Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Art And Sport Of Taking My Blood

I'm afraid of needles.
It's not an irrational fear, like agoraphobia (a fear of wide open spaces) or arachnophobia (a fear of spiders).  This is legitimate. 
I've never read a documented case of a wide open space inflicting pain or damage on a human being. 
And while there are instances where a spider bite has been lethal, I've rarely encountered a North American eight-legger that could withstand my size 10-and-a-halfs. 
That particular phobia loses a lot of points with me because it afflicts both of the women in my house.  I can't count the number of times I've heard an ear-piercing scream from some part of my home that could make a cadaver shiver.  After nearly pulling a hamstring trying to hurriedly clamber from the comfort of my La-Z-Boy and racing to that part of the building, I usually find a spider about the size of an eye booger cowering in the corner of the room, begging me to get these screaming female bipeds away from it.
Needles are different.
They were invented for one purpose, and one purpose alone: to perforate human skin in the most torturous manner possible in order to remove something you need, or introduce something that doesn't belong in there.  I'll take a carload of eye booger spiders over a lone, pain-inducing needle.
Anyone who tells you that needles don't hurt is either a liar, a drunkard, or a compensated member of the health care profession.  I've met car salesmen who are more honest than a white-shoed smock-wearer with a penicillin "gift" behind his or her back. 
Even worse are the times when you arrive at the emergency room with some body part leaking red fluid like a busted radiator from a '62 Buick.  One of the first lies they'll tell you in the E.R. (after the "your Senior Dimensions insurance will cover all of this" fib) is that they're going to give you a shot for the pain.  Well, maybe it's not an outright lie, just some medical doublespeak.  The person with the new red floral print on their previously white Aerosmith t-shirt hears "this will help it stop hurting."  What the white-coat really means is "we're going to give you this shot to give you more pain, because that bone sticking out of your arm doesn't look uncomfortable enough."
I recently had my annual visit with my physician, Dr. Larry Cain.  For starters, you have to love a sawbones named "Larry."  No pretentious moniker like "Charles" or "Xavier" or "Lawrence."
One of the first things you'll notice about Dr. Cain is that he's tall.  How tall?  He's one of the few guys on whom Shaquille O'Neal could use the old "how's the weather up there?" bit.  I believe God made Dr. Cain about 7'6" tall because that's what it would take to store all that medical knowledge AND his kind heart.  (Never trust a short doctor, unless he's a podiatrist or a proctologist.)
Unfortunately, the medical school he attended apparently had a swinging watch with an extra long chain, because like all of his M.D. colleagues he has been hypnotized into believing that needles are our friends.
During my visit, he started filling out a pink and blue form that looked like a colorful crossword puzzle, complete with numbered boxes and long, unintelligible hints.
Turns out, it was a lab form.
For the uninitiated, "lab" is medical code for "the place where human extremities are forced to do pin cushion impressions." 
If you've ever visited a sports pub and wondered where all those inebriated semi-pro dart players work during the day, you need look no further than your nearest blood-sucking facility.  In fact, if you pay close attention the next time they strap you into the chair before turning your inner elbow into a trip-20 ring, you'll realize that the damp cotton pad they're rubbing on your skin is actually soaked with last night's leftover Patron.
Unfortunately, because malpractice insurers won't allow the phlebotomists to drink on the job, it can sometimes take two or three throws before they "close out the bulls" on your arm (shots they would never miss in the third round of a league tournament). 
On this day, the capable woman tasked with giving my arm a new non-decorative piercing discovered one of my embarrassing secrets.
You know how they say certain male body parts tend to shrink and shrivel when in the throes of terror?
My veins tend to do the same thing.
When in the same room with an unsheathed needle, the blood vessels in my arm will constrict to the thickness of six pound test fishing line, then start trying to play hide and seek behind the nearest tendon.
My left arm won round one.
Since I couldn't convince the needle bearer to do it my way, which would be to allow me to scratch the scab off my shin from a previous night's game of "Pin The Tail On The Toilet In The Middle Of The Night," she moved on to my right arm.  She was quick and stealthy, which allowed her to sneak up on my throwing limb before the vein could camouflage itself under the forest of arm hair.
Like an old time mountaineer with a pointy miniature divining rod, she was able to bring in a gusher with the first stab, filling what seemed to me like four or five quart-sized milk bottles with my blood.
In a few days we'll have the lab results, but I don't need a report to confirm that I am simply suffering from an allergy.
I am allergic to needles, and the white-coated stethoscope-wearing villains who wield them.

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