My Veins Want To Keep Hold Of My Blood


I had another bloody session at the doctor’s today – with the phlebotomist in fact, the woman who has drawn more blood out of me than I had in there in the first place.

I am used to it by now of course.

The first time I was a witness to someone drawing out an armful of my blood by syringe was when I became a blood donor a long time ago. After the full horror set in, the world went so wobbly that I needed a digestive biscuit and a nice cup of tea before I got my land legs back.

Now of course, I could spout blood in all directions and just carry on with what I was doing.

Every day in hospital at the end of last year, I used to have at least six phials of blood syringed out of my arms which were not always very willing in giving up their life juices. In the end I looked like a heroin addict – well in the early stages, at least the nurses hadn’t started going for veins in unusual places.

I am now so far from being squeamish when the needle goes into a vein that I observe, with a genuine objectivity, guiding the nurse to a suitable vein and taking bets on which one will deliver.

The phlebotomist at my local GP’s practise is now so used to my regular visits that I get a welcoming “Hello Wolfie” whenever I go into the surgery. I made her struggle today though and it was only on the third vein, second arm, that we saw red.

I threatened to scream if she didn’t get a phial full – just to terrify the patients waiting outside. Actually, I think I really will do it next time just for a laugh. They looked such a glum lot sitting there trying to find something interesting in ancient magazines or, even worse, trying to start conversations which usually end in “but still we mustn’t grumble.” The weather, of course, is a popular topic of conversation – here in the South East of England, most patients in waiting rooms find the weather either too hot or too cold.

With some of the patients, I told the phlebotomist, it might be a kindness to stick the syringe into their jugular veins then they wouldn’t have to grumble ever again.

At least my phlebotomist has a sense of humour. One of the nurses at my local hospital where I also have to give blood, I suspect only laughs at postmortems. I told her about the difficulties that a number of nurses had getting blood out of my right arm.

“Rubbish!” she said. “If there is a vein, I always get blood.”

She was irritated that I wanted to say anything because she was in mid-conversation with one of her colleagues. Well, not so much conversation, as mid lecture. My eyes met with the other nurse’s and there was a moment of murderous collusion.

I have to take quite a high daily dosage of an anti-seizure drug which has to be registered on the form whenever I give blood so I dutifully informed this big confident nurse.

She ignored me.

Not being of the shy disposition, I said “Did you hear what I said?”

She carried on talking to the other nurse.

I interrupted and said it all over again and she said “Fine.”

Annoyingly she got blood on her first attempt but luckily for me, she forgot to put down the drug dosage onto the form.

I am afraid I rubbed it in and got a smile of recognition from the junior nurse.

She was the kind of person who knows all about her job, has maybe done it for too long and has forgotten that patients are also human beings. It might have been time for someone to stick something sharp into here, I thought.

During these long eight months of recovery since my brain haemorrhage, that dragon-like nurse was the only one who had been anything less than charming. Not a bad record when I have spent so much time with them. She made me realize how impressive the others had been.

I am not sure if this next observation is sexist or not – forgive me if it is.

Is there something about those big boned, statuesquely bosomed English women of a certain age that makes them just too convinced of their own worth? In many cases, observing as a mere male who is always regarded as wrong, their confidence is often misplaced and a comeuppance long over-due.

I remember taking Ralph, my late and lamented Springer Spaniel to the vet once. He hated vet’s surgerys after an injury inflicted by a fight with a fox so I always kept him on a short leash in the waiting room. He was of course very beautiful in the way that spaniels are and he was often the centre of attention.

On this occasion a woman, much like the aggressive nurse, came in with a cat in a cage. She made some unsolicited remarks about spaniels in particular and dogs in general and then asked if she could stroke Ralph who was looking enthusiastically at her cat.

I told her that it wasn’t a good idea because he was in his idea of Hell but she issued that word that often comes from the mouths of the ignorant:

“Rubbish!”

She went on to elaborate as she got up and headed in our direction.

“Spaniels are friendly beasts and, anyway, I have a way with dogs.”

My spaniel had a way with her too.

Another dictator suffered a public humiliation much to the delight of everyone else in the room – it was just a nip of course but he, like that nurse, wanted to say: “if there is a vein, I always get blood.”

Sic semper tyrannis – thus always to tyrants. I am sure that Ralph smiled, I know I did.

So drawing blood can be fun.

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