The Strange and Mysterious Art of Phlebotomy
I have my annual physical scheduled for next week. This morning, I dutifully went to supply a blood sample. One of my reasonably few fears is encountering a new phlebotomist that has not yet mastered all of their blood drawing skills. A person who, with better counseling, could have found their real calling, which is not phlebotomy.
Perhaps, my veins are difficult to find for some phlebotomists. Prolonged explorations of my arm, searching for a sometimes elusive entry point, raises my apprehension. My normal expectation is that this trained professional is capable of obtaining a blood sample with only minor discomfort experienced by me.
One thing that raises my anxiety is when the phlebotomist takes a long time fondling my arm searching for the desired blood vessel. I assume this is a necessary procedure, learned in phlebotomist school, to identify possible target locations for a needle insertion. More that 15 to 20 seconds of fondling/searching usually results in me breaking out in a cold sweat as I fear pain may be involved in the ensuing step of the procedure.
I've heard many proclamations by the phlebotomist during this next step. I hate it when they say, "I think I've got it" (as they continue to push in) or "Almost" (after it feels like they have inserted it at least twice) or "This might hurt a little" (as they wiggle it around,I can assure you it doesn't hurt them at all). I prefer to hear, "You may feel a slight pinch." If I hear this and I feel a slight pin prick or less, I'm very happy.
Today as I sat in the waiting room for my blood letting, I noticed a small, Filipino woman, that I knew by name, Trina. She is the best phlebotomist that I have ever encountered. Fast, no-pain, blood samples with pleasant conversation, this is what Trina delivers. She drew my blood painlessly for my last 3 physicals. I was elated to see her and anticipated a pain free visit.
When my name was called, it wasn't called by Trina, bummer. Elation faded. I dutifully followed this pleasant, yet unfamiliar person to the blood drawing station. I was hoping for the best. After more than 20 seconds of left arm-fondling, she asked "Is this was the arm that is normally used for the sample?" Fighting off the possibility of a cold sweat, I indicated that it was in fact the arm normally used. She continued with a seemingly new found confidence. After a well-felt insertion, she continued to probe with some additional pain felt by me. I made a few guttural sounds, and she said, "I think I've got it." I was somewhat reassured until she said, "Does it (referring to my blood) always flow this slowly?" I looked down and saw that my blood had moved merely one half inch down a 2 to 3 inch tube. Anticipating beads of sweat emerging on my upper lip, I indicated that Trina had never had difficulty with my blood flow. She bandaged my nearly bloodless arm. and called in Trina. Tears of joy nearly filled my eyes to overflowing. I was overcome with delight; a cold sweat was no longer possible.
Trina is not much for arm-fondling. She had the needle inserted and blood flowing before I could say a word. As she handed me my urine sample cup and directed me to the bathroom, she left me with some words that I will never forget.
"Request me to draw your blood next time."