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. 



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