Thursday, July 21, 2011

Human Pincushion Learns to Just Say "No"

The nurse had the syringe stuck in the inside of my arm and was rooting around, trying to find one of my veins, which, in her defense, I’ve been told are small. This hurt. (the rooting around, not the insult to the size of my veins.) And so I said, “Okay, we’re done.” She did one last little futile root as if she hadn’t really heard me, but then she pulled the needle out.

It’s taken me a lot of years to get to this point: being able to tell a nurse unable to draw blood from me to knock it off. I used to be so deferential and accommodating, returning from routine blood tests, like the one I had yesterday, looking like a member of the Confederate Army.

I’m not a big weenie about it either, as some of you might be suspecting. I mean, I don’t particularly care for the sight of blood, especially my own, but I know it only hurts for the split-second when the needle pierces the skin. Unless of course they start rooting. This change—going from being an accommodating pincushion to being the patient with no more patience—happened sometime after my sons were born. My high-risk pregnancy had me in for blood tests so often, I began to resent the abuse. The kiss-of-blood-drawing-death, in my book, was when after several nurses had tried and failed, they’d call the doctor in. Great. The guy who hasn’t drawn blood in twenty years. One day I finally asked them all to stop and to give me a prescription to go to a hospital for the blood draw. When I got there, the Phlebotomist asked me in horror, “Who did this to you?”

He told me my veins are indeed small, and they’re deep, but they’re there. My favorite part was when he said it’s not my fault when people can’t find them. (I’ve had nurses tell me my veins roll around, plotting, hiding from them. I’ve had them accuse me of being dehydrated. Me. The self-proclaimed Queen of Hydration!) Even though my arm looked like a bruised-up game of Twister, that guy somehow found a vein and nailed it. Virtually painlessly. First try.

I’d love to have some nurses comment, tell me what gives. I try to give them all the benefit of the doubt, but yesterday I knew I was in trouble when she gave me a glass of water, got out a hot pack and started looking at the veins on the back of my hand.

‘No. We’re not trying there,” I said.

She called in a supervisor to draw my blood. Great, I thought. But unlike a stereotypical supervisor, this guy was good. He got a vein first try. “You can’t look for the vein, you have to feel it,” he said.

Coming from me, the someone who feels it every time, I told him he was my hero for the day. And today, looking at the blue bruise on my arm where the first nurse was and the small dot where he drew blood, I'm pretty proud of my ability to just say, "No."

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