For the first time in over ten years, I decided to donate blood. This is something I used to do regularly, but time and fear of pain have kept me off the phlebotomist lounge for a long time.
Yeah. Every time I have a physical exam, and pretty much every time I go to a doctor’s office, they take blood samples, and I always screw my face up and wince when they insert the needle. Wait! It is more complicated than that.
You see, I have lousy veins, and they have to really search and probe to find one, even for the relatively small amount for a normal lab workup. To make matters worse, only my right arm has an accessible vein, with the left arm being useless for that purpose. According to my doctor, I am a tough stick.
Well, the people at the blood services office are full-time, experienced phlebotomists. I felt that if anybody could do the job, they were the ones. I don’t trust the Red Cross mobile units because that’s where they train the beginners, and I have had a couple of sad experiences with that crowd.
Maria, a ten-year employee and phlebotomist, was the one to work on me. First, she took a small sample of blood from my right arm to test for incompatibilities. Then, she zeroed on the left arm for the “big daddy” needle through which my life’s blood would flow to help others.
That left arm stuff didn’t work. It was like I said, she couldn’t find a vein to use.
In the middle of this relative slaughter, a young woman in the office passed out after donating platelets. When they revived her, she started vomiting. I guess I wasn’t the only one to having a bad day.
Muttering apologies about the vomit and the pain, Maria tried the right arm with no luck. She had found it fifteen minutes prior for the sample, but with the bigger needle, she just couldn’t make it work.
Yes, it hurt. For both arms, not only did I get the familiar stick, but she had to move the big needle around under the skin on a wild-goose chase for the illusory veins. She probed and I grimaced.
She gave up on me and sent me home with maximum bandages on both arms.
There are a couple of things I can take from this. First, I could never be a heroine addict. Second, I always have an excuse for not donating.
All in all, it’s been a tough day.