Needle phobia

There is a technique in Psychology called flooding. In theory, if you are afraid of something and you face it head on you will learn that it is not as scary as your irrational fears are making it out to be. Therefore, if you are afraid of spiders you might go into a room filled with them so you can see that spiders are not really that scary. For me, Cancerland was kind of like flooding for my fear of needles. Having several needle experiences a week kind of broke me of the screaming and running from the building whenever someone showed up with a needle. I have this fear because my veins are the size of an infants. Needles for grown ups are much bigger than that. I learned how to joke about my malady, and make it seem like I am not scared at all. I became quite good at diverting my fear during my Cancerland journey. However, that journey has been over for about 4 years now. They have gradually released me and given me a longer and longer leash. One time a year now I have check ups with my numerous doctors. Today I found out that flooding doesn’t work long term. My needle-phobia is back.
Medical personnel react one of two ways when I tell them I am a hard stick. The first are the ones who consider my statement a challenge to their ability. Most of the time these people, eager to prove me wrong, prefer to show me how good they are without listening to my helpful hints. Usually, I end up with more holes than swiss cheese, and a “higher up” veteran technician before I am done. I do not intentionally deflate the egos of these professionals, however, once they have told me how many years they have done this, and how in the ER it is harder because they were under more pressure, and how they like to be challenged, it is difficult for them come right out and say I was right. Usually they continue digging trying every possible spot before finally asking for help from the “expert.” (By the way, every lab has one of those…the ones who are called in when people like me show up.)
The second reaction to my confession of inferior veins is the fearful response. These people are afraid to try to stick me for fear of having to do it more than once. They are the merciful ones, who really do not like to hurt people. They got into the medical field to help people not to torment them so the idea of having to stick me several times and dig makes them quit quickly. Usually they look and finger poke me for 30 minutes before finally settling on their site of choice. By the time that is finished I feel as if I have had an alcohol bath with those little wipes and both my arms have bruises from the tourniquets that were on me for half an hour. The bright side is that my wrists get a great work out from making fists and squeezing. If the one try they take is a miss, they call in help right away. I hate to scare people. I do not go overboard with details. I simply say I am usually hard to stick and point to the place most likely to gush.
Bill used to say I shouldn’t tell them about my veins…that I was the problem because my anxiety caused the fear, and the over confidence to rise up in these people. His theory was that if I didn’t tell them, they would be able to stick me right off the bat since they never knew otherwise. We decided to test his theory one time when I was going to have one of my many surgeries. I never mentioned a word to anyone about my lifelong difficulty. Two hours and 6 “experts” later, they finally got the IV in my ankle. Bill’s only comment to me was “Okay, okay, I get it.”
There is a third reaction to my confession, but it only happens occasionally. It is more the exception than the rule. It is a medical person who listens to me when I say, “This is the one place you can usually get me. I know you cannot see it, but if put on a blood pressure cuff and you turn my arm this way you will be able to feel it.” Those people are rare, and do not always get it the first time, but I feel better that I was able to help. I try to be positive and not to pass out when they hunt under the skin. I feel for them, I really do. It cannot be easy to have to stick needles in people all day and I also know that they really are trained professionals who are underpaid and overworked. If there was a way to have my husbands rope veins transplanted