyn agreed to try most of our tools. She is almost an expert now! 

Just to talk about a few of her favorites; Buzzy Bee (a vibrating palm-sized device) and EMLA cream (numbing medication). Madalyn has even taken Buzzy and EMLA to her clinical trial. She will tell you that she does not mind blood draws or IV starts as long as you use those two things. I want all parents to know that some pain management can always be used! I would encourage all parents to advocate for their child's experience. 

If a parent does not feel comfortable with the pain management or lack thereof, ask about options. If they still aren’t comfortable, ask for the VAT team to be paged. Also, ask for our policy on IV sticks. Do not be afraid to stand up when things do not feel right; your child's veins need to last them until adulthood, and one bad painful experience can cause years of anxiety about needle sticks.