On the first morning of my stay, I overheard the nurses talking about me when doing the handover.
‘She didn’t complain about pain last night but she did this morning’
Well I just said ‘could I have a paracetamol please’ but ok…
And the reason I didn’t ‘complain’ last night because I was naughty and medicated myself with the paracetamol I had in my bag.
Later that morning a nurse assistant asked if my throat was less sore… Not sure what that was about. I said ‘no it’s fine, I didn’t have a sore throat at all’ and she said ‘see, you’re getting better’. Well that’s an easy way to get medical success.
Anyway, I wanted to tell you about my new soulmate. It’s the same person who did the painless cannula on the first day I was admitted. I’d had the usual stress with people trying to take blood each day. On the second night they came to take blood from me at 9pm. That should be illegal. Causing trauma and pain just before bed time, getting you just when you’re at your most vulnerable. It might not be a surprise to anyone that this began what became ‘the longest night’ I wrote about in my last post. I felt attacked, violated. They came and poked me a few times with no success, I was in so much pain, the poor other people in my ward had to deal with my screams piercing the evening calm. Eventually they succeeded and dragged my blood out from me, sucking into their syringe while my veins (and I) screamed in pain. At 9am the next morning they asked yet again for more blood. Exasperated, I said that they got some 12 hours ago and they just didn’t need to do it again! Apparently they hadn’t taken enough and so it was tossed away.
The phlebotomist tried another couple of times on Sunday morning, butchering me with a huge needle right into the centre of my wrist. This was unbearably painful. She wrenched my wrist back and shoved it in and kept trying to dig for the vein while tears streamed down my cheek. Eventually she said ‘maybe there’s something up with that vein, I’ll try another’ and I had to tell her that it wasn’t going to make a difference, as I already told her, my veins are incredibly painful. All of them. I just couldn’t take any more. I asked her if I could refuse and she said yes, of course. THEY NEVER TELL YOU THAT YOU CAN SAY NO! Later, one of the doctors on the ward asked if he could try again for blood and I said no, I’ve had enough, and I burst into tears saying I wanted to wait until MY team came back. He defensively told me he is part of that team. I didn’t mean to offend you mate, but I’ve never seen you before and if MY surgeons need blood then they can have it, I’ll wait until they come in and ask for it the next day. I think the tears scared him and he said I could have a break for the rest of the day.
The other annoying thing was that I had a cannula in that bled back fine. I kept trying to tell them they could just use that but they were set on the idea that since it’s been used for antibiotics, it can’t be used for blood. I tried to explain the common practice was to discard the first few mls (10 if you’re being exact) and then take the blood and it will be fine. But they could not get their head around that. My other concern was that if someone attempts three veins a day with no luck, leaving me with a big painful bruise each time, I’m running out of options if my surgeons really need a sample.
Eventually we were happy that the swelling had gone down enough that I could be discharged into the comfort of my own home to rest and keep taking oral antibiotics. As I was getting ready to leave and waiting for my discharge papers to be finalised and antibiotics sourced, the doc who did the initial cannula came and asked if I would let him try for some blood. I figured it was the last time and it was him so I would oblige. To be fair, I did also want to know that the infection markers were going in the right direction too, even though it was becoming evident on my face.
He went and got supplies and drew the curtain and sat examining my arm in the dark. I asked him if he wanted some light and he said ’it’s all about feel and not about looks’. Well I was impressed. He put the tourniquet on and examined my few remaining veins we had to play with. He turned over my wrist and saw the bruise that had been left from the previous day’s attempt. He shook his head. Eventually he chose one. I commented on how they didn’t have the tiny oncology needles and he said ‘we do… have tiny needles…’ I looked down and he was right. It’s just the phlebotomists who don’t bother to carry the small needles. Insanity.
He went in, I looked away, obviously. I don’t have a ‘needle phobia’ particularly, but it does help if you don’t watch it going in. I felt the tiny prick through the skin, which is not even worth mentioning, and then nothing.
‘Is it hurting at all?’ He asked after a while.
‘No’ I said, ‘which makes me think you’re not in the vein…’
He said nothing. A short time later he said ‘all done, I got more blood than we need so no issues there.’
I just about kissed him. That’s 2/2 successful attempts with NO pain, trauma, stress, or discomfort. I couldn’t believe it. I told him he was going to have to be my own personal blood-taker-person from now on. He said ‘you are very difficult’ (the shirt I was wearing emblazoned with the words ‘problem child’ seemed fitting) but he said all it takes is a bit of patience and a bit of time and it’s easy to do it with no trauma, see?
I’ve always told phlebs that I’M the problem, not them. And I get that my veins are difficult, but I’ve got proof that it’s possible to take my blood with no pain so I’m going to start holding bad blood-takers accountable for their actions. It doesn’t help that no one listens to me or believes me when I say my veins are difficult and painful. Then when I’m in pain they get annoyed. The phleb who didn’t take enough blood just kept shouting at me when she was taking the blood that ‘it doesn’t hurt anymore, I’m in the vein, you can stop crying, it’s over!’ Between sobs I got out ‘No matter how many times you shout that at me it doesn’t make the pain go away… I know you’re in the vein, that’s why it’s hurting!’ Afterwards she said ‘I didn’t realise you meant that your veins hurt.’ Oh ok so saying ‘my veins hurt a lot and are very painful when I have blood taken’ obviously wasn’t clear enough.
Anyway, I’m home! I’m feeling exhausted, my face is sore, I have a persistent headache and feel like I’m on the verge of a migraine (I can’t stare at a screen for too long without my eyesight turning into flashes) and just feel a bit gross from the antibiotics and infection fighting. But the swelling is starting to shift which is great. We’re still not sure what caused it specifically, but I’ll be meeting with my surgeons again next week to discuss what we do next. I wonder if they’ll know my soulmate’s name?