Thursday 20 February 2014

Phlebotomists: my thanks knows no bounds.

There are three types of people in the Phlebotomy clinic: the keenos, the nonchalants and the ohmygodIjustpassedouts.

First, lets think about the keenos.  These people don't mind blood tests; they enjoy them, even. The glance down with a morbid sort of fascination as the needle pierces their skin. If they need to have a blood test done they kind of enjoy it.  They are the physiology lovers who want to know what happens when you poke this; what happens if you pierce that. They sit in clinic with their sleeve rolled up and are ready, just as soon as their number is called.

Then, there is the nonchalant.  This person is totally 'meh' about blood tests.  They don't like them, necessarily, but they don't need a strong dose of Diazepam to get through it.  They operate on a 'gotta get it done to know what's yup' basis.  They are cool characters.  

Then there is the ohmygodIjustpassedout.  Or 'Annas', as I think of them.  You will know one, if you've ever seen it.  These people sense a blood test is happening somewhere in the next month, and begin twitching as soon as that sixth sense kicks in.  They will sit there sweating, fidgeting and panting, possibly clinging onto a loved one's hand in the waiting room.  They will not have a sleeve rolled up because that means it's happening.  And if it's happening, the world is ending.  They will hyperventilate, panic and look for the nearest escape route.  They can oft be seen bargaining with loved ones, offering to do the washing up for the next ten years if only their husband will sneak them out to the car.  He never does.

I was four years old when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. This meant that I would look forward to a lifetime of six-monthly blood tests in order to check that my average glucose levels - aka the HbA1c - were steady and within range.  I was also four years old the first time they pinned me down to do this as a child, because no four year-old in their right mind would allow this to happen to them willingly.  I don't even remember who 'they' were anymore, but I remember the daffodil yellow on the right hand wall of the clinic room.  I remember screaming and crying.  I remember not understanding what I did to deserve this.  I was a good girl, wasn't I?

When I first came back to the UK I remember being sat in the hallway at the Queen Alexandra hopsital crying, because someone had mentioned within earshot of me that a blood test was needed.  I knew what this meant.  I remember the fear.  I remember being so upset I could barely take breath.  Gasps of air were all I could manage in between long, laboured cries. And I remember a nurse telling my mother I was too upset to do a blood test, so we would have to wait for another time.

Wait, what? If I'm too scared I don't need to have it done???

27 years later my mind still tells me that the more upset I get, the less likely I am to need a blood test.  Of course nowadays I realise the need for those tests and I no longer fight the nurses who have the arduous task of taking my blood.  I have figured out a routine that involves telling the phlebotomists (literally, my most respected health professional) that I'm 'not too good' at blood tests.  This usually starts up a disbelieving converstation where we cover the psychological damage of pinning down a four year-old.  Luckily, by the time I'm done telling them all about it, the test is over, and I can run for the door.

I am forever grateful for the phlebotomists who realise why I am talking non-stop.  I am grateful they realise that jibber-jabber helps me stay seated, and that they let me get to the end of my pointless, jibber-jabbering story.  I am grateful that their kindness and gentle nature helps me stay seated for these important 30 seconds.

Thank you.  

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