Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Phlebotomist

The Phlebotomist
I hate needles!  When I was growing up, I told my parents they would never have to worry about my becoming a drug addict, because even the sight of a needle makes me queasy.  Every time I have to take a physical, I stress about the needle.  I’ll worry about the blood test a full day ahead, and I usually don’t sleep well the night before.  It doesn’t really matter if it’s a prick on the finger (still a needle) or an inch long needle in the main blood vessel, I still hate needles!  I imagine them going in, coming out, and if I feel anything, I come close to passing out.
            What made matters worse was that In the 12 months from 2004 to 2005, I had 5 physicals, all for life insurance.  It was my own fault, because I kept changing carriers or adding policies.  By the time I came to physical number 4, I was a nervous wreck and had a little talk with my agent, Jim Wapner.
            “Jim, you don’t know what you are asking me to do. They’re going to need another blood test, aren’t they?”.
            Jim rubbed his bald head, “Come on, don’t be a baby, it’s only a little prick.  Plus, if you want insurance while you’re flying your helicopter, you’re going to need it. Think of your family.”
            He spoke like a true salesman, and I knew that I had no choice.
            “Okay, but can you find me someone better than that group of roving nurses who show up at my house or the office.  They are like gypsies and just seem to be in a hurry to get to the next job.  I need a clinic, where I can lie down, get relaxed and be done with it.  And one more thing, I need an experienced nurse who’s going to be sympathetic and gentle.”
            “I’ll see what I can do,” answered Jim.
            The next day Jim called me all excited.  “You’re going to love me!  I found you the perfect person to take your blood.  Her name is Amy Dawson, and she has her own clinic in Kingsport.  She’s been taking blood for 20 years and she says that she deals with squeamish people all the time.  All the doctors rave about her being the best phlebotomist in town. You have an appointment with Amy tomorrow morning at 6 a.m.”
            “Thanks Jim.  You’re a good man.”
            I woke up early the next morning and made the 30 minute drive to Kingsport.  Amy’s clinic was tucked away in a business park.  When I drove up, most of the lights were still off in her building.  The door was open so I walked in and sat down in the lobby.  After a few minutes Amy walked in.
            “Good morning,” she said cheerfully.  “You’re the first appointment of the day.  If you would, please follow me into the examination room.”
            I sat in a state of morning drowsiness.  Amy was not what I imagined.  She wore pink scrubs and was heavy set, but she also had the thickest pair of glasses I had ever seen.  They were an old style trifocal, probably from the seventies.
            “Are you coming?” she asked motioning to the door.
            I got up and followed.
            She picked up a clipboard and pulled it close to her face, to make sure she had the correct form.  She continued staring at it intently, as if she was still not sure what it said and then began.  “Now, I need to ask you some questions and you need to answer them truthfully.”  She pulled the clipboard about 1 inch from her face and squinted.  I could see that she was struggling to focus.  “Have you been with a prostitute in the last 6 months?”
            “No,” I answered and then I watched her check a box.
            “Have you had sex with another man in the last 6 months?”
            “No,” I answered.
            She checked another box.
            “Have you ever been diagnosed with HIV?”
            “Blood in your urine?”
            “How about in your stool?”
            The questions continued until she had finished her checklist.  The phone rang.  “I’ll be right back,” she said.
            I picked up the clipboard and scanned the questions.  I was aghast when I saw that she answered every question the opposite of my answer. So, according to the form, I had slept with prostitutes, men, had HIV, blood in my urine, stool and so forth.  When she returned, I pointed out her error.  She pulled the form close to her face again and answered, “Nuts, now I’m going to have to fill this all out again.
            “Give me a form,” I asked.  “I can fill it out quickly.”
            “It’s not allowed.  I have to ask you the questions and then fill it out.”
            She got a fresh form and began again.  On 2 occasions I caught her checking the wrong box.
            “I’m so sorry,” she said.  “I just don’t see like I used to.  The old eyes are giving out.”
            It took nearly an hour to have the survey completed to my liking and the moment of truth had arrived.  I was thinking of only one thing, the needle.  “If she can’t see well enough to fill out a form, how is she going to be able to see well enough to stick a needle in my vein?”
            “Lie down over here,” she said pointing to a small clinical bed covered by a white sheet of paper.  She pulled out her medical kit and fumbled with the needle and the series of usual vials.  “Now just relax, Jim said that you are a little nervous.  It will be over in a flash.  Make a fist…..there we go.”  The last thing I remembered was a hard jab.
            I woke up 30 minutes later with her sitting beside me. 
“Now, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” She asked.
I looked up at her a little weary.  “No it wasn’t.  Did I fall asleep?”
“Yep, you’ve been out for about half an hour.”
My arm was throbbing so I looked down.  To my horror there were about 6 holes in my arm, a couple of them still bleeding!  “What happened?”
“I had a little trouble finding the vein.”
“But I have big veins.”
“They were a little soft and I had to do a little digging.  But I’m going to wrap up that arm and you should be fine.  She came back with a bottle of antiseptic and gauze.  “This may sting a little.”
 I screamed as the antiseptic bit into the wounds.
“We’ll have the results in a couple of days,” she said matter of factly and left the room.
Still a little woozy, I struggled to my feet and made my way to the door.  As soon as I was in my car, I called Jim Wapner and told him the story.
“I only heard good things about her,” was his response.
“Now I’m worried that she’s going to get my blood mixed up with someone else and God knows what the insurance company will say.”
“Well I’m glad you called, because I won’t call her again. Oh, for your disability policy they’re going to need another blood test.  Do you want me to call the gypsies?” he giggled.
“Can’t we just use the results of this test?”
“Different company.”
“Anyone but Amy, please.  Can you make sure they have 20/20 vision?”
“I’ll do my best.”
“Can you wait a couple of days for my arm to heal?”
“Did she poke both arms?”
“Then one of them is still good.”
            Fortunately the next test was uneventful.