I have a condition called Grave’s Disease. It is a hyperthyroid problem that manifests in rapid heart rate, exopthalmos (which I have a little bit of in my left eye), and a host of other problems. This means, among other things, that I see my family doctor and my thyroid specialist on a fairly regular basis. It also means that I have to get my blood checked almost every month, because my thyroid hormone levels have to be constantly monitored in order to (a) make sure that my medication is the right dosage and is working, and (b) that I am not getting pushed over into hypothyroid territory.
I wish I could say that I’m used to being poked with a needle and having blood taken from me, but I’m not. I apparently have teeny tiny veins, and I bruise easily. The people who take my blood usually take no less than three tries to find my veins, and sometimes they even poke the needle in and try to hunt around under the skin for the vein before hitting gold. That’s totally fine, I don’t mind that. I understand that it’s damn near impossible to find my veins on the first try, so I try to cut them some slack. It doesn’t hurt much, so that helps, too.
What I am absolutely thankful for, and has really made a difference these past months, is that the people who take my blood have gotten so much better at locating the veins. There are even one or two who get it on the first try! I think this is in large part because I go to the same place, and now they know me by face, if not by name. Whenever I’m in there, I usually thank my lucky stars that I get the amazing women who have magic angel fingers: the poke/stab doesn’t hurt, the inside of the crook of my elbow doesn’t bruise, and the vials fill quickly, sparing me time in that blasted chair.
Yesterday, I was scheduled for a fair number of tests: the requisite bloodwork (I think they took nine vials of blood), an ECG, and a urinalysis. Mikaius picked me up and came with me, since I was fasting for 12 hours and he was having these visions of me fainting on the way. When it was my turn to sit in the chair and await my fate, a strange woman came in. I didn’t know her at all, and I knew the faces (and skills) of almost every single person in there. I still wasn’t too worried, because I had woken up in a very good mood. I just wanted things to go smoothly so that I could go to McD’s with Mikaius afterwards and get breakfast. He and I are big fans of their breakfast sandwiches and hash browns, and he looooves their Vanilla Chai Ice Frappes.
My worries began when she took out a needle, cleaned a spot with an alcohol swab, and then started probing with her finger really hard, unable to find the veins. I thought, hey, maybe my veins are just really hard to find today. But she did it twice. She’d probe, tap at a spot, open the needle, clean my arm, and then not put it in because she couldn’t find the vein anymore. She discarded those needles, unused. I finally told her that when the ladies couldn’t find my veins, they usually use a butterfly needle (smaller than a regular one) instead. So she grabbed a butterfly, probed, cleaned, she finally put the needle in. At this point, she was telling me, “Relax, relax. If you tense up the blood doesn’t flow.” Well, the blood also doesn’t flow if you put the needle in the wrong spot. And yes, the blood wasn’t flowing. After that, she asked me, “Where do they usually put the needle in on your arm?” I was stunned. I understand that this is a totally valid question to ask, but nobody had asked me that particular question ever, and certainly not somebody I was trusting to poke my veins with a pointy needle.
So she taped up some cotton on my left arm, and proceeds to try on my right. Another butterfly needle, this time with some measure of success. She worked the needle around under the skin, searching for my vein, telling me to relax. Blood was finally flowing, albeit very slowly. I just wanted to get out of there. I risked a peek, and I saw that blood was leaking from the puncture wound. I was getting so frustrated at her at this point, that it took a lot of self-control not to say anything. Finally, she took the needle out and taped me up, but she didn’t finish drawing blood and still needed two vials.
She called out to one of her co-workers, and relief flooded through me. If it was one of the ladies I knew, I was going to be alright. When the lady came in, I rejoiced. It was somebody who remembered me! One puncture in, using a regular needle, and blood filled the vials. Thank goodness she rescued me. She had to use my left arm again, but her puncture didn’t bruise at all – unlike the first lady, whose work both bled during the procedure and left me bruised and in pain.
I think that what made me really upset was when she was acting like everything was alright, and telling me not to be tense because then the blood wouldn’t flow, but when I looked at the arm that she was working on, blood was leaking from the puncture wound. I have been out of the medical field long enough to not know if this is bad or not, but I have been in and out of that clinic for over a year now and it has never happened to me. The lady also punctured me twice, blamed the non-flow of the blood on me not relaxing, and didn’t take responsibility for her own incompetence. I was so angry at her, I couldn’t get over it.
I’m alright now, except for some minor bruising. I just didn’t appreciate being told that it was my fault that the blood wasn’t flowing because I was “too tense,” when I was as relaxed as I could be and was staring out into the distance daydreaming about a Sausage and Egg McGriddle and crispy hash browns. Man, McDonalds really does breakfast well. That was practically the only thing that kept me from bolting and saying, “Oh, you know what, I’ll come back in another day thank you very much.”