Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Weekend

Kerry McClean: I came round to the vision of three heavily tattooed and pierced men leaning over me, with a worried look on their faces

Kerry McLean has had a fear of needles since childhood
Kerry McLean has had a fear of needles since childhood

By Kerry McLean

It may come as a shock to anyone who knows my endless capacity for chat and enjoyment of a good bit of gossip, but I don't have a big mouth. Certainly not one big enough to accommodate all the teeth that were intended to take up residence in there.

When my wisdom teeth finally emerged in my mid-twenties, like four angry volcanoes at the back of my mouth, they pushed the rest of my teeth forward and resulted in me resembling a walking piano - minus the black keys, thankfully - every time I opened my mouth, .

It wasn't the most comfortable situation, so my dentist decided I'd have to go under the knife and have the massive molars pulled out. Not the most pleasant prospect, but the worst bit was the creeping realisation that I'd need to have at least one injection to knock me out.

I have had a horrible, stomach-churning, cold sweat-inducing fear of needles since I was a child.

I think I can trace it back to one truly terrible experience I had when I was a tiny five-year-old. I spent months in hospital at that age and, on the whole, had a lovely time.

It was stressful for my parents and upsetting for my extended family, but for me it was one big long sleepover with friends, apart from one very painful occasion, when a trainee nurse decided to use me as a practice pin cushion.

When I started to cry after her fourth failed attempt to find a vein, she told me that I had to be quiet and to stop crying or she wouldn't let my mummy visit me again. Nice, eh?!

I don't know for definite that my phobia of needles began at that exact moment, but it's a pretty good bet.

Since then, I have done everything to avoid them. Over the years my dentist has drilled away in my mouth and put in or pulled out various fillings, all without me having my mouth numbed. I would rather deal with the pain than the prospect of that needle point.

It's not just when needles are coming near me that my nerves go into overdrive. In fact, it can be worse when it's people I love.

When I took my eldest for her first set of injections at six weeks old, I felt that familiar icy fear flooding over me. As the doctor prepped the needle and rubbed her tiny little thigh with alcohol to cleanse her skin, I realised I was becoming light-headed.

I managed to pass my baby girl over to my other half just before darkness curled in, taking away first my vision and then my consciousness.

I was passed out for a good few minutes before they could bring me round. Luckily, by then my doctor, wise soul that she is, had finished giving the injection, so I didn't have to see anything.

After that, I handed the task of all vaccination appointments over to my poor husband, but that wasn't the last time I found myself flat out on the floor.

Recently, a good friend asked me to keep her company when she went to have her bellybutton pierced as a 40th birthday present to herself.

Knowing what I'm like, she assured me that I could sit in a chair behind her and not look, that I'd be fine and she just needed some moral support.

True to her word, when we were led into a very clean, clinical side room at her local tattoo parlour, there was a chair behind the treatment bed and I was able to angle it so that I could hold her hand without looking at her stomach.

All went well until the man carrying out the procedure made a joke. I automatically turned my head to laugh with him, caught sight of the numbing needle sticking out of her skin and blacked out.

I came round to the vision of three heavily tattooed and pierced men leaning over me with worried faces and my friend, semi-pierced at this stage, throwing me a hard stare. Something tells me that where injections are concerned, she'll never needle me to go with her again...

Belfast Telegraph


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