When the phlebotomy nurse looks at you and raps out “Are you going to faint?” it’s not a good sign. I hate, loathe, detest having blood taken. It’s not even about the needles – I don’t mind injections. But take blood and I end up feeling most peculiar.
I’d gone to hospital accompanying a family member, for a fairly routine injury check. But the adults’ consultant had been talking to the children’s consultant, and they’d decided that it would be interesting to do some genetic testing. It won’t alter any treatment for anyone, but it will help them understand a little more of the genetic transfer of a condition which is quite complex in its genetics at the best of times. So suddenly, the visit became about me. (The person I went along with is mostly fine, injury is nothing to be worried about, for the record.)
As recorded above the phlebotomy nurse clocked me straight off. However, she was impressed as I applied my pet relaxed breathing technique (in through the nose, out through the mouth), removed the shawl I’d been wearing in spite of warm hospital temperatures (to keep veins warm and open) and started counting ceiling tiles. She wasn’t used to people who not only hate having blood taken, but have developed reasonable coping mechanisms. I knew suffering from severe anaemia would be useful one day – I had so many bloods done over those few months that I progressed from having to lie down to being able to sit in a chair while it’s done. So, she looked at the screening and profiling requests, laid out the right number of vials, popped the band round my arm, told me to make a fist (the relaxation technique must have worked, they don’t always have to tell me to do that) and uttered the dreaded words “sharp scratch”. It didn’t hurt. It really didn’t. I barely felt it – this lovely lady takes blood day in day out, and she was good. But it didn’t alter the fact that I could feel myself sweating, was counting ceiling tiles out loud, and trying to remember slowly in through the nose, slowly out through the mouth. I couldn’t really feel her change the test tubes, although she’d promised to count them for me so I knew how far through she was. (Whaddya mean, I could look? I could look? No, I really couldn’t.)
And then the evacuation alarm went off. It’s a loud siren, it’s not meant to be ignorable, and it isn’t. Bless her cotton socks, she kept going, while I stayed still and tried not to cry. She carried on, while nurses made calls to check whether the alarm was genuine, and prepared to move patients out. She counted her way through the rest of the tubes, took the needle out of my vein, whacked on the pressure, and grinned at me. And then the alarm stopped.
We followed the advice, went and got a cuppa and a biscuit, then wandered slowly though the sunshine to the car park. But it’s a bit pathetic when the injured person has to comfort the healthy one. It’s a bit pathetic that other people give blood out of the kindness of their hearts, while I give thanks that they don’t want my blood. It’s a bit pathetic that I drove home confident I wouldn’t faint, but slightly less confident that I wouldn’t throw up. It’s a bit pathetic that all I wanted to do afterwards was curl up in a corner and cry.
But we can’t all be good at everything, can we?