Monday, December 8, 2008


Today I finally went to see my doctor about the mysterious symptoms that have been plaguing me for the past three weeks.  Like, on Friday my hands were so weak and stiff that I was having trouble turning doorknobs.  Like, on Sunday, at church, I felt faint during the singing and had to go lie down in the lounge.  

Anyway, OF COURSE I felt almost 100% better by my appointment.  I figured I'd better show up anyway, because I could guarantee that if I cancelled I'd be a mess again by morning.  It's like taking your umbrella along to ensure that it won't rain.

I told the doctor my long list of bizarre and seemingly random symptoms, which he jotted down.  Then, as I knew he would, he told me I'd better go down to the lab to have some blood tests.  We joked a bit about (I can't resist this pun) the irony of him telling me to take a potent iron supplement to get my blood levels up, and then continually draining blood out of me.  Then he told me not to worry.  If the blood tests were positive, he'd send me to a rheumatologist.  If negative, to an allergist.  At any rate, he assured me, I'd get to see "some kind of '-ist'".  

I relate these lame jokes not because I think you'll find them hilarious and be all with the LOL in the comments, but more to indicate that I was feeling relaxed.  In fact, I was feeling so at ease, and so confident, that I decided to do something I hadn't done in five years, which was to provide my blood sample while sitting up.

In the past, I had a history of passing out when my blood was drawn.  I got into the habit of telling the lab techs that I need to lie down for these operations.  But the last two times I had blood drawn, which were within the past couple of months, I did so well (from my prone position), and sat up so fast with so little light-headedness after, that I started to wonder if maybe I was over this fear.

The only way to know is to try.  So.  Can you see where this is going?  I thought "I'm gonna give my blood like a big girl today.  I'm gonna sit in that chair and just not look and it'll all be fine."

I was doing great in the waiting room.  I was feeling brave when I sat down in the chair.  I rolled up my sleeve and didn't even look when the lab tech put on the tourniquet, because I get grossed out by the sight of bulging  veins.  I was slightly concerned when I saw her prepare three empty vials.  The last couple of times I only had to do one.  But by the time I realized that there was more at stake this time, I felt it was too late to rethink my bravado.

In went the needle, and a whooshing squeeze of yuckiness swept through me.  I don't know if I could have tolerated it if it had been over after one vial, but, as the endless seconds dragged by, the feeling got worse and worse.  I started to sigh, and then put my head down on my other arm.  I began to sweat, and then my eyes welled up with tears.  Yeah, not much of a big girl there.

By the time the tech had filled her three vials, I was feeling pretty awful.  She asked me if I was alright. I didn't really want to speak, so I shook my head, and the room spun.  The tech took my right hand and told me to press a cotton swab into my left elbow.   Then she told me to put my head between my knees.

Instead of feeling better, I started feeling even worse.  The waves of badness that had taken over my body were becoming unbearable.  I didn't know if I was going to pass out or barf.  In a quiet corner of my mind, where my observer-self was sitting in a comfortable armchair and taking notes on a steno pad, I remarked to myself on the undesirability of puking.  Meanwhile, my outside voice was moaning.  

"HHHHNNNNNGGGGGG" most closely approximates the animal sound that was passing through my clenched teeth.  I debated letting myself fall out of the chair to curl up in the fetal position on the  people-have-been-walking-on-it-all-day-with-dirty-salty-snowboots linoleum floor.  

Tech #1 had hurried off and came back quickly with Tech #2.    Between the two of them they got ahold of my elbows, negotiated me to my feet, then marched me to a room with a full-length examination table, and lay me down there.  Or at least, I lay my torso down.  I was so totally flopped that they had to pick up my feet one by one and place them onto the table.  

Then I heard one of the techs, the kind one with the Phillipino accent, say "Oh no, she let go of the gauze.  Look, there's blood all over."  Lovely.  Just what I wanted to hear.  Obviously I was too distraught to put proper pressure on my needle-stick wound, and now I had bled all over myself. 

While one of the techs swabbed my forhead with a cold, wet paper towel and fanned me with a file folder, the other wiped down my right hand with more wet towels.  At the back of my mind I recalled how I had ignored my instinct to wear black pants today.  Logic dictated that pale grey went better with the sweater I had picked out.  I wish I had gone with my gut.

Finally, after much swabbing, and fanning, and sipping at a Dixie cup of cold water, I started to come back from that desperate state to my normal, conscious self.  When they saw my eyes focusing again, the techs confirmed that I was feeling better, and then they left me there with strict instructions not to move until I felt totally recovered.

It took awhile.  I tried to get up in stages, first flopping one foot over the edge of the table, then the other.  Then roll onto side.  Then lift head up a few inches, to test the waters.  I kept having to lie back down again.  At one point, Tech #1 came back to tell me I could take my time, no rush, they were open until 8:00 pm.  That actually made me laugh.  And then it made me even more motivated to get myself vertical and headed home.

