Thursday, 26 November 2015

A blood test tale

Diabetics inject ourselves because we have to, we tolerate the pain from infusion sites and finger pricks because we have to. We're brave, but only because we have to be. I've always generally been ok with needles thankfully, I'm not actually that bothered by them and I think the fact that I once had 3 ABG tests in one wrist all on the same day with out flinching shows that I can handle a needle or two.

However, that's not to say that I don't get the slightest bit nervous, even inserting an infusion site, something that I have done hundreds of times, can cause my heart to race a bit! It's the thought, it's thinking about it hurting that makes you nervous- I've learnt to jump straight in and just do it without giving it a second thought.

Today I had to have a blood test done, I've had many many blood tests in my life that I can't actually count how many I've had. Yes they're more invasive than the finger prick tests that I do multiple times a day, but I'm ok with those too.

I'm ok with them when the phlebotomist knows what they're doing.

Now, don't get me wrong, everyone has to practice at some point but when the person is literally shaking and loses your vein it's a bit unsettling. I don't think I've ever perspirated quite so much during a blood test. It went a little bit like this:

*Trainee phlebotomist and expert phlebotomist both look at me*
"Do you want numbing cream?"

Me: No, I'm fine.
*Both nervously laugh*

I should have known, I just should have known she was learning! Maybe I should have asked for the numbing cream...! Anyway, it took them both a good 5 minutes to find my veins, there was lots of talk about my veins being "very deep" and "narrow" like, oh good, not even the expert phlebotomist can find my veins how is the trainee going to. So they found a good vein, on my right arm, and he lets her take it away.

To be fair, I did feel sorry for her because she was visibly nervous. But she could have made an effort to look less visibly nervous! She was literally shaking and then she lost the vein and was about to stab me in an area with no visible veins and the other person had to stop her and direct her back to the correct area. At this point I was sweating, quite literally.

Me: "Are you learning?"
Trainee: "Yes, I'm new"

I mean, the signs were all there, she was not going to get any blood out of my arm, even if she tried, which she did. Ouch.

So I braced myself, and she braced herself clearly...and in went the needle. So slow. It was highly uncomfortable and I didn't want to make her feel bad so I just sort of went with it and let her get on with it- she has to learn somehow! But oh my was she slow. She basically pushed the needle in, at a sloth's pace and I could just feel a lot of resistance from my arm and it wasn't cool. The other phlebotomist told her that "should be enough" when the needle had only made it in a quarter of a millimetre. Low and behold, no blood. Zilch.

"Just pull it back slightly" Were the words from her trainer, so she did. She practically pulled the whole thing out of my arm and all I could think was please please don't try and push it back in. So I said it, I just had to say;

"That's hurting me"

I felt bad! I felt bad saying it because I felt sorry for her because she was really trying but my arm just couldn't take the butchering any longer. It even hurt when she pulled it out. All in all it was a bit of a train-wreck, but she tried, and although she failed she'll get blood from someone's arm one day.

All I can say is, I'm glad for her that she got me as her practice patient. She could have got someone like my sister who would probably cry. I'm glad for her that she got me because at least I was nice about it, and I let her have a chance, and to be honest she's lucky that I can handle blood tests in a level-headed manner. Anyway, the trained phlebotomist tried my other arm and luckily got it on the first try. The irony of it is, however, is that the arm that was attempted by the trainee actually hasn't bruised that much, the main predicament on that arm is the mark left from the adhesive...and the arm that bled straight away for the phlebotomist, has a mighty purple bruise on it!

Left arm

Right arm

So I'm not sure what the moral of the story is, I guess just be kind to trainee phlebotomists even if they are slightly butchering your arm, I guess...and diabetics aren't immune to needle fears! I felt fear during a blood test for the first time really, I'm comfortable with needles when I am confident in the person's ability to handle it- I can inject myself because it's under my control, and I can handle a blood test when the person knows what they're doing because that way I know it won't hurt. 

However, the idea that someone who is training is going to be having a go at one of your veins and that it's probably going to hurt, is really quite unnerving and it's hard to be totally brave with needles all the time. 


I have a job

This month I started working in a local supermarket- I'm not going to say which one purely for privacy reasons! My most recent appointment with my consultant, basically went a bit like, him telling me I should probably get a job to get some routine back to my life now that school is finished. Both me and him could see it in my blood sugar that I was getting lazy! However, I was in the process of a job application at that time anyway, because my parents and the rest of my family, and me, have been telling me to get a job- which is fair enough! I needed a job so I went and got one. It's a Christmas temp job with the chance they might extend my contract.

It wasn't handed to me on a plate obviously. I had to fill out an online form, an assessment/quiz and to go for two interviews before I actually got the job. This job application was the first big company that I have applied to and to be honest I didn't even think I would get past the online assessment part of it! So to be called for an interview was surprising, especially since I was actually beginning to forget that I had even applied because it took them over a month to get through all the applications as there were so many.

Of course, diabetes had to be mentioned. I took the opportunity to mention it at the interview stage, I wanted to get it out there and explain it all there and then and give the interviewer the opportunity to ask any questions they might have. In fact, I actually used my Type 1 Diabetes to my advantage...

Interviewer:"Why do you want to work for us?"
Me:"(Spouting random ramblings)...this company has a strong belief in equality in the work place, which is really good for me as I am actually a Type 1 Diabetic"

Nailed it! Got her attention even more, and it actually led to a more casual and open conversation which allowed me to relax slightly! However, I feel like I had to downplay my Type 1 slightly. I didn't want it to seem like I can't do anything. All of the phrases like "It can be physically demanding" "Do you have to eat at certain times?" etc. started flowing and I mostly answered with "No, I'll be fine. As long as I'm looking after it I'll be ok" And we all know diabetes isn't as simple as "looking after it". I did tell them that my blood sugar can go low and I might need to take an extra break if that happens, and that my blood sugar can go high etc. All in all the interviewer understood and made sure that she gave me hours that won't affect my diabetes too much. For example she didn't give me the job role that requires 5am starts because I said that might affect the timings of my insulin rates on my insulin pump.

Overall, I used diabetes to a slight advantage at this job interview, I also used examples from when I went to Parliament with JDRF and Diabetes UK to make me seem more interesting when asked certain questions! Although Type 1 Diabetes can seem like it's something that is hindering, it is also something that you can use to impress people sometimes. My message to the interviewer basically was yes, I have Type 1 Diabetes, is it going to stop me from getting a job? No. Is it going to hold me back in anything that I do? No. Here I am, an 18 year old with a potentially life-threatening disease, but I'm applying for this job and as serious as it is, I'll be alright.

The only issue with me handling a box isn't my diabetes but my lack of upper body strength.