Monday, May 06, 2013

adventures in phlebotomy

I just need to tell this to someone, and seeing as how I just tried to tell my husband and he was like OH GOD I CAN'T, guess who gets to hear it? You, my friends.

This is not a story for people who faint while having their blood taken. Read no further if you are one of these people.

So, because I am old and my body is crumbling into dust, I find myself having blood drawn fairly frequently. Today is one of those days. I wandered in, added my name to the rapidly growing list of people waiting to have their blood drawn, and proceeded to wait for almost an hour, which is certainly one of the longer waits I've experienced. I could see there was a new girl doing all the blood draws, and she seemed flustered and nervous, so I figured she was probably new to phlebotomy in general and trying to get the hang of things.

Now, I don't mind having my blood drawn. It doesn't make me nervous. I have great veins and no one has ever had difficulty sticking me. Some phlebotomists are better than others, but in general I'm in and out and it's no big deal. Which is why it was no big deal to me that this girl was new.

Finally my name is called and I take a seat and proudly present my above-average veins. The new girl is jabbering away nervously. My name is Jane and I'm going to be taking your blood today. Congratulations Jane, let's hop to it! I'm going to use a butterfly needle. Super.

She's about to get started and suddenly stops and says Oh my god I almost forgot to change my gloves. I'm supposed to change my gloves for each draw. So I'm like: Ah yes. Clean gloves. Please and thank you. Doesn't inspire confidence but I'm still sympathetic to the new-girl situation. So she changes her gloves.

Then she says One, Two, Three, and inserts the needle, and all is still fine. And then she says Oh God, your vein blew. And I'm still like, Honestly, don't care. Is blood coming out? Let's do this. But she's freaking out: Oh God Oh God Oh God I'm gonna take it out. So I'm like, Ok, you can take it out and use my other arm.

So she takes the needle out and my blood sprays all over her lab coat. Straight up red human blood all over her white coat.

So at this point I'm like: For starters, I have no idea what a blown vein is and I'm just hoping it doesn't mean I'm going to die. My arm is aching fiercely and she's acting like I might have a brain aneurysm any second or something. Secondly, I'm thinking Jane should maybe be worried that some of my blood got on her face or something. I mean, I don't see any, but still. What if I had AIDS or something? And thirdly, I am a little nervous about Jane tackling my other arm.

So because my blood is all over her jacket, she changes into a clean one and then we move on to the other arm. And everything went so smoothly. One, Two, Three, jab, suck me dry, see you later but oh my god hopefully not before you've drawn like 4,000 more people's blood because sweet lord you are bad at this Jane. So very bad and scary.

The irony is that most often the person who draws my blood is this very angry woman who seems like not only is she pissed off that she's working, it's possible she is also pissed about something in her personal life, and I seem to have personally pissed her off as well. She's never gentle and I don't think she's ever said more than "make a fist" to me, but she certainly knows how to draw blood without it spraying all over her, and she's never injured me. So here's to you, angry phlebotomist! I'll take you over nervous nellie any day.

16 comments:

  1. I'm not usually nervous when I get blood drawn either, but your story left me with an expression on my face that can best be described as "smelling something foul and feeling barfy." It was the line about red blood all over her white coat. I'm imagining Dexter. So thank you.

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    1. Dexter is a very appropriate image!

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  2. I AM one of those people who faints not only when I get my blood drawn, but when my pets get their blood drawn, or people talk about getting their blood drawn. So. Um. WHY THE HELL DID I KEEP READING THIS!?!

    Human nature. Tell me DON'T DO THIS and I am going to forge straight ahead and read this. Anyway, I have to go throw up now.

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    1. I tried to warn you! Actually, the more I think about it, the more it kind of makes me want to barf, too.

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  4. I was exactly like your nervous nellie when I started nursing. The same thing happened to me when I started an IV. I think in her case and mine, the needle was in the vein at the wrong angle. I was convinced I had been splattered in the eye and ran swearing to the sink to flush my entire face. The patient was understanding about the pain and only slightly miffed when I asked if they could be tested for hepatitis and HIV.

    Fairly certain a "blown" vein just means they blew their chances of properly accessing the vein. Also, pretty much anyone who has worked in healthcare over 10 years acts exactly like your angry phlebotomist. They're asshats to work and deal with and have god complexes LIKE YOU WOULDN'T BELIEVE but they know what they're doing. Anyway...venipuncture and starting IVs will always be incredibly nerve wracking and is one the hardest things to do.
    -Katrina

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    1. I have mad respect for anyone brave enough to enter this field and I know I could never do it! But yeah -- why are they asshats? So weird. I've actually run into a few nice ones, usually men.

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    2. Depends on the person. Some are nice, yeah, but the ones who are mean are just exceptionally mean human beings.

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  5. Is it sick that I busted out laughing after reading this? I mean, the thought of your blood spurting all over her white coat...one word: hilarious! I'm not a fan of blood draws although my veins only rival my cleavage in the awesomeness department. I usually turn my head when they jab me. Partly because it reminds me of scenes from Intervention and partly because it means I can avoid eye contact with angry phlebotomist ladies. Because they are. Angry. Always.

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    1. They really are always angry! And laugh away, man. I was dumbfounded when it happened. Had no idea how to even react.

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  6. I'm not squeamish but sympathetic as someone who apparently has The Worst Veins in the World™. My appendix burst when I was in 7th grade, and I was in the hospital for 17 days, where I had my blood drawn at least twice a day but usually more like eighteen times, and the only thing that kept me alive during that time was the joy of watching new phlebotomists try to stick me. Also the pain of having new phlebotomists stick me. But mostly the joy.

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    1. I do not envy your Worst Veins! I have a friend who might have to go head-to-head with you for this title -- she needed an IV for surgery a couple years ago and they finally decided to knock her out so she wouldn't have to feel the repeated attempts to find a vein (although I'm not remembering how they knocked her out if she didn't have an IV yet), and then they had to go for one IN HER CROTCH. I mean seriously. Medicine is barbaric.

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  7. Funniest post I've seen in a looong time. I can relate, since I, too, have awesome veins, and have also had only one bad draw. The clean-cut guy who was attempting to draw could not get anywhere, so he called this guy over who was eating lunch, had food falling out of his mouth, and looked like he just hopped off a bus with Jerry Garcia. I. Was. Terrified. But he got the needle in and blood drawn before he even finished chewing his bite. And that was the last time I judged a phlebotomist by his appearance.

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    1. Im a lab tech, and i when i am inthe phlebotomy section (for two to four weeks at a time) i swear there are some days when i feel like a pro, even drawing hard sticks and babies without any problems at all, and then there are days where i some how manage to miss veins that would usually be no challenge at all (some could even be considered a students dream) when i miss a patient i feel really bad because all i can do is appologize, and try to make them comfortable until a more experienced phlebotomist can try.

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