adventures in phlebotomy

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i’m not a fan of needles. but then again, i don’t know many people that are. but when your skin rebels against you in 7th grade and you’re forced to resort to taking accutane to amend said cosmetic curse, you get over your phobia relatively quickly. not because accutane is administered intravenously (it’s a yellow oval-shaped pill, if you were wondering), but because while you’re taking accutane, it is recommended that you get your blood drawn every two weeks to make sure the drug isn’t also killing your insides as it kills your acne.

case in point why accutane has become quite the controversial method of treating dermatological issues. but that’s another topic for another day.

anyway, despite my fear, i got quite good at giving blood samples. i knew which arm had better veins and to always ask for a butterfly needle (i don’t care if it’s usually used for children, it doesn’t hurt as badly thankyouverymuch). and after nearly two years on the anti-acne drug, i was basically besties with the entire nursing staff at my local medical lab when i finally weened myself off accutane by freshman year of high school. but aside from perhaps one or two rogue doctor’s office visits in the past 15 years, i haven’t had blood extracted since.

so when my new primary care physician recommended that we test my blood for adequate levels of potassium and sodium on my most recent “just checking in to make sure my body doesn’t hate me” office visit, i was less than enthused. didn’t y’all get a good enough look at my blood when i was 14? i can assure you not much has changed since then. i mean, i still look like i’m 14 if that counts? but in an age when everyone is a hypochondriac and we bathe in purell like it’s some sort of magic potion that will keep us living well past 100, i figured it would probably be a good idea to make sure all of those red and white blood cells swimming around inside of me were in tip top shape. at least for peace of mind, right?

i made an appointment for this past saturday morning and arrived to the lab fresh from my early studio barre workout. unlike regular doctor’s offices, the blood labs actually adhere to appointment times so i was quickly ushered to a room upon my on-time arrival. there, a friendly nurse greeted me with small talk as she prepped my arm for the sample. i was quick to inform her that after my years with accutane, i had deciphered my right arm’s veins were better for obtaining an adequate entryway for the needle and that if possible, i worked best with the butterfly variety. apparently i am a bossy patient. which, let’s be honest, isn’t a surprise. she was more than happy to cater to my requests and left the room momentarily to obtain the coveted petite-sized needle. she tied my upper bicep with an elastic blue band to make a turnicate and asked that i make a tight fist with my right hand. after i had done so, she carefully inserted the needle into a willing vein. “just a little prick” she informed as she hovered over my elbow joint. i honestly don’t know what happened after that, i had my head turned in the opposite direction during the entire ordeal. i’ve never passed out or gotten woozy at the sight of blood, but why chance it? all i needed to know was when the needle was out of my arm and it was time for me to pull down my sleeve again.

the appointment was over almost as quickly as it began. before i knew it, the nurse was asking me to apply pressure on the injection site with a small piece of gauze and medical tape. then she presented me the blood vile, almost as if to say, “look at how good you did!” i was perplexed as to what exactly my response back to her should be. “um, what would you call that color, crimson? burgundy? oxblood? ha! oxblood, that’s funny.” but peanut gallery aside, i really had no idea why she was showing me the specimen. i don’t recall them doing this when i took accutane? but maybe there have been some changes in phlebotomy etiquette over the past fourteen years. maybe now we inspect our own blood. i mean that’s cool, i just felt ill-prepared.

i finally sheepishly confessed that i wasn’t sure as to what i should be looking for as she presented me the vile, to which she chuckled and pointed out that she wasn’t showing me the blood per se, but the label that was stuck on top of it. “i just need you to verify the spelling of your name,” she replied sweetly. “oh, haha,” i answered. turning probably about as red as the contents of the vile itself. “yep, we’re all good. that’s correct.” “okay, then we’re all done here! have a great rest of your weekend,” she quipped back. i gathered my stuff and thanked her for her time and returned her weekend well-wishes.

the entire appointment took approximately seven minutes. despite the actual needle-pricking-my-arm part, it might have been one of the most pleasant and efficient visits to a medical professional’s office i have had since the days of dr. schmottlach and his animal-adorned stethoscope.

who knew giving blood could be so fun? err, maybe not fun, but certainly significantly less scary.

image via pinterest

1 Comment
  • Teresa
    March 10, 2014

    Hmmm… levels of potassium and sodium (are you increasing your electrolytes with all your exercise classes?) Those two items are usually checked if your kidneys are out-of-whack, or if you’re highly active in sports activities. Keep up with water and drinks to replenish your electrolytes… and keep movin’ movin’ movin’!

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