A bloody, “fainty” situation

As of June, I have been certified by the state of Washington as a health care assistant. This means that according to the state, I have fulfilled the requirements to practice phlebotomy — i.e. draw blood from human beings like yourself.

When I was younger, the sight of blood made me queasy. As I got through high school and college, I got better. I never fainted when I had to have my blood drawn but I always made sure to tell the nurse/technician/whoever was drawing that I was very scared of needles. My heart would start beating faster. My hands got very clammy. I started to perspire. I don’t know what about the action of a blood draw actually scared me.

The prick is ever so slight. It doesn’t really hurt.

It’s over quickly. You can turn away and not watch if you don’t want to (I never watched).

But, now, I must watch. I am the one doing the sticking!

I’ve gotten comfortable and confident sticking someone who has a prominent vein (aka a “good one”) because I know I will not miss or hurt him/her. However, if someone tells me they have “rolling veins” or if I can’t find any suitable veins even after tying the tourniquet around the arm, I get a little worried. But, I’m not scared to try! (Before, even a few weeks ago, I would have been scared to try).

So, seeing the current work situation, I have no problem talking about blood and needles. Before, if I were around someone who started talking about their phlebotomy job, I would have stopped them. I would not have wanted to hear any talk of blood whatsoever!

A few weeks ago I was visiting my friend Hannah in New Orleans. One night we went out to dinner with her friend and both of us unknowing that he does not have a strong stomach/mind for “blood talk,” started talking about my job and how I now draw blood. I went through this whole story about how I had done a patient home visit and successfully did a blood draw there. Hannah wanted to know details about exactly how a blood draw works and what you have to do.

I grabbed her arm at the dinner table and began to show them how to feel for a vein. I went through all the motions.

After I was done explaining, her friend said he didn’t feel good. He put his head down on the table. Hannah and I looked at each other but had no idea why he was feeling bad. Was it his one alcoholic drink? Probably not. Was it food poisoning? Highly unlikely to get a reaction 10 minutes after eating.

He excused himself to the restroom.

“Hannah, do you think he is drunk?” I inquired.

She said no. We started to brainstorm what it was that made him feel so awful.

“Oh my gosh!” she said. “It must be the blood.”

I was startled because I didn’t think I was being too graphic in my explanation. But Hannah said it was the last thing we were talking about before he started to not feel well. As we continued to ponder the idea that I in fact made him feel sick talking about blood, her phone lit up.

She received a text from him in the restroom.

“Sorry, sometimes I feel funny when hearing about blood. It has happened once before. I’m almost back to normal now,” he wrote to her. (Or, something along those lines. Sorry, I didn’t memorize the text word for word!)

He came back to our table looking much better and saying he felt much better. He explained that one time when he saw the movie, “Black Hawk Down,” in the theater, he had to step out of the theater because he thought he was going to faint. I have never seen Black Hawk Down but from what I hear, there are some gory parts.

I wanted to ask him if he faints during blood draws but refrained from doing so. I wouldn’t want him to “have another episode” after finally feeling better again.

Never would I have known that I would be the one to cause someone to nearly faint because I was talking about blood.

Oh, how have things changed.

Just call me Dracula, I guess.


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