DO NOT READ ON IF YOU HAVE A FRAGILE STOMACH OR IF BLOOD MAKES YOU SICK.
Although getting sick is not new for me, there was something different this time. Over the course of finding out what else was wrong with my rather high-maintenance shell, I had to undergo three blood tests in two days. Oh delicious terror!
Don’t get me wrong: I’m no junkie. But I do get really excited every time I have to get a blood test or need an IV drip. I’m not sure why. I do know when it started, though.
When I was in high school, I got dengue fever and spent one entire Christmas season in the hospital. My doctor couldn’t figure out what was wrong at first. So she ordered a blood test done on me three times a day for several days. When they were done, my arms did look like they belonged to a junkie.
But I didn’t care. I was mesmerized by the needles. I perked up every time a nervous intern entered my room bearing a kit of disposable needles, carefully labelled glass tubes, alcohol swabs, and rubber tourniques. It was like discovering a hidden talent I had, except I didn’t know how to explain it. Watching the hollow needles get closer to my skin was like riding a bike very fast: you want it to go faster because it’s exciting, yet you also want to slow down a bit because you know there’s going to be pain in there somewhere.
Since my dengue drama, I’ve had to get maybe a hundred blood tests. And each one made my day.
The first two (of my most recent) blood tests were routine, performed by capable residents. They picked a nice and juicy vein, tied a tourniquet around my arm, cleaned the spot with an alcohol swab, and plunged in. One other thing that tickles me is watching my blood gurgle out of my arm and into the tube attached to the needle. “Really? You need that much blood?” I’ve asked countless times; sometimes they’ve had to fill three tubes in one go.
My third blood test was a lawsuit waiting to happen. I got an intern who never stopped apologizing; for making me wait, for the cold temperature in the lab, for her cold hands. I knew I was in trouble then. After doing all the usual steps, she put the needle into my arm and only then realized she’d picked a small vein that couldn’t give her enough blood. So instead of taking out the needle and trying again on another spot (which, in my humble writer’s opinion, makes a lot of sense), she kept the needle in my arm and maneuvered it around, looking for the right vein. She found it after the second try and got enough blood out of me. It was fascinating to watch a metal object sneak around right under my skin, but of course, I didn’t let the intern see I was rather entertained by her huge mistakes. (I didn’t notice if there was any pain.) But the intern from the bowels of med school wasn’t done. She’d forgotten to prepare a swab to block the flow of blood when she pulled out the needle. So when she did pull it out, blood spurted out of my arm like the fountain of youth. In a panic, the intern stepped back while I, the Cool Queen of Blood Tests, grabbed a handful of cotton balls and plugged up the leak.
Her resident got both oral and written complaints afterwards. But I wasn’t too hard on the intern. After all, everyone needs practice. She was just lucky that she got me to practice on.