The bird attack: My worst nightmare becomes reality

I was attacked by a bird last month.

But, let me re-phrase that.

I am scared of birds and I was attacked by a bird.

Do you know what it feels like to have overcome your one greatest fear in life? I mean, I guess I overcame my fear since I am obviously living to tell it. But, now I am even more fearful that it will happen again!

Bryce and I were sitting on a bench outside eating bagels. We were approximately 6 hours away from watching the Women’s World Cup finals live in Vancouver and were at Granville Island Market. Worrying about whether or not a seagull would steal my food was the least of my worries. I had been torn all week on which team I would be cheering for, the U.S. (my home country), or Japan (my mother country).

There were lots of seagulls around. One flew directly over us (but, significantly high above to not freak out) yet I still made a comment about “those birds!” to Bryce. He told me that the birds wouldn’t bother me. He is never wrong, which is why I believed him.

I held one half of my rosemary-salted bagel with cream cheese in my left hand and my right hand held a large piece of the other half. Bryce and I weren’t talking much since we were enjoying our breakfast. (Sidenote: if you ever find yourself in Vancouver, you need to make a stop at Siegel’s and have a bagel. But, just eat your bagel indoors!)

I was in mid-chew when it happened.

I didn’t see or sense that it was about to happen.

A seagull flew from behind and swooped in and grabbed my piece of bagel out of my right hand.

I don’t think I screamed right away because it happened all so fast. I looked at my hand and then looked at Bryce and yelled, “IT TOUCHED ME, THE BIRD TOUCHED ME. UGHHHHH!”

“Are you OK?” Bryce answered softly.

I looked down at my hand again and then I realized that the piece of bagel in my right hand was no longer there. I was in such a shock that I didn’t even know right away that it had taken the food from my grasped fingers.

The bagel half that survived.

The bagel half that survived.

“IT STOLE MY FOOD!” I yelled through now a few tears and laughter.

I could tell that people all around us were now staring so I tried as best as I could to “play it cool.” Inside I was dying.

“I hate birds!” I screamed as Bryce and I walked back into the market. I had to make it known to the onlookers that not only was I an innocent person who was attacked by a bird, but that birds are the one thing in the world that I despise.

We went inside to find a bathroom for me to wash my hands. Not finding one right away, I doused my hands under a Purel machine that was on a wall.

“GROSS, GROSS, GROSS, IT TOUCHED ME!” I said aloud.

We found a bathroom shortly after and I ran my hands under scalding hot water and washed them with soap. I washed them three times.

We returned outside but this time to the non-water facing side of the market. Bryce found a vacant bench and suggested I finish what was left of my bagel there.

“I’m supposed to eat outside after what just happened?” I asked, now sort of being over-dramatic.

He pointed out that there were literally no birds flying around this bench. I sat down, defeated, and finished my breakfast. I now gripped tightly onto my bagel with both hands the entire time. When I was chewing, I wrapped the bagel up completely in the wax paper it came with. I wasn’t going to take any chances.

Bryce also may or may not have shooed away a sparrow that I felt was walking a little too close to me.

It’s not a surprise to many that I am scared of birds.

When I’m on a run with Bryce or a friend, they don’t make fun of me when I frantically duck and sprint a few strides when a bird flies over me. It’s just a part of a normal run for me.

I just never thought I would become victim to a bird attack.

And, yes, maybe I’m making a big deal out of nothing. It could have been worse. At least the seagull didn’t linger or peck at my head or poop on me! I probably would’ve fainted if any of that had happened.

“You handled that really well,” Bryce told me. “I’m proud of you.”

If anyone had overheard him saying that to me, they probably thought I had done something really noble or triumphant.

But, no, I was attacked by a bird.

And, while I was laughing at the time, no part of it do I think is funny.

Taking the water taxi back to the mainland ... reflecting about the bird attack ...

Taking the water taxi back to the mainland … reflecting about the bird attack …

I don’t think it’ll ever be funny.

That’s just how much I hate birds.

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One and done

Change used to scare me.

Past Kristin would have worn the same pair of jeans every day if life allowed it. (But, that would mean doing laundry quite often, so that never seemed reasonable).