Finally I got upright.  I assessed the damage to my pants, which wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but bad enough that they could still be considered "ruined".  I apologized to the lab techs for making such a fuss, and thanked them for their kindness.

By the time I got home the bloodstains had started to set.  Ever-helpful, Google suggested that I spit on the stains and then rub them.  The protein enzymes in saliva break down the proteins in blood.  Which is kind of a weird equation, like two wrongs making a right: bleeding AND spitting on your clothes leaves you with a wearable item.  Or maybe it's like the Rock, Paper, Scissors of bodily fluids.  Spit beats blood.  What does blood beat?  

I couldn't get the stains all the way out.  We'll see what happens once my pants go through the wash.

The moral of the story for me was: Don't try to be a hero.  Now and forevermore, I will be a compliant wimp and will lie down to have my blood taken.  

On the other hand, I'm really proud of myself for facing my fear.  That it was an unmitigated Fail doesn't discount the fact that I tried.  Now I know for sure.  And I swear I'll never do it again.


Vanessa said...

UGH! Sounds awful! At least you didn't pass all the way out and have the roomful of eyes staring down at you. Maybe Google has another bright idea for your pants? Or the dry cleaner?

desi said...

So sorry. Hope you'll get over this, but meanwhile, don't push it. Don't me self concious about it, just lie down and let your preference be what it is.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

{{HUGS}} Sorry it was so bad, but glad you faced your fears. A co-worker of mine went in to give blood one and he sat down and they took 1 vial and he promptly passed out on the floor :) so don't feel bad. I've never liked needles, but I watch the blood come out and almost always give two or three tubes and have never felt even dizzy. Guess I have more blood than you people with less weight to ya.

Anonymous said...

Next time just lie down. Save your bravery for the important stuff.

Sparkling Red said...

Vanessa: On the morning after, my pants, which hung on the shower-curtain rod overnight, are looking remarkably stain-free. I think they'll survive. And if not, well, I don't mind an excuse to go shopping.

Desi: Thanks. I have a lifelong bad habit of being willful and pushing myself too far. I keep re-learning the lesson the hard way.

Ron: It's comforting to remember that I'm not the only one. I'm sure those lab techs have dealt with plenty of fainters before. They didn't miss a beat, just went right into their protocol of cold cloths etc. Like they've done it a million times.

Unsigned: Will do. :-)

Keera Ann Fox said...

Huh. In Norway, they tape that stupid cotton ball to you. Then sometime around bedtime you remember you were stabbed earlier in the day and have to pick the damned tape on. By then I've already gotten those gray, gummy edges that don't go away until after a week of showers.

Good for you for discovering that lying down is the best option!

Nicole said...

Oh gosh, poor you :(
Glad you won't try it again and glad it's over for now.
Now my Best wishes for a quick and good solution to this all!!

Jenski said...

Now you know to ask how many vials of blood they need before deciding to sit or lay down.

Sparkling Red said...

Keera: I know what you mean about the gummy bits. That's the worst part about sticky bandages.

Nicole: Thanks! :-)

Jenski: I think I'll err on the side of caution and lie down every time. Or maybe they'd let me hang upside down? Just to make sure I get enough blood flow to my head. ;-)

Scarlet said...

I could feel your pain. OMG! I don't have a problem with needles, I actually like to watch the blood fill the vials (I'm sick that way), but your description was so full of detail, in all honesty, it made me a little lightheaded.

Sabrae said...

oh wow... i never knew someone could get so sick from having blood drawn!!! wow...

Sparkling Red said...

Scarlet: I don't think I could even watch someone else get blood drawn without getting faint.

Sabrae: I put in the gory details for you, because last time you said my "gross" post wasn't much by a nurse's standards. How about this one? Better? ;-)

San said...

Wow, Spark, I got a little woozy reading this. But I had to laugh at your Rock/Paper/Scissors of bodily fluids.

What does blood beat? Let's not go there. Please.

You have an award over at my place...

jameil1922 said...

lol. poor thing. my dad once jokingly told a nurse i was a fainter and i got so mad! i always forget that actual fainters exist. i can only stand it b/c i don't watch the needle going in. that's so disgusting to me. i've had to stop giving blood, tho b/c my veins restrict after 10 mins. causing the process to take up to 30 mins, hurting the final 10-15. yeah... it's bad. and i had to do this 3xs before i remembered/gave up. i still would like to be able to give blood. :( ah well.

Sparkling Red said...

San: Yaaaaay! Thank you!

Jameil: Giving blood to a blood bank is something I doubt I'd ever be able to do. They'd have to give it all back to me!