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Monday, 31 August 2015

Giving Blood

Earlier this month I made the promise that I'd give blood, in an effort to do something grand and important. I've had a growing phobia of needles for a very long time. Bad stuff always seems to happen when I'm around them. My fear's gotten so bad that last time I had to have a blood test, I whimpered like a child and the doctor had to be very careful to calm me down. I've always wanted to give blood (and even have once before - prior to the phobia's onset), but for years I've delayed going again.

I decided I needed a friend to help keep me accountable, so I sent messages to some people that I know give blood regularly. One of them said he was free and we made a booking. On the day, we had lunch across the road in Westfield. Then it was time to go and the nerves started to settle in.

I was greeted by an older lady who knew my friend by name. He donates regularly and keeps a running tally. He's into the triple-digits now. The lady gave me a form to fill out and we sat down so I could do it. They were very detailed questions - have you been to North Queensland in the last six months, have you been overseas in the last two years, have you ever been diagnosed with hepatitis in any form, are you currently on a prescription for Ankyloriamin Five... I ticked "No" for all of the boxes and then waited to be called, the nerves - and subsequent laughter - still growing as I watched people relaxing in beds with tubes sticking out of their arms. I don't know if it was the nerves or what, but I started making mistakes on my form.

Let's see, country of birth... Michael. Wait, what?

I was starting to feel phantom pinching in the crook of my arm.

After a solid half-hour, my name was called and I went into a side room for a preparatory interview. The first step was to take my blood pressure. The nurse wrapped a sphygmomanometer around my arm and it started to inflate, tightening in order to constrict the veins. At this point, more nerves turned into genuine fear and discomfort. I could feel the blood in my arm struggling to pump its way through the constricting velcro strap and it was freaking me out. I started sweating and fidgeting wildly. Even as the strap deflated in increments, it only served to give me a split second of relaxation and then tense up again when I realised it wasn't over. The nurse was busy on her computer and didn't seem to notice. Eventually she got her reading and the strap deflated.
'That's good, you've got nice healthy blood pressure,' she said without realising the irony. Then she got out the tiny pinprick needle that would be used to test my blood sugar. I grabbed my hand and as she placed in on the underside of my middle finger, I shut my eyes.

This time she did notice. As she squeezed a drop of blood out, she asked my if I was okay.
'Yeah it's fine, I've just got a phobia of needles,' I replied. The nurse's face dropped.
'Oh. Well if that's the case, I don't think we should be taking blood from you...'
'Oh it's okay, I'll deal with it,' I said. 'I've had loads of blood tests before.'
'This isn't like a blood test. The needle is a lot bigger and stays in for ten minutes.'
'Yeah I know, I've given blood before.' The nurse hesitated. She could see on her computer screen that this was true. But I felt that complete honesty was vital here.
'The phobia hadn't really set in by then...' I conceded.
'Ah yes,' said the nurse reanimating. 'It's a lot worse now. I can feel how clammy your hands are. We just can't risk you having a freak-out or collapsing during the process.' Now I was the one to hesitate. Is that what's meant to happen with a phobia? Had I jumped the gun with my self-diagnosis and caused a big worry for nothing?
'I've never collapsed or anything,' I said quickly, and then the honesty thing kicked in again. 'Well, there was one time, but it wasn't out of fear. I'd fasted too long before a blood test and they had to take a lot of blood.'
'I'm going to have to call the head nurse,' she said and leaned out of the door to call over an older, sterner-looking lady with glasses and her grey hair in a bun. The first nurse explained everything she'd heard so far.
'Yeah, I don't think we can go ahead,' she confirmed. Even this sterner nurse was looking at me with concerned eyes clearly seeing that "No" wasn't what I wanted to hear. I'd come all this way trying to try and overcome my fear (and do a good thing). I wanted to try and overcome this unexpected obstacle without being rude or argumentative.
'It's an undiagnosed phobia,' I offered. I just assumed that my level of fear was irrational.
'What happens to you when you have to deal with them?' asked the senior nurse.
'I just get... really, um... scared.' That sounded pathetic. 'Last time I had to get a blood test I was whimpering and I felt this phantom pain where the needle went in for a few days afterwards.'
'That sounds dangerous to me.'
'Maybe, but I can push past nerves,' Both of the nurses looked at each other as they considered that point of view. I decided I'd done all I can. 'My vote is to go ahead with it,' I said, leaning back in my chair. 'The rest is up to you.' A long moment's pause, then...
'I think we're going to have to say no.'

I slumped, defeated, before getting out of my chair and making my way to the exit. The nurses apologised and assured me that they'd love to take my blood, they just couldn't risk it. Frankly, I didn't care. I was looking forward to not only conquering a deep fear, but doing something which could probably save another person's life. Now I'll have to find other ways to do both.