I may not be the type to declare, “I’ll try anything once!” Because seriously, it would take  a lot  of coaxing to get me to say, jump out of a plane or eat sheep’s brain or something of the sort but I will now at least think about the offer/task/challenge at hand before accepting or declining.

Or, I just tell myself to just do it, or to try because that’s where everything starts — from trying.

I tried to donate blood two years ago. I made it one of my New Year’s Resolutions.

I didn’t successfully donate until two months ago.

And, call it a bucket list or a resolution list or whatever, but I’m pretty sure I am done with donating blood.

Why?

I fainted twice.

Once was four hours after donating while walking the streets of downtown Seattle on my way to a Mariners game. I was fully aware of what was going on and was able to take a seat in a nearby chair before falling. My vision did become blotchy though.

The second time was a week and one day after donating while having one drink at a Pioneer Square bar before going to a Sounders game. (I know, there seems to be a trend of fainting prior to Seattle sporting events here). This time I fell and was not “present” for the incident. Bryce says my eyes were open the entire time but I thought they were closed since “everything went black.” He kept calling my name and tapping me but I didn’t respond.

That’s scary. It was also alarming to me when a stranger came up to me right away to give me his chair and asked me if “I get seizures often.”

WHAAA — I just had a seizure?? (No, folks, rest-assured, I did not).

I went to the doctor later in the week and “was deemed fine.” (My labs all came back within the normal ranges). I just tend to have lower blood pressure and both times I was most likely dehydrated. Even though the second vasovagal syncope episode was unrelated to donating blood (too much time had passed,) I am still wary to donate again. I had never fainted before donating* so why continue? I may not be the tiniest of people but I “only” weigh about 15 pounds more than the minimum weight requirement to be eligible to donate. There are other people in the world who have more lbs. (and therefore blood) to spare, right?

First-time blood donor status!

First-time blood donor status!

I know you should never say never … so … it is highly unlikely that I will ever donate blood again.

This girl is one and done.

 

_________________

*When I was 15, I fainted while crossing the streets of Mexico City with my classmates on a school trip. It happened very suddenly and I was aware my knee scrapped the ground as I was falling but remember not being able to control my body. My vision briefly “became dark” during this episode. Other than this high school incident, I had never fainted until donating blood!

Donating blood: Fulfilling a resolution two years later

I’m not sure if Sarah asked, “Do you want to go donate blood with me?” or if it was more of a statement like, “You should donate blood with me!”

Either way, I was somehow convinced to donate blood Friday.

If you have read this blog long enough, you will recall that I made it my New Year’s Resolution two years ago to donate blood. And, I failed.

Well, folks, I can now officially say that I achieved that resolution. (With the thanks to Sarah and Ragan).

The three of us took the elevator down six floors to the room that the Puget Sound Blood Center was set up in at our work. I told the two of them that I was nervous. They smiled and said something along the lines of everything would be great.

We checked in, showed our IDs. As I filled out the electronic form asking questions like whether or not I had traveled outside the U.S. or used needles or whatnot, a part of me thought I could just lie so that I wouldn’t be eligible to donate.

Of course, I didn’t do that.

There was the small inclining of “hope” that my iron level would be too low to donate, just as it was last time.

The phlebotomist did the finger prick to get a sample of my blood to do the iron test. I passed. I was at 44, which she said was “very good” for a female my size. (Guess the iron supplements are doing their job!)

Ragan ironically couldn’t donate because her iron level wasn’t high enough. She had never been rejected for low iron and was surprised. So, instead of donating, she got to be my cheerleader.

Sarah was across the room from me on a cot already getting her blood drawn/taken. As the phlebotomist gathered her supplies and prepared to stick me, she asked me how I was doing.

“I’m really nervous,” I said.

She told me to just breathe. As some Elton John song played from the radio in the corner, I started to feel sweaty. She stuck me and the prick wasn’t as bad as I expected. It felt just like a prick from a “normal doctor visit blood draw.”

She again asked me how I was doing.

“Good. I just don’t want to see ANY of my own blood,” I said.

She chuckled and covered my arm with a sheet. Once it was covered, I turned my head to look over at Sarah. I was doing it!

I’m not sure how long it took for them to gather all the blood they needed but it seemed like “a while.” Ragan sat next to me but now I honestly don’t remember what we talked about.

