Monday, January 12, 2009

Swallowing Pills

How do you teach a 5 year old to swallow a capsule?

The first method used to teach Isabella was not very successful. The teacher gave me a handout to describe the process and I'll try to summarize it: the parent leaves the room, the trainer asks the child to take a drink of water, the trainer then models the pill-swallowing behavior for the child. The child is then told to practice the behavior with the smallest placebo. If the child is successful, the child is praised. No rewards are to be given. The trainer then states, "Next pill . . ." and moves up in size. There should be no bribery, cajoling, or other persuasion. Protests or questions from the child are to be ignored . . .

Needless to say, Isabella wouldn't even acknowledge the woman was in the room with her. (I could have predicted this - Isabella often won't warm up to someone until she sees them for the 3rd or 4th time.) The woman apparently concluded that Isabella wouldn't participate and we never saw her again.

The child psychologists from rehab were then asked to see Isabella. They took a different approach, believing praise, bribery, and persuasion are sometimes necessary. If these ladies were drug-pushers, they'd be very successful! Again, parents left the room. They sat like they were all having a tea party, and were laughing and acting like it was all lots of fun. After playing Connect 4 several times, we could overhear things like, "OK, now we're going to try something really fun! Look what I can do with this Nerd candy! I'm going to put it on my tongue, take a sip, and look . . . it's gone. This is so cool! You have to try this, Mary!" Mary tries it and agrees, "You're right, this is easy and very cool to do. How about you try it Isabella!" Soon we were hearing that Horton (Isabella's elephant) was swallowing the Nerds, and wanted Isabella to do it, too. After the tremendous peer pressure, when Isabella finally did her thing, the rest of their time together became play time. She swallowed nerds for 2 days, then Tic-Tacs for 2 days, then a tiny clear placebo capsule filled with pink sugar the last 2 days before the real meds were to start.

The first day of Temodar came, and the whole family was there. We started our game of Monopoly, and stopped in the middle until everyone swallowed their "pill". Mom and Dad went, then Annalise tried a Tic-Tac, but couldn't, so she had to chew it. This made Isabella so proud that she could do something better than her sister, that she swallowed hers without a problem. I cannot describe how relieved we were.

Unfortunately, on the second day, Isabella had a fever and felt terrible. She was starting to throw up from the IV chemo already despite anti-nausea meds. We had a difficult struggle over several hours, and then finally forced the pills down while she had her mouth open crying.

This is not going to be as easy as we had hoped.

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