25 comments:

  1. Poor Michael.
    It was very, very brave of you, and I am sorry it didn't work out. You will find another way. Really you will.

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    1. I did consider making a booking at another branch, but by that stage my nerves had gotten the better of me :P

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  2. I also used to fear needles, but have gradually learned to handle the panic. But when I tried to donate blood, they said no because I take hormones that's apparently not good for people with normal levels of the stuff.

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    1. Ah yeah that's fair enough. They are very careful with taking blood because there's so much that can go wrong.

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  3. Well, I guess the only other way you can face this fear is to try shooting heroin. I look forward to that post.

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    1. Do you think it would work if I just hovered the needle over my arm and squirted?

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  4. too bad it didn't work out but there will always be next time. You are so brave indeed...and hopefully you'll make it next time..cheers from NYC

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    1. Thanks :) I hope I can work up the courage to give it another go.

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  5. Yeah, you shouldn't have said anything. But how could you know they could see into the future, the disaster pending? Ridiculous. I'm not afraid of needles at all, but that's ONLY if I don't look at the needle. The pain is usually just annoying.

    Maybe next time. A different blood drawing station. And hope they haven't flagged you. :)

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    1. That's one thing I'm worried about - they might have put the rejection on my permanent record.

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  6. I think that was for the best, Michael.

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    1. Well, we'll never know. It could have been better or worse than I thought it would.

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  7. You got really close. You went through all the steps, which I would say is a big step toward conquering the fear.
    Of course, this is coming from someone who would never give blood as I also have a thing about needles.

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    1. Yeah, but it doesn't quite feel the same as if I actually went through it :(

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  8. It sounds to me as though those nurses were incompetent newbies, who were nervous themselves. EVERYONE is afraid of needles. NOBODY donates blood with a "Yippee, I'm here, stick me know. I love it!" Sorry, Michael. I think you should try again somewhere else with others who will support you thru it. It's really not bad if you look the other way and they know what they're doing.

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    1. Those friends of mine who donate regularly tell me they don't even feel it anymore. I just don't get that, I'm feeling it now just writing this.

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  9. Michael, this is something I know a little about at Cherdo house. My husband AND son both have issues with needles. Once, Hubzam's work called and said he was unconscious (they had a blood drive and he passed out during the process...for a LONG time). Another time, we were buying life insurance and the lady came to our house before Hubs went to work to draw blood. I was still in bed and I heard her yell for me - he was out cold again.

    Gonzo took a Biology dissection lab and passed out while they were typing their own blood. Bam - out cold.

    The irony is that I'm a nurse and used to teach venipuncture (neither of these guys saw that ever, so I didn't plant the seed). Not only that, I've stitched my own wound without analgesic (yes, it hurt, but it saved me $300...).

    Phobias defy logic; both Hubzam and son are logical, smart, and neither could be accused of being a wuss. It's just something in your brain. Don't sweat it.

    Instead of donation, coordinate a donation round up at your local church. Who cares how they get the donations, as long as they get them??

    I like your heart (always have). :-)

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    1. One more thing to lighten up this post: when my husband returned to work, they had made an outline of a body on the floor of his office.

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    2. Hahaha that's awesome! Stitching your own wound sounds like a horrible nightmare to me though :P

      Yeah I know it's not rational and that that's okay. I just wish I could still do it :P

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  10. My husband is fearful of needles too. I give blood regularly but lots of people can't. Don't feel bad because your heart is in the right place.
    Susan Says

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  11. A lot of people are afraid of needles. You were brave to try. Maybe you can find a way to conquer your fear, such as gradual exposure. For now, I'm impressed that you know the word sphygmomanometer. You'll find a way to help people. Maybe volunteer to help at a blood drive. You can give people their juice and cookies after they donate. You'll see lots of needles without having one put in your arm. If that's too much for you, then perhaps you can help at a food bank. Or rob a bank and give the money to poor people. Yeah, that's it. When you have the money, let me know, and I'll send you my address.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I feel uncomfortable convincing people to do something that I'm not able to do myself, but I suppose I could give out juice and cookies to people who are already there.

      I learned the word sphymomanometer from The Simpsons ;)

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  12. I'm so sorry they wouldn't let you donate! I imagine having that needle in for ten minutes and then afterwards realizing you're alright would help loads with the fear. I'm bothered by needles, but it was borderline phobia before I had my kiddo and had to have my blood drawn every month for nine months, an have an IV a few times. Hopefully, you can try again some other time? Or maybe as Janie suggested, volunteer at blood donation drive?

    Anyway, props to you for trying. I went once with my dad. He donated and I had a mini-freak out in the waiting area watching the people with tubes in their arms. Couldn't do it. They likely would've given me the same response if I tried too.

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    1. Thanks Madilyn, maybe if something like that happened to me, I'd get over it.

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