Put The Needle on the The Record….

I’ve had a lot of blood tests recently.  A lot.  You think by now I would have got used to them.  Nah… I still hate them, I still get wound up by them and I still would rather not have one thank you.

But being on the meds that I am, it requires me to have regular blood tests to check that my kidneys are still functioning well and coping with the extra work that the meds are putting on them.

I’ve also signed up to a new GP Practice recently, and of course with my medical history I get a call and have all these wonderful appointments made for me to check everything out, blood pressure, weight, pulse, meds, blood, kidneys, etc, etc, etc.  I should be grateful really that they are taking seriously, my heart issues – (As an aside, I like the word ‘issue’, it’s quite weighty and not so negative as ‘problems’, it also gives hope, hope that the issue can be overcome or lived with positively).

Anyway, I am grateful that they are taking my heart issues seriously and it was during this new patient review that I had a blood test and they found out I was borderline anemic.

I probably have been for some time as my eating habits over the last 6 months were quite appalling, living off takeaways and crisps. I’ve been a pescetarian for 26 years and I guess it all adds up that my iron levels are a little low.  So it was suggested that I take an over the counter iron supplement.  With the other meds I take I have to take the iron supplement in the evening and then eat a tomato…. I kid you not, the pharmacist recommended eating a tomato or a satsuma with the supplement to help my body absorb the iron.  I’ve done weirder things in the name of keeping myself healthy so popping a cherry tomato in my mouth every evening isn’t too much bother.

But blood tests do bother me.  Not as much as they used to, when I was younger, but I still feel the knot in my stomach every time I need one.  Right up until recently I would shake and cry.  It’s not just blood tests, any form of injection would yield the same result.  How embarrassing it has been, being the youngest person in the flu jab clinic in full view of the other patients, sobbing my eyes out while a helpful doctor or nurse injects me with flu vaccine and you want to know the stupid thing – they really didn’t hurt, just a slight feeling of an ache in the crux of my arm.

The first blood test I remember was before my second operation. I was 6years old.  I remember having to squeeze a sponge to prepare the vein and then watching the needle go into my arm and watching the blood go up into the syringe.  It was fascinating. Everyone commented on how brave I was, but I just remember watching the purple-red (very deoxygenated blood, I was quite ill then) swirl into the plastic syringe thinking “Wow! That comes from me” and “Deoxygenated blood is blue!”

So what happened?  Why from that fascinated 6year old did I go to quivering, snotting hysterical wreck. It was an incident with a very gruff doctor, who had little experience with children, who had to take my blood the day I arrived at Papworth, the day I found out that I was having an operation.

His technique was pretty brutal, I was quite happy at first, held my arm out obediently thinking I would find it interesting but something was not right and the pain was unbelievable for a child to withstand.  He pulled out the needle and then stuck it in again and he had to take a lot of blood, much more than I had previously given.  I buckled. I kicked and screamed and yelled and he had the nerve to tell my mother off for not controlling me! In the end the only way he could take it was with me straddled over my mother’s lap, her holding me down and him grabbing my arm making it rigid and therefore almost impossible to take blood without bruising and without pain.

After that.  I freaked out every time a doctor or a nurse came round to take blood or give me an injection.  I refused pain relief after the operation because the higher doses came as injections, I was more terrified of the needles than the pain I was in and made do with the medicine.

So yes, many a time I have sat silently with tears rolling down my face as blood is taken or an injection given, and I’ve felt so stupid as I’ve made it become this huge fuss and then I felt even more stupid as I realised while the procedure was happening that, actually, it didn’t hurt that much.

How do I do cope now.  I’m up front with anyone who is going to jab me with a needle, I explain that I can’t see the needle or the syringe before the deed is done.  I make a point of looking the person in the eye (just incase I accidentally see the syringe on the table) and explain that as they are preparing my arm etc I have to look at the ceiling.  I then use relaxation techniques – mainly I concentrate on my breath, breathing in and slowly breathing out when I feel the needle go in, I also make an effort to relax my arm.

Techniques for taking blood have also changed in the last 40 years, I was surprised a few years ago that the arm is placed downwards on a pillow rather than on a table, using gravity I suppose, but it’s much easier to relax the arm this way and in hospitals they have special chairs that hold your arm in the correct position much easier.

So hows the iron count?  Fine, latest results back today are all normal and no action needed, worth taking a supplement and eating a tomato every night for I think!