I got gang-poked a couple of weeks ago and went back for more. What the hell am I talking about, you ask? Well … let me tell you.
My annual check-up. I’ve been seeing the same doctor for the past fifteen years, and the procedure can be summed up in several words—prod, squeeze, and insert. Sometimes there’s even light conversation before insertion.
Along with this, I have to give four vials of blood for other routine tests. I’m a bit of a difficult case when it comes to giving blood. I can only have it taken from my left arm due to surgery that was done on my right. My veins are tiny and not visible on the surface. I also require the “butterfly” needle which the technicians seem reluctant to use. It’s six times more expensive than the big needle and comes in its own individual packaging. I think each clinic must have a quota for how many they can use daily.
I’m not squeamish at the sight of blood and have been told I have an abnormally high tolerance for pain. It always takes a few tries to get any blood out of me, so I never expect it’s going to be easy. On that day, two different technicians had already taken their pokes at me, and between them, six butterfly needles had been used without success. That’s when they called in Odette, the “expert.”
Odette turned out to be a large, “take no prisoners” type of woman. She tied two rubber tourniquets above my elbow and secured another one around my wrist. Using two fingers, she aggressively tapped my arm in search of a vein but none came to the surface. Looking to the top of my hand as an alternative, she saw three cotton balls taped to it. That area was no longer fit to be poked. The other two technicians stood behind her, shaking their heads.
“You are difficult,” she said to me.
“So I’ve been told,” I responded.
I could tell she liked a challenge. I just wasn’t sure I wanted to be on the receiving end of it, but there wasn’t much I could do.
After Odette vigorously rubbed my arm to warm it up, I saw a spark in her eyes. She must have felt something protruding. Could it be that elusive vein?
Quickly swabbing the area, she tore open another butterfly needle and inserted it into my arm. Nothing. Nada. No flow.
“I can feel the vein,” she said, “but this needle is too short.”
She reached for another one.
With the butterfly still in my arm, she inserted the larger needle as well. Nothing. She pulled it out a bit, pushed it back in, moved it around. Still nothing.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“Peachy,” I said.
The other two technicians grimaced as they watched their colleague moving the needle inside my arm in a vain attempt to catch a vein.
I walked out of the clinic with my blood intact knowing I’d be a sorry target for vampires. A friend later joked that it was a shame I didn’t enjoy myself after being poked eight times by three different people.
~Fast forward two weeks~
I returned to the clinic yesterday. My arm had healed from the bruising, and I’d learned a few things. To help increase the size of my veins, I drank lots of liquid, ate a big lunch, and took a very hot shower. Basically, I was hydrated, full, and warm—all things I wasn’t the first time around.
The young lady assigned to take my blood looked friendly enough, but the first words she said to me were, “You have invisible veins.” That didn’t impress me, but I tried to remain optimistic. She pulled out the butterfly needle, pricked me once in my hand, and nothing. She called her co-worker who was the lone male who had taken a poke at me two weeks earlier.
“You again,” he said, laughing.
“Ha! Yes, I’m back, reluctantly.”
He proceeded to tell me how sorry he was that Odette had “butchered” me. “If I’d known she was going to stick you with two needles, I wouldn’t have given up on you so easily.”
“No worries,” I said. “I feel lucky today.”
“Yes, so do I.”
“Oh? What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to go deeper this time.”
I chuckled. “Go as deep as you like.”
And he did. With his little prick, he drove in deeper than he ever had, and … and … the blood flowed out of me and flooded the tube—filling the vials almost faster than he could change them.
He looked at me with pride in his eyes. “Are you all right?”
“Yup,” I said. “It’s about bloody time.”