Friday, September 19, 2014

Blood Simple

(First published around 2001. Just as true now, especially this morning.)

I dread my annual physical exam at the OB/GYN's office. And no, it's not for the reasons you're probably thinking. I have a great doctor -- in addition to her capability as a physician, she's friendly, intelligent, compassionate and has a great sense of humor -- so one part of the physical goes just fine. No, I hate having my annual because, since I'm overweight, my doctor is fastidious about checking my cholesterol and blood glucose levels. That means that each time I have an annual, I go through the jolly rigamarole of a blood draw. (Cue ominous music.)

Let's put this simply: when it comes to drawing blood, I am a turnip. I've seen enough failed attempts now to know that there are no accessible veins in the crook of my arm, and no matter how optimistic a treasure hunter you are or how much you're willing to persist in looking, YOU WILL NOT FIND THEM. In point of fact I have developed a minor phobia regarding blood draws, because they usually take a while and there's always at least one unsuccessful attempt.

Much good THIS thing's ever done me.
You'd think that since I take the time to point out this fact to each new doctor or physician's assistant, it would no longer be a problem. You would be wrong. Just once I would like to have a physician or PA who LISTENS when I say it's hard to get blood out of my veins, instead of taking it as a personal challenge. A few years ago I had a doctor who, confident of her own mastery in bloodletting, poked me four separate times before finally admitting defeat and sending me across town to a clinic. I looked like an incompetent junkie, and had prize-winning bruises for weeks.

This morning I dealt with a perky blonde PA, whom we shall call Sally in order to protect the guilty party. Sally was cheery at far too early an hour, which was one strike against her as far as I was concerned. (As an unrepentant night person, I'm usually barely cogent before 9 a.m.; any alertness I may have exhibited at my 8:30 appointment was fueled by sheer adrenalin.) She also had a loud, forced laugh. Oh, the joy.

Sally ushered me into an exam room, where all the usual paraphernalia was prepped and ready. I gave her the usual spiel about how I have a difficult time giving blood, and her eyes lit up. Bad sign #1.

"Oh, hon, I worked in a clinic for years," she said eagerly. "We took people right off the street, and we could get blood out of anybody." Bad sign #2.

I sighed inwardly and prepared to become a pincushion.

We tried all the standard little tricks: tourniquet, drop arm below heart level, pump fist, palpate for vein. Lather, rinse, repeat. Nothing worked. Oh, she could feel the vein just fine; it was somewhere in there, under the skin. But when she dug the needle in and began merrily probing into my left arm, "ay, there's the wonder of the thing! Macavity's not there!"

Undaunted and determined, Sally strapped up my right arm and repeated the process. Probe, wiggle, slide. Nothing. At this point, the combination of 12-hour fast, mobile needle in my arm, and sudden lack of oxygen all began to get to me, and I warned Sally that I was about to faint. She tartly reminded me to breathe. It was then that I suggested (if I hadn't been close to passing out, I would have demanded) going downstairs to the blood draw lab, where they have a phlebotomist on call.

Happily for me, Sally accepted defeat at this point, and I stumbled downstairs. The phlebotomist took one look at my punctured arms, picked up a butterfly needle kit and hit a vein on the first try. Her secret: she picked a clearly visible vein on the back of my hand. It did hurt a bit, but at least it was over quickly.

At the moment, I'm still nursing my wounds. However, on Monday I think I'll call my doctor and have a note put in my file: "For blood draw, send to phlebotomist." Maybe that'll do the trick, but I won't hold my breath.

For one thing, I might pass out.

(It's even worse now that I'm a diabetic, because I have to get blood draws on a regular basis. After this morning's merry adventure, I've got punctures on both my hands to no avail -- close, but no cigar, nurse! They're sending me over to LabCorp, but I'll go when I'm good and ready. And healed up.)


Marci said...

I could have written this. I finally talked someone into trying the vein that goes along the outside of my arm that is clearly visible. Voila! I love it when people listen to me! I have low thyroid and so also have not infrequent blood draws. There's a new MA at my doctor's office and I swear if she goes to work somewhere else, I'm going with her. Not only did she listen, not only did she get it on the first try, but I barely felt it and it left no bruise! Pure magic!

Soozcat said...

Oh man, I want to go see your doctor!