[Tripping On…] My Deep Veins

Years ago, I went into a hospital to do some routine bloodwork, and after five attempts on one arm to draw blood and three on the other, they told me to come back again later. I’ve had blood drawn and injections of various medical sorts since then, which each one having that somewhat anxious memory. Every nurse I’ve told this story to over the years has said something similar: learning to do bloodwork is difficult.

Today, I went to get a potassium check before my surgery.

I can do blood draws well enough to where I’m not anxious about the needles or having things put into my body or taken out. I always look away. What I’ve started to do over the past year is to tell the nurses or people doing the bloodwork that people have had trouble finding my veins over the years. Today, I didn’t tell my eight-draw story, but rather, I just said that my veins are deep so it might be difficult to find a good vein to use. This sort of medical information is, I believe, important to always tell everyone upfront.

The nurse today agreed.

I don’t remember exactly how she phrased it, but she said that even if it might seem obvious, it’s good to tell people this sort of information so they can look a bit closer. Even if it is equivalent to me expressing my “needle” anxiety to them, then that’s good information for them to know. She told me that she adjusted her blood drawing technique after I told her that and she said that even if it might seem obvious or they might think they know what they’re doing, it’s good to tell them information like the deep veins.

I will usually only tell my eight-draw story in two separate cases.

The first is if they don’t seem so sure about finding a vein. That way they know that it’s been tough for others, and that while I am willing to work with them, ideally I’d rather not have eight attempts before they get a successful draw. The second is if the process is more involved, such as during my Magnesium/Ketorolac injection, where we had enough time to chat. That nurse gave me the valuable context behind why that nurse might have tried so many times before giving up. It’s easier for some people than others to draw blood, and though it might have been wiser for them to get someone else to help with the drawing process, sometimes that’s just not possible.

I guess that’s why I was sent home to try back again another day?

I’m reminded of a scene in New Game! with a nervous nurse trying to do bloodwork. I suppose it’s like any situation in life. If the person doing the work, whether it’s bloodwork or construction or whatever, seems nervous, they might just be… although that’s where a combination of watching their behavior and talking with them is a good gauge of whether they’re nervous about doing whatever it is they’re doing or if they’re being overly cautious. For today’s nurse, she was confident and competent [the two should go hand-and-hand, but often don’t] to inspire me to write this essay as a way of what I advocate throughout your entire healthcare journey:

Figure out a good elevator pitch for what’s wrong.

Although I should send my respect to all healthcare workers, and today’s experiences were completely positive, I’ve had enough negative experiences over the years to know that it’s a roll of the dice to determine if I’m going to have a good experience or not. When you’re experiencing significant pain, that’s the worst time to have to worry about an elevator pitch, but it works for two main reasons: you can catch the attention of the nervous nurses before they make any sort of minor to major mistake, and the good nurses will have enough experience to navigate through the pitch to see what they might need to adapt.

My elevator pitch: “I have deep veins and people have had trouble drawing my blood.”

Easy. I don’t need to throw the inexperienced nurse that gave up after their eight attempt under the bus. I don’t need to know the specific details. I just need to be patient, still, and let them assess where they can do their work. I grew up using my right hand for dominant tasks, so that’s my “dominant hand,” but as I tell them each time, I don’t have a preference on which arm. I would prefer the vein that is easiest for them to get to, rather than picking one or the other, although more often people have picked my left arm at the bend because it’s not my dominant arm.

There are alternatives to arm-based blood draws.

They could draw blood from my hand, although I imagine they don’t do that as a first option because other than – trigger-warning – if I move my arm and feel the needle wiggle around inside my arm, I don’t feel significant pain from arm-based blood draws. I did a little bit today, so when I was asked if I did feel any pain, well, I tend to answer honestly rather than politely, but then quickly said that in the grand scheme of things, the pain was minimal. I’d heard that drinking water and being well-hydrated could help make my veins pop more, but that’s always been tough for me to remember. It might almost be more helpful to explain if you’re squeamish or otherwise have weird veins.

In some sense, that eight-draw nurse taught me to have some needle trepidation.

That happened, I believe, late into my teenage years. I’m sure that other than being a usual whiny brat, I’d never enjoyed needles injections, so that memory serves as the unfortunate cornerstone with which I consider bloodwork. But, I realized something, now that I’m thinking about it…

Everyone’s got a vein, in recent memory, on their first try.

Quotes: None.
Sources: My personal experiences.
Inspirations: What might have helped make this a more natural and noteworthy conversation was that I made a joke before we began the bloodwork. I was told to go to the first station on the left, which was a supply cabinet. I said, “oh, I guess it’s the second one, then.” I explained: “This is much more comfortable than a supply cabinet.” If there’s anything I would say for people, in general, is learn the specifics of your health and then be ready to relay them in a polite way to everyone. Not everyone knows your medical history, and nothing ever seems to actually be noted in anyone’s charts, especially if it’s a one-off thing like this, so who’s to say that someone would know unless you tell them?
Related: Sober Living essays and Tripping On [The American Healthcare System] chapters.
Picture: Template
Written On: 2020 August 29 [1:11111111111111111pm to 1:45pm]
Last Edited: 2020 August 29 [First draft; final draft for the Internet.]
My big goal is writing. My most important goal is writing "The Story." All other goals should work toward that central goal. My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame some fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. I'm not better than you and you're not better than me. Let's strive to be better every day.