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I have a lot of health issues that run in my family. Because of this, I have to get pretty routine blood work. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I first started to get blood drawn. I found out quickly I could tolerate it as long as I didn’t watch the needle going in, drawing blood, and then coming out. Veins have just always really freaked me out. I can’t look at them with or without needles.
Once I started to get routine blood work, I found out that I am a bit of a hard poke. I have pretty small veins that sometimes require a baby needle. Or, they’ll have to take from my hand or wrist with a baby needle. After talking to some family members who also have this issue, I learned that it’s important to advocate for myself to make not only my life easier, but the life of the phlebotomist easier.
When I was 22, I had my first really bad experience with getting my blood drawn. I was getting my routine blood work done, but something really weird happened. She initially had a really hard time finding a vein and she poked me couple of times with no luck.
When she did finally get a vein, I felt what I can only describe as a shot of electricity go up my arm. I mentioned it to the phlebotomist and she didn’t really seem too concerned about it, so I didn’t sweat it. Later, I realized that something really wasn’t quite right. Turned out she hit a nerve and I had a nerve injury.
This was where my anxiety around getting blood work started. I was angry and upset because she didn’t listen to me when I had voiced my concerns. I couldn’t move my arm without having a weird tingling sensation shooting up my arm and there was pain. At the time, I was in college and I remember having a really hard time getting my backpack on and off. I couldn’t straighten my arm without discomfort.
It lasted for weeks. I had so much anxiety that it would never get better because of course I spent a bunch of time on the internet researching it. Whenever things like this happen to me, I always assume the worst and that I’ll be one of the few who never gets better. But, I did get better.
After this incident, I only had one Quest Diagnostics that I trusted to go get my blood drawn at. I couldn’t stop getting blood work just because I had a traumatic incident. But, for years I’d never go to anywhere to get my blood drawn besides this one in Norwich.
I remember my first blood draw after the incident, I told the phlebotomist about it. She actually said she wasn’t that surprised that it happened. She said the place it happened is known for having a lot of new and inexperienced phlebotomists. I don’t hate inexperienced new people because everyone starts somewhere. But, as someone who knows they’re a hard poke, I feel more comfortable with someone who is more experienced.
I slowly became more comfortable and trusting again. I continued to start off every appointment with “I’m a hard poke, you might have to use a baby needle on me or draw from my hand.” Usually they really appreciate me telling them. Then, they find out for themselves that I really was not kidding and we can joke about it.
Fast forward to 2023. I moved and it just wasn’t convenient for me to go to my one trusted Quest. I hesitantly decided to try a different one in my current town.
The first time I got a girl who was a bit inexperienced. She was having a really hard time finding a vein. She ended up asking for help from someone that was more experienced. The more experienced person was able to find one and poke me no problem. I was happy with the experience and I felt comfortable going back.
Then, I went back for some more blood work a few months later to that same one in my town. I wasn’t worried or stressed, assuming it would be all good. I was wrong. It didn’t end with a nerve injury. But, I did end up with it being painful and I was bruised pretty badly. I had tried to tell her like I tell everyone else that I’m a hard poke. She didn’t really take me seriously and she ended up hurting me.
Since I’m really uncomfortable with veins, I had a really hard time with the bruise from it. It’s going to sound so ridiculous, but I’d feel physically sick when I could feel the pain from the bruise when I moved my arm. I also felt sick every time I looked at it.
Shortly after that, I had to go back AGAIN for some more blood work. It was then that I found out at the last time I had gotten blood work really affected me. When I pulled up, I was so anxious that I was going to get the same woman who didn’t listen to me and bruised me. I remember texting my boyfriend telling him how I was having really bad anxiety. My heart was racing, my hands felt numb, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
Despite the anxiety, I went inside. Thankfully, I had someone different than the last time, which put me a bit more at ease. However, she could definitely tell I was anxious and she was really kind, asking me if I was okay throughout. I had told her about being a hard poke and the chance she might have to use a baby needle. She was understanding and she listened. She did end up using a baby needle and taking from my hand.
When it comes to medical stuff, don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. While my anxiety around getting blood work has definitely gotten better since the one traumatic incident, I still do get anxiety. What helps me is letting all of the phlebotomists know I’m a hard poke and what’s worked in the past. This helps alleviate some of my anxiety and it helps them with their job of drawing my blood.
There’s never been a time where I have regretted using my voice at these appointments. It’s the times I didn’t advocate for myself that I’ve regretted. I wish I had done more after I got the nerve injury. But, I never even went back to the place to talk to anyone about what had happened. I just avoided that place and found my safe place for getting my blood drawn.
If that ever happens again, I will speak up. Honestly I hope it never happens again. For now, I’ll continue with my little spiel before I get my blood drawn.
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