What is a father to do when he has grown up with an intense needle phobia and now discovers his first-born son has been diagnosed with severe hemophilia?
Well, in the Mell home we got very creative. Our family has always made it a point to face our daily struggles as a complete unit, relying on each family member’s strengths to help guide us down our path. I have always been the “fixer”—if something was broken, incomplete, or out of order, my kids and wife expected me to fix it. As most of you are aware, you can’t “fix” the bleeds, pain, or sadness associated with hemophilia. We sometimes see all those things in our son Tristan’s eyes, but we treat proactively to do our best to avoid the bad times.
For the first several years, we worked as a team, infusing via port-a-cath. Kendra, my wife, infused while I distracted Tristan and encouraged mom. As time went on, and I got more “comfortable” with taking on the task of infusing, Kendra and I would “tag team” when it came to port infusing (as we do with most of our everyday tasks).
Tristan decided after six and a half years he wanted to be port free, so we had to face a new challenge: learning how to poke a vein. It doesn’t matter how many veins you practice on, fake arms’ or friends’, your spouse’s or your own—none of that prepares you for learning to stick your seven-year-old son’s veins.
During this process, we discovered that there was not one tourniquet that Tristan was able to release easily. I wanted to help more with Tristan’s medical treatment. It hurt not being more involved. So, I decided to be what I had always been: supportive. And in being supportive, I found that I had a new position! A loving supportive father can provide the right amount of pressure in the right places to make those veins juicy and easier to stick, and I can gently release the pressure when needed. I became the tourniquet that never failed. As Tristan notes, “Factor is Fun, but with my dad being the tourniquet, it makes PUMPING UP veins!”
Tristan loves having Mom, Dad, and even his little sister working as a team to make each infusion just a little easier on everyone. Tristan has started learning how to self infuse. He has seen my emotional struggle through this process. I feel that allowing him to see me overcome this hurdle has empowered him to know he can and will be as successful as his father; not just in his infusions, but in all situations he faces throughout his life.
Ron Mell grew up in Ohio and moved to Texas in 1996. He has been married to Kendra for 14 years. Seven years ago, they were blessed with a wonderful son, Tristan. Tristan was diagnosed with severe hemophilia A at 5 months old. They also have a darling and energetic five-year-old daughter, Kiernan.