Court and Spark

blood drop
I think it’s time I talked about my relationship with phlebotomists.

Simply put, they love me.

Not because I make their life easy, but because I am a challenge.

I have lousy veins. They are tiny, always moving around, stingy and aloof. They play very very hard to get. And phlebotomist love this.

Oh how they woo me.

If you think about it, it makes sense. Next time you’re getting the blood sucked out of you take a look around that tiny office. Are there cute cartoons about phlebotomists? Dracula pictures? A plethora of holiday tchotchkes? Photo shopped pictures of the phlebotomist’s face imposed on Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Dolly Parton, Einstein, SpongeBob? Inspirational quotes like “No pressure, no diamonds.” Face it, these people have way too much time on their hands. And they have a lot of professional pride. I bet there are wild Phlebotomy Conventions in Las Vegas where the blood jokes are nonstop and they swap war stories about the screaming child, the 90-year-old diabetic, the ex-heroin addict, and me.

I know all their tricks. The fist pump, the double tourniquet, the butterfly needle. They tap at the bend in my arm like it’s a hidden passageway in a wall. They wink at me, call my veins, baby. Com’on baby I’ve almost gottcha. The ones that stick me and have to pull out – they’re mortified. They give me a million rationalizations, switch arms, take an extra long time to find a vein, then go at me with just a hint of sweat at their brow. When they see blood coming through that tube it’s like they found gold. The mother load. Some of them try to cover up their relief, some of them act like conquistadors, others do a little end zone dance. The insecure ones tap around both arms, get awkward and nervous and go after the veins on the back of my hand. They leave huge purple bruises in their wake and act like it was no big deal. Like that’s just the way it’s done. But I know better. They are hiding behind serious performance anxiety. No, it was not good for me.

When I was trying to get pregnant the first time it took two and a half years. I was taking fertility drugs, inseminating, and getting my blood drawn constantly. I had so much blood drawn I could have started my own bank. And I had so many phlebotomists I stopped counting. In those days I would watch. I would be the one talking to my veins, com’on baby. Two teenage daughters later, my visits to the phlebotomist have scaled back. Now my blood delivers different news about cholesterol and iron and glucose. My blood tells me I have the Vitamin D levels of a coal miner. My blood says I’m getting old. These days I turn my head away and let the phlebotomist work their mojo without me. My veins are as coy as ever, but my skin is not as thick as it used to be.

I think I should stop flitting around from phlebotomist to phlebotomist. I should find one I can truly trust and let them get to know my veins in a way no one else has been able to. But it’s hard to let down my guard, to open up. No matter how many times I’ve sat in that chair, met someone new and held my breath anticipating their moves, I know in the end they’re just going to stick it to me.



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4 responses to “Court and Spark

  1. Susan

    Aww. WIsh I could make it all better. But the simile of tapping like a search for a hidden passageway in a wall is a mind-blower! Evocative and unforgettable. Nancy Drew plus some vampire thing.

  2. Loved this because I could totally relate! I have the same hidden veins, inherited from my mother. I go through the same thing every time. First the arms, the tourniquet, the endless pumping and the sticks that don’t produce anything. Then the back of the hand with the butterfly. Mostly they are contrite about sticking me. I try to be proactive as soon as I sit down and tell them I have bad veins. They scold me that next time I need to drink a lot of water beforehand. Have you heard that one?

    At my doctor’s office in Boston, there was a Russian phlebotomist who was the bomb! She got me every time, first time. I wish I could clone her.

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