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Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

Everyone's afraid of something

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I'm remotely uneasy about lots of things ... the dark, driving in bad weather, spiders.

But the thing that has always paralyzed me with fear is needles.

Shots, blood draws, IVs, whatever ... anything involving a needle makes me break out into a sweat and start to hyperventilate. I have terrible veins, and sometimes I have to be poked several times.

My husband, son and I were rushed to the hospital two years ago to be treated for carbon monoxide poisoning, and I was subjected to an arterial blood draw ... the most painful thing I have ever experienced.

I try to avoid any situation where I might have to get a needle. If I have to have blood drawn, I have to lie down or I get woozy.

Last week I had to go to my doctor at Acute Medical Care for a routine check-up. I was expecting the usual ... lights in the eyes, ears, nose and throat; having my pulse and blood pressure checked, etc.

Imagine my surprise when, at the end of the exam, my doctor said, "Well, let's draw some blood."

I know he told me what we were drawing the blood for, but at that point my mind shut down. I could feel my veins collapsing.

The thing about having blood draws is that you always have to wait around for them. You have time to think about what's coming.

Which is what I did on this occasion.

As I waited for the phlebotomist to show up with his or her evil tray of needles, tubes and alcohol wipes, I got more and more anxious.

Now, we all hate to be told how to do our jobs. I know I do. So I'm careful to avoid doing it to others.

However, I've been in this body for almost 40 years, and I know it pretty well. There is one spot on my left arm where you're going to find a vein ... it's on the inside of my elbow.

I also have learned, through much trial, error and excruciating pain, that even if you get that vein, if you try to use the regular needle you're going to have to dig around to get any blood. You have to use a butterfly needle. If you don't, you're going to end up having to take the blood from the back of my hand, which is very painful and makes me cry.

Last year, I tried to explain this to the nurse who came to our house to give us our life insurance physicals. She insisted she knew what she was doing and I'd be fine.

I ended up with a bruise the size of New Jersey on my inner arm, and I was ultimately subjected to a back-of-the-hand blood draw.

I decided at my doctor's appointment that I would at least try o convince the phlebotomist what would work best for me.

When she showed up, I said, "I hate to ask, but are you good at this? Because I really hate having blood taken."

She smiled. "I've been told I am," she said.

Then she asked me if there was a spot that worked best.

Huh?

"Um, yeah," I said, pulling up my sleeve and showing her. "But my veins are terrible. I think the only way you're going to get anything is with a butterfly needle."

The girl, whose nametag read "Stephanie," smiled.

"OK," she said brightly.

I looked at her sideways.

"I also probably need to lie down," I said.

She smiled at me again.

"OK, she said, fluffing the pillow on the exam table and helping me lie back.

Stephanie tied the rubber tourniquet around my arm and patted the spot on my arm I had told her about.

"I can tell that's the spot," she said. "There's scar tissue there."

I felt her wipe the spot with an alcohol pad and heard her open the package with the needle in it. I felt a tiny bit of pressure on my arm ... not even a pinch, really.

Then I felt her switch tubes.

"Did you get it?" I asked incredulously.

"Yep," she said, undoing the tourniquet and withdrawing the needle in one smooth motion.

I was amazed. For the first time in all my years, I had had a painless blood draw!

I told Stephanie I would always ask for her and recommend her to all my friends.

It's always nice to come across people who will actually listen to you and try to make unpleasant experiences a little less painful for you.

So thanks, Stephanie! You managed to do what no phlebotomist has ever done before.

Jamie Barrand is the editor of the Banner Graphic. She can be reached at jbarrrand@bannergraphic.com.