It’s no secret that I’ve referred to many doctors and their staff as vampires. It started the Summer of 1998, when I was sent to a rheumatologist to rule out a Lupus diagnosis as a cause of my daily migraines at the time and abnormally high ANA (anti-nuclear antibodies) levels. They took a total of 7 vials that day. It was a big deal to me because I hate needles. If anyone ever claims I died of an overdose of some kind of drug injects, call the police and scream foul play because there is no way in Hell I would ever do that to myself.
This needle aversion started with those fun immunization shots when I was little. I don’t remember which one, I just remember how much it hurt. Years later, I had to have a preventative shot when my dad came down with Hepatitis B. That wasn’t very pretty either. I blamed my dad for that one. Even if he couldn’t help that he had it. That same Summer of 1998, I was also sent for an EMG (electromyography) because I was having weakness in my arm and leg on one side of my body. The test measures activity of the muscles by use of a needle and a small electrical current. Well, the neurologist who did the test had a bad bedside manner and I started tearing up when he was having me move muscles with the needle sticking in me, causing a lot of pain. The fist I made wasn’t good enough for him and he sternly told me to make a fist again. If I hadn’t been in so much pain, I probably would have told him off right then. Instead, I attempted to make a fist again. I found out later that this doctor is one of the leading neurologists in Louisville. I would never recommend him to anyone. I even recounted this to the last neurologist to do an EMG on me and he was surprised. I have had 2 EMGs since that one for unrelated reasons and had significant anxiety before each of them. Not just because of the experience during the EMG, but afterwards, as well. I was crying when I walked out the door, which got Chaz upset. Thankfully, he was with me because my right arm and leg were even weaker and I had trouble using either of them the rest of the day. The other 2 EMGs were significantly less painful and did not leave me feeling any weaker than when I walked in. No tears leaving either. But, I made sure Chaz was with me for those just in case.
When my allergist in Louisville told me I should start getting allergy shots because my allergies were so bad that I would have regular sinus infections and debilitating sinus headaches (which triggered a migraine), I said no. Poke someone with a needle on a regular basis who has a disdain for them? No, thank you.
I changed my mind after one of those debilitating headaches that was coupled with swelling on one side of my face. It had me in tears until it stopped. I thought maybe I could treat the allergy shots like exposure therapy. Not so much it would seem. I never had a regular nurse giving me my shots. They were all different. Some I couldn’t even feel the needle and others I had to do even deeper breathing because it felt like they punched me rather than stuck me with a needle.
Then came the advent of seeing a Naturopath who does acupuncture, too. This meant several to many needles being stuck in various places of my body and staying there for 10 minutes. I’ve been getting acupuncture for 5 years now and I would highly recommend it for anyone. But, I still don’t like needles. Even when my doctor is setting the acupuncture needles, I have to still take deep breaths.
With all that needle aversion, blood work is definitely not my favorite thing. Mostly because many people tell me they can’t find my veins in both of my arms. It is common to have my hand used for an IV line or for a blood draw. I never know if the vampire taking my blood is actually going to poke around or not. Which is why I was having a bit of anxiety on Monday when I was sitting, waiting for the vampires to take more blood to get to the bottom of my low platelet count. The Hematologist also wanted to run tests on why my anemia is not improving with iron supplements. I was watching the nurse pull out vial after vial while looking over four sheets to make sure she was pulling the right ones. My eyes got bigger and bigger as the line of vials got longer. I think the only thing that helped me from completely freaking out right then and there was the fact that the nurse and I were having a conversation. I’m not used to that when having my blood drawn.
I counted 12 vials before she started. I never look down at the line when my blood is drawn. So, I was looking straight ahead when she got started. And for the first time, I didn’t even feel the needle. She got right in there without having to tap my arm over and over again to find the vein. I asked her if she could do all my blood draws from now on and proceeded to tell her how people always have to poke around and can never find my veins. She was shocked. “Really? You have 4 good veins.” Then she explained how they are used to doing blood draws from people whose veins are truly shot from chemo and radiation treatments. They have to be good. We then discussed the amount of blood she took, which she said was equal to a quarter of a cup. She and the other nurse told me their record is 21 vials and that people have gotten up after 19 vials and left without a problem.
When I first counted the vials, my thought was, Vampires – 12, Debi – 0. But, as I was leaving the office I realized I never freaked out. I didn’t even have the usual start of panic I normally get before a blood draw. I walked out without feeling I needed sugar or water before doing so. I still have a bruise from it, but I’ve been bruising easily again lately, so that was expected. I left feeling good about the experience and feeling good about myself. That’s a win for me in my books no matter how much the vampires took.