I can’t help but notice after three years of receiving treatment for cancer and having labs drawn that many nurses are quick to accuse my veins of any number of sins: namely teeny-weeny, rolly, valvesy, jumpy, scarred, stingy, positional, blown, and generally speaking uncooperative. The seven dwarfs of phlebotomy. No, make that eight.
I’m starting to wonder if the overall implication of all these accusations is that the difficulty drawing blood from me is entirely my fault.
teeny-weeny — the implication being if I drank more water, my veins would be bigger and easier to poke. Maybe I should lift weights like Arnold Schwarzenegger; I bet his veins are big and juicy.
rolly — the implication being that I should have better control of the movement of my veins and not allow them to defend themselves by moving out of the way of a sharp object
valvesy — the implication being that my veins are incorrectly constructed, as if simply to vex the nurses
jumpy — the implication being that my trepidation of being poked by an inexperienced nurse is being directly transmitted to my veins which (not surprisingly) would rather not be poked
scarred — the implication being that the scars left from pokes from previous inexperienced nurses are my fault
stingy — the implication being that once poked, my veins will not give up their blood as if stinginess were a conscious decision, as in “well you just hurt me so I’m not going to give you anything in return.”
positional — honestly I’m not sure what this one means: the angle of the dangle? Maybe male nurses have a better grip on this problem.
blown — the implication being that it is my fault that the vein has been poked all the way through so that its walls are no longer viable.
If you are in the cancer club, you might rebut by asking how come you don’t have a port? To which I answer “been there done that”; maybe my port was a lemon and I should give it another try, but it did not deliver on the promise of being easier on me, not to mention the nurses.
Don’t get me wrong: the nurses are probably the best part of this cancer treatment experience even if they are overworked overstressed, and most likely underpaid. But there are also inept nurses, scared nurses, and inexperienced nurses. Then there are what I call the black belt nurses. I’ve become a connoisseur and I’ve also learned how to speak up for myself. Let the inexperienced nurses practice on someone else. Send me the black belt nurse anytime anywhere. They can take all the blood they want. I can tell from across the room that she (yes, most nurses are women unless they are recruited from the EMTs) will have no trouble at all. There’s something in the attitude and the approach that is palpable. Instantly my veins relax and cooperate.
My suggestion? Teach nurses basic aikido principles of grounding, centering and extending. Hmmm. Did I just get a whiff of a new career?