Monday, June 27, 2011

Stop exaggerating about your veins!

I am what nurses and phlebotomists refer to as a "difficult stick." Or, when they want to sound even more harsh, I have "bad veins." (Like it's the veins' fault, and they should be ashamed of themselves for not being easily poked.) It is a very rare occasion that I have to get blood drawn or an IV put in that I don't come away with huge bruises and both arms mangled in several places.

This isn't anywhere close to the worst that it's ever been. It just happens to be the most recent. The guy who did it was very gentle, and got the IV started with relatively little trouble, but he did still have to dig around a bit before finding success.

This particular IV was being started by an anesthesiologist, and he actually seemed to take me seriously when I gave him the heads-up about the difficulty he could expect. He took his time and searched all around to find what he thought would be his best shot before attempting anything. And despite my reassurances that it was okay, and that I was used to it, he still seemed to genuinely feel bad that he had a hard time getting it started.

A few days before having that IV put in I had to have some blood drawn. That phlebotomist was not nearly as nice about things. When I sat down, I warned her about my history, like I always do. (I have found that sometimes this actually helps. Not always, but sometimes. Occasionally they will take me seriously, and if they are prepared for the "bad veins" I might come away slightly less mangled.)

But this was not one of those times. She sort of concealed the rolling of her eyes and then gave me that condescending half-smirk with a sarcastic "ok." (I totally expected her to pat me on top of the head.) I told her that I know everybody says that, but in my case it's actually true. She just gave me a kind of "uh-huh" that clearly translated to "Whatever. Just shut up and let me do my job." And then she proceeded to dig around in both of my arms before finding anything. ... Um, yeah. Told ya!

And it's not like I expected an apology, but some sort of "oh, you were right - guess I shouldn't have been so rude" acknowledgment would have been nice. But no. She continued to be a jerk the entire time.

At first I was irritated with her, and I started to let her attitude bother me a little. But then I thought back to the years when I had a job where I had to deal with the public daily, and I remembered how tempting it was sometimes to just tell people what I really thought of them. (Not that I ever did - but it was tempting.) So I still think she was much ruder and more unprofessional than she should have been, but I suppose that I can understand where she was coming from.

The problem, I realized, is that everyone and their grandmother says that they have bad veins. And some of us actually do. But not everyone does. (I had a nurse tell me one time that a lot of people say that because they had a painful blood draw in the past, or they had an IV started in the hospital where they aren't notoriously gentle, so they think it was "difficult," but really it was just unpleasant. And that's not the same thing.)

So if you are one of those people who doesn't come away from blood draws or IVs bruised and mangled, rejoice. Be proud of your good veins. Congratulate them on being where they should be and getting poked without a fight. And please, please don't ever tell anyone that you have bad veins. It makes them not believe those of us who really do.

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