When I was a kid, anytime I had to get a shot, have my blood drawn or suffer any other medical torture, I could hear the adult voice saying, “Be brave, be good, be a ‘big girl’.” So I would try my hardest not to fear the needle, not to cry out in pain, and to act as though the experience never bothered me.
I’m not a kid anymore.
Therefore, I am no longer brave, good or big. I am cowardly, bad and puny. Maybe it’s simply a regression, or a necessary expression of an earlier repressed fear. Maybe I’m just a wimp. Whatever.
I didn’t realize how bad I was until I went to the doctor and was informed they would have to take some blood. Now, don’t get me wrong, after two surgeries and two glucose tolerance tests it’s not a new experience. It’s just one of “those things.” Give me an intramuscular shot, set a bone, send me for a lower G.I.. Just don’t take my blood.
Anyway, the nurse comes in and starts to rub that alcohol cotton swab up and down my arm and ties on that rubber thingie (tourniquet? Am I going to bleed to death otherwise?). That alone makes me woozy. I tell her, “I’m not good at this, I’ll probably jump a little.” She jabs in the needle, I jump and she whines, “Hold still.” I’m sorry, did “I’ll probably a jump a little” not mean the same thing to you as it did to me?
Even with my head turned the other way I know she’s digging for that vein. I can feel it. It’s like inner-elbow excavation. My hands are starting to sweat and I know my blood pressure is rising. Along with my lunch.
“Hmmm. I couldn’t get anything. Oh well, the seal on this vial is cracked so it wouldn’t have been any good anyway.” Well that certainly instills confidence. Not to mention that if someone doesn’t get the blood on the first try, I really snivel. She tried to go for other veins, but I kept whining, “You’re not going to try that one are you?” until she tried the same vein again.
“Are you getting any blood?” Her silence was my answer. The needle probed some more and I tried not to pass out. She threw down the empty vial and proclaimed cheerfully, “Well it’s time for the butterfly needle.”
“What’s a butterfly needle?”
“Oh, I’m sure you’ve had one before.”
Now, doesn’t it strike you that if I’d had one before, I wouldn’t ask what it was? She returned with a funky looking needle, then tied the little rubber thingie just above my wrist.
“Now wait a minute, you’re not taking it from my wrist.”
“Oh, sure, we stick it right in and the blood just pours out.” That was it – I was done. I mean seriously, I only have my Web MD but I’m pretty sure blood is never supposed to pour out of you – what’s next? Leeches?
“No.” I pulled my arm away and held onto it. “I don’t want my blood taken today, I’ll come back tomorrow.” A complete fabrication, I know, but my life was on the line.
“No, you came in today, we’ll do it today.”
“I don’t want you to take my blood.” I was ready to come to blows over this. She regarded me for a moment, probably regretting giving up veterinary science, and then said, “Fine, I’ll let the doctor do it.”
She left, and I seriously considered making a break for it. But I knew I’d have to see this through – they had my social security number. By the time the doctor got in I was half frenzied.
“I don’t want my blood taken today!” One look at my face and he knew it was a no go (I’m guessing the recognition of near hysteria is one of the things they teach you in med school). He and the nurse calmly spoke about me in the third person, gave me my bill and let me go.
As I drove home the foolishness of what I had done overcame me. I could just hear the adult voice saying, “I’m so ashamed of you, why weren’t you brave?”
Hey, I was brave – it took guts to stand up to those vampires, fight my way out of there, and escape with my arm intact. And, shut up – you’re not the boss of me.
Yeah, it’s good to be a grown-up.