I was worried that I would feel weak or light-headed after the draw since it was my first time AND I hadn’t had a particularly big lunch. OK, OK, all I ate was a granola bar and a pear … what, I wasn’t planning on donating that day!

I stood up and felt fine. Sarah, Ragan and I sat at the table with all the snacks and drinks and consumed some juice and cookies. I of course got my “first time donor” sticker and Ragan added a zero to Sarah’s sticker to turn it into a “10th time donor” one.

About 30 minutes later, it was back to work and I went down to our lab to process blood from a study visit earlier in the afternoon. I have no problem looking at other people’s blood. I don’t get queasy drawing other people’s blood. But for some reason when the needle is pointing at me, I freak out.

But, I did it, with no major freak outs. And, that blood of mine will save three adults (or six babies!)

It wasn’t a bad experience. I definitely am glad I got a phlebotomist who knew what she was doing — I wasn’t left with a bruise or anything!

However, I would advise others to eat a proper meal before donating blood.

Later that evening, I nearly fainted while walking on the streets of downtown Seattle. Bryce and I ate dinner at South Lake Union and afterwards I suddenly got the worst pain I had ever experienced in my stomach. It felt like a cramp that was going to explode.

“If this is the end, at least I ended by doing something good for others,” I dramatically thought to myself.

We got on the trolley to take it into Westlake. While riding, I started to “not feel well.” I was getting warm and began perspiring. At a stop, prior to the one we intended to get off at, I told Bryce that we needed to get off immediately.

As soon as I stepped onto the sidewalk, I felt weak. My vision was getting dark and blotchy. I grabbed onto Bryce and managed to make my way to a nearby outdoor chair and table. (Gotta love Seattle and its appropriately placed public furniture). I sat and put my head on the table and closed my eyes. Bryce went — and I assume dramatically ran — to a nearby drugstore to get me a Vitamin water.

By the time he came back, I could see normally again. My body felt like it was at its normal temperature as well. I took some sips of the water but really didn’t feel like drinking a lot since the cramp in my stomach was making me feel like I really had to pee (although I really did not).

We slowly made our way to Safeco Field. I made a big stink beforehand for us to not be late to the game and here I was causing our tardiness. Whoops.

By the time the game was over around 10 p.m., I was spent. I was done.

But, you know what, I FINALLY did something I have been oh-so-scared to do so I am pretty darn proud of that. And, it is something that can actually save lives.

Will I do it again?

I won’t say never but I’m also not going to be knocking at the blood bank’s door in eight weeks either.

Just keep swimming

I’m not as terrified of the pool as I was two years ago when I was beginning to train for a triathlon.

I do get extremely tired after like two consecutive laps. I can’t do a proper crawl. I can’t do that flip-thing against the wall to turn. I just move my body from one end of the pool to the other and then back again. I’m actually a horrible swimmer. I never did swim team. I am just a “good enough” swimmer to save myself if I were on a sinking boat — or so I hope.

The pool was crowded yesterday. I mean, with 80-degree weather in Seattle, I’m sure every outdoor pool was crowded! If two’s a company and three’s a crowd, four’s too many and five is just not gonna’ happen — in one swimming lane! I went to the “fast” lane since it only had two swimmers in it. Plus I was nearly done with my workout. Both the medium and slow lanes had four swimmers each!

There was one younger guy who looked about my age or maybe in college in the fast lane. He looked at me and I asked if I could share the lane with them. He replied “yes” and said that he and the other “fast swimmer” were just doing loops (rather than splitting the lane since now as the third person, I was crashing their party). I never exchanged words or even made eye contact with the woman who was also in the lane since she was in the zone — and fast! — and never took a break.

The guy told me I could start ahead of him but I let him go. I didn’t want him on my tail the whole time! I’m sure he’s faster than I am! The thing is, I’m pretty sure the woman was the fastest of us. Each time I started to swim, I thought she was going to catch me so I proceeded to kick faster and swing my arms harder. I could only do this for four laps. Then I called it quits. I was out of breath and my entire body felt exhausted. (Plus I had already done 16 laps before it got super crowded and 20* was my goal for the day).

I jumped out of the pool and my legs felt like jelly. I hobbled to the showers and rinsed some of the chlorine off. Then, it was off to my car to drive home run home. My legs continued to feel like jelly but I managed to trudge home in the uncanny Seattle heat. Since I just pulled shorts over my swimsuit, it was difficult to tell what was sweat and what was remnant pool-water from my swimsuit.

Summer has (sort of) arrived so I’ll take advantage of outdoor-pool weather while I can.

Plus, my knees will thank this runner later for swimming when I’m older, right?

 

*I was really proud of my 20 laps. But, upon looking through my old running logs (where I also kept track of other physical activity), I realized that last year I was doing 30+ laps at a time and the year before that (when I was training for the tri,) I was doing upwards 40!

Just keep swimming?

Making my week

What did my patient tell me after I drew his blood this afternoon?

That was one of the best draws I have had.

In my head I was jumping up and down and doing cartwheels and wanting to shout, “I just started drawing blood this past summer! I’m still a beginner!” Instead, I just glowed on the inside, smiled and said, “Thank you.”

If you had told me seven years ago, heck, even seven months ago, that I would successfully be drawing blood and receiving compliments for it, I would have rolled my eyes and laughed. I would have been in disbelief. Me? The journalism-major who is incredibly afraid of needles? Not going to happen.

Don’t get me wrong. I am no expert phlebotomist. I sweat bullets as I get all my materials ready and tie the tourniquet around the patients’ arms.

Maybe fears really do not exist. How else do we explain someone being afraid of needles being able to draw blood?

Maybe it’s just all in our attitudes.

Maybe it’s growing up.

I guess the power of positive thinking really can do wonders.

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.

Learning to draw blood — This won’t hurt a bit, right?

I’m not one of those people who faints at the sight of blood, but I would cringe.

Now, I’m learning to draw blood! (I’ve already “mastered” blood processing). I guess all this blood handling falls under the “other duties as assigned” on my job description …

We practiced on fake arms first. Yes, fake arms! I’m not making this up! They are these plastic flesh-colored arms that have red-dyed liquid in them so that people can practice drawing before drawing on real humans (who can feel pain)!

During the first class, I poked my (fake) arm numerous times and successfully “drew blood” each time. I looked around at my peers and they continued poking their (fake) arms. I was kind of bored of the fake-arm practice but didn’t feel like diving right in and attacking a real arm.

Finally after a few other classmates started drawing on each other, I joined in. I tried to put on my best “I’m-confident-and-can-draw-your-blood!” face while instead I was really thinking, “Oh my gosh. I can’t believe I am actually about to stick a needle into this girl’s arm!”

I gathered all the materials. I tied the tourniquet tightly around her upper arm. I cleaned off the area with an alcohol swab in which I was about to poke. I let the alcohol dry. And, then … it was time.

I gripped the needle firmly in my right hand and in one quick motion stuck her. She (thankfully) did not jump or twitch or say “ouch” but intently watched. My first fear was gone: I did not hurt her (so it appeared).

But, my second fear was that there would be no blood. And, it seemed to be true. The tube was not filling with any blood!

My instructor, who stood right beside me, told me to take the needle out a little bit. I did this and as I moved I told this poor girl “sorry” because I assumed that I was hurting her by doing this motion. She said she couldn’t feel a thing.

And then, the blood finally started flowing! I was relieved.

I  untied the tourniquet and removed the tube from the tube holder. As I grabbed the cotton ball to place atop the needle, my hands started to shake every so slightly. As I removed the needle another “sorry” came out of my mouth because now I for sure thought I was hurting this poor girl since my HANDS WERE NOW SHAKING.

She said she didn’t feel a thing.

I hope this was actually true because later in the class, I told another girl who was practicing on me that I didn’t feel a thing when really it was a little painful when she stuck me with the needle.

And, well, here’s the evidence:

Bad photo but, you can kind of see the bruise (that lasted a week)!

Bad photo but, you can kind of see the bruise …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I got a nice bruise that lasted about a week!

Other than walking away from that first class with a bruise and perpetually sweaty hands at the thought of sticking someone, I can actually say that the act of sticking a needle into a person is not that  bad. Do I want to be a phlebotomist? Heck no. Do I get nervous before having to draw blood? Of course. Am I scared that tomorrow is our final class and then after that I’m thrown into the real world with real patients to draw? Heck yes!

They say practice makes perfect, right? So, who’s willing to offer their arm to me?