I love living in the Smoky Mountains. The views! The plants! The trees! However, the downside of this scenario is illustrated by the yellow cast to every house and car in the area, as well as the violent sneezes of passersby. Allergy season can be intense, and no one in our family is more effected than my daughter, Nina, who spends much of each fall and spring looking like a “before” picture in an Allerest commercial.
We did turn to a variety of medications, and while they alleviated some of her symptoms, they had their own side-effects. I remember watching Nina’s last season of soccer—she stood in the field looking slightly dazed while teammates barreled around her. I started asking my mom network for ideas of other methods of treatment and the same word kept cropping up: Acupuncture.
And my response was always the same: Yeah, right.
My daughter has always been terrified of needles. Her pediatrician’s office used to schedule us for the least populated time of the day in order to spare their other young patients the trauma of being in the waiting room, or even the building. One “shot day,” after trying to pry my girl’s knuckles from a doorframe on the way to the examination room, a nurse jokingly suggested we try a drive-through option. I handed the chunk of doorframe back to her and said to let us know when they had their drivers’ window in place.
(Not that I can give Nina a hard time. As a kid I was just as bad about pulling my loose teeth. But come on—that’s practically dismemberment!)
So in spite of the increasing number of success stories I was hearing about acupuncture, coupled with my discomfort of having to regularly dope my child with antihistamines, I waited. I waited until Nina outgrew her scream-inducing, architecture-reducing fear. Then I explained to her the premise of pressure points near the body’s surface that wind throughout the body to key organs and systems, and how needles in Eastern medicine do not penetrate deep under the skin. (I left out “usually.”) I taught her breathing techniques to reduce fear and pain. And, on my daughter’s nod, I set up the appointment.
It was one of my top 10 decisions of all time—nestled between “Only wear comfortable shoes” and “Maybe I’ll try one of these chocolate-covered strawberries.”
On the first appointment, Nina’s acupuncturist talked to her about diet.
“Where are the needles?” my daughter asked.
She talked to her about full body wellness.
“Where are the needles?” my daughter asked.
“So, I take it you’re a little nervous about the needles,” the woman answered.
She reached over to a table and pulled a small paper envelope from a canister. She peeled it open and lifted out . . . nothing. At least, it looked like nothing. I tilted my head and caught the faintest gleam of sunlight on a strip of metal that had the diameter of a single hair.
Nina squinted at it. “It’s so narrow,” she said. She eyed the woman suspiciously. “Will it hurt?”
“Well, let’s try it on your mom first.”
The practitioner reached for my hand. What was I supposed to do—refuse? Sighing, I, er, handed over my hand. She traced a line between my pointer finger and thumb. “This is a good spot to increase energy and general wellness,” she said. Nina barely noticed. Instead, she was scrutinizing my reaction.
I drew in a deep breath and tried to conjure up an expression that said, Oh boy! I sure hope someone sticks a needle in my hand!
What I felt was akin to a fly landing on my skin. It didn’t hurt. Instead, there was just the slightest bit of pressure. I looked at my daughter and said, “Hey, that wasn’t bad at all.” Then I looked at my hand. Oh, that’s kind of creepy. . . No-no-no. Think happy thoughts! Wow! I sure do love that my hand is a little bit punctured! That’s swell!
“So,” the woman asked Nina. “What do you think?”
“OK,” said Nina, “but only if I can tap them in.”
That’s my girl! And also, can I take this needle out of my hand?
Nina’s treatment went off without a hitch. There was no screaming or crying or destruction of property—not that day or any other during her 4 months of treatment. Since that time, Nina has learned how to calm her mind and prolong her concentration. She’s more attuned to her body and feelings. And she hasn’t had a single antihistamine.
The past two weekends she’s been outside much of time, helping me set up our garden. (It only took me a couple of seasons to learn the mountain folk are 100% accurate: Never to plant before Mother’s Day!) We’ve gone to outdoor festivals and had picnics on the porch. We’re living the “after” picture of that Allerest commercial, only without the intermediate trip to the drug store.
But the next time she needs a shot, I’m still gonna use that drive-through option.
Angela Dove is an award-winning columnist (click here for archives) and author of the true-crime memoir, No Room for Doubt: A True Story of the Reverberations of Murder (Penguin Group, 2009).