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Jim Blog

Born in 1976 with TGA. Mustard procedure in 1978 in London. Currently on my 3rd defibrillator and doing well. 

From time to time, I must get a blood test. It’s usually to take a reading of liver, kidney and of course cardiac function. It’s always the same routine. Firstly, enter through the revolving door on the North Circular Road. This door nearly always causes problems, for older people especially those with crutches or walking frames. Why can’t we leave the regular door beside the revolving door open ?

Anyway. In through the doors and say hi to the security guard who clearly wants to be anywhere else but here. A quick sanitisation of the hands and then up the escalator. On this particular visit, as I hang a left and walk the short distance to the Phlebotomy Clinic, I see a man about in his thirties carrying what looks like an appointment letter. He’s asking a staff member, “I’ve to get me blood test. Where have I to go ? Lobotomy or sumtin.”

I arrive at Phlebotomy take a ticket and sit down. 34. The display says 32. Not long to wait. “Will ticket number 34 please go to counter number 2”. I go the counter. “Oh, hi James”. The clerk recognises me. I’m not sure it’s a good thing that she recognises me. In fairness, I am here quite a bit. I register and sit back down. Looking around, I see a wide variety of people. The older people looking world-weary and accepting. The younger people looking a bit bewildered and unsure.

 I’m called in by one of the team. I sit in the awkward looking but strangely comfortable chair.  “Now, my veins are terrible” I say as she prepares the vials for the blood. This is greeted by a little giggle. “No seriously, my veins are awful. Both arms. “OK” she says. “Let’s have a look.” On goes the tourniquet, the fist is clenched and the poking and prodding begins. Apparently, it’s not what you see, it’s what you feel when it comes to veins.

“I’ll try here” she says. Alcohol wipe. Cotton ball. Needle. I pick a dot on the floor and concentrate on it. It’s not particularly painful, but nobody likes being stabbed. In the needle goes and it’s wiggled about. Up. Down. Left. Right. In. Out. “No. Nothing there.” The needle goes into the sharps bucket and on goes the cotton wool. “Let’s try the other arm.” Again. Nothing. Twice. Back to the first arm. Nothing again.

Then to the back of the hands. More painful yes, but needs must. Fail. Both hands. Then, the last word in cruelty: the wrist. I usually have a high tolerance for pain, but a needle in the wrist is pure agony. If you’ve ever got one, you know. The concentration on the dot on the floor nearly burns a hole in it. Deep breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth. “Ready ?” “Sorry about this.” She says as the needle is carefully and delicately inserted. Jesus, the pain. My deep breaths almost hoover my mask up my nose ! “Yes !” She declares as she finds a viable vein. “I’ll make this quick”.

My eyes glaze over. I close them and grimace. This is savagery. I start to feel light-headed and feel my heart pounding. “Done.” She says as the last vial is taken away, the needle is removed cotton wool is placed on the wrist. I start to calm down. That was horrendous. “Here. Drink this.” One of the other phlebotomist hands me a small cup of water. “Take your time.” It appears I have built up an audience. Goldfish Syndrome I call it. I must point out that it’s not always like this. Sometimes the needle glides in and it’s over in a matter of seconds. But not today. I thanked them as I always do. My terrible veins are no fault of theirs. They are doing their best for me and indeed all patients. I leave a bit stunned, sore and dizzy. With all the cotton balls, 7 in total, I look like a large teddy bear who is beginning to shed his stuffing !

Once I sort myself out, I walk, slowly, to the lifts and go up to level 3 for a well-earned rest and a well-earned coffee.

Be kind to yourself,


Jim Blog
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