I try not to take myself too seriously. And I try to focus on the funny, silly, ridiculous experiences that come with being chronically ill, rather than the horrible ones, although sometimes they are hard to ignore. Sometimes, however, we just have to laugh at the funny parts, which brings me to this post.
I’d say that one of the most up and down experiences you can have as a chronically ill person is getting blood drawn. I have to get monthly blood draws to make sure that Methotrexate isn’t getting my immune system too down, and also to make sure it’s not negatively impacting my liver. Aside from this, I have to get blood drawn for appointments, tests, and occasionally, research. If the person knows what they’re doing and hit the right spot, no problem. But if they don’t, it can literally and figuratively be a major pain. So this is to say that I have had, and will continue to have, a lot of experience in the blood drawing department.
In my opinion, a really good nurse will be able to tell if you’ve been poked recently, and sometimes they’ll even be able to spot their own work, or definitely know that they didn’t prick you like that or leave a bruise. So imagine that in a one-week period, I was stuck seven different times. I guess I’m no one poke wonder…
I know that I’m not an “easy stick”. This is something I’ve come to accept. When I go for blood draws and they ask which arm they should use, I hold both arms out and say, “Pick your poison”. Most of my veins are superficial and blow easily. And I’m a small person, so naturally, I have small veins. I’m lucky if they get two tubes out of one stick. I’m a veritable pin cushion.
It’s also weird when nurses and techs say things that are on the list of things you don’t say to a patient. For instance, one nurse, after administering my EKG, asked when I would be seeing my doctor again. Like when are you seeing your doctor, because you need to.
Then another asked what I do for work. But she didn’t phrase it that way. She asked if I’m capable of working. Why, because I told you I have lupus? Or because you see something going on with my heart, on my ECHO, and you can’t imagine how I walked myself in here, let alone get out of bed every day in an attempt to be a productive member of society?
Finally, another nurse says to me, “You look so familiar”. And in my head, I’m thinking, I’m laying here with my boobs hanging out of this gown, with ultrasound goop all over me, and an arm which is about to be shot up with agitated saline. But hey, I get that ALL the time.
And let’s talk about the “agitated saline” for a second. Basically, they inject microscopic air bubbles into your arm, and then they inject saline. This provides contrast and identifies any holes that may be in your heart. It’s not as bad as it sounds, except when the nurse misses the vein and has to stick twice. All the while, I’m thinking that I’m agitated enough as it is, I don’t need agitation flowing freely through my veins.
It’s not just what they say, but how they say it. And one of the reasons I’ve stuck with the doctors that are currently on my medical team is because none of them are alarmists. And that’s what I need. I don’t need someone who is going to make me nervous by saying or doing stupid things.
So why is it, that as patients, we feel compelled to apologize for being hard sticks or for asking too many questions? Why don’t nurses ever feel compelled to apologize for their tactless behavior?
Today, I went for my monthly blood draw. The phlebotomist asked me my birthday and I said, “8-11-85”. She said, “Happy birthday”. I said, “Thanks, it’s tomorrow”. She proceeded to argue with me, “It’s today”, and I said, “No, it’s tomorrow”. The tech next to her said, “How much longer are you going to argue with her? Today’s the 10th”. And then the other tech said to me, “Are you really sure you want her to draw your blood?”
That’s exactly my question…
When you’re chronically ill, blood draws become routine very quickly. But, seriously. As patients, we allow these people to have way more power in our lives than they deserve. And lab techs simply see us as things to prick. Because we see them for such a short time. They don’t see the person behind the needle, the human instead of the disease.
These experiences are frustrating, although it is pretty humorous that someone argued with me about when my birthday is. After all, I should know, right?
So I have to wonder: when we stick out our arms, are we sticking out a whole lot more than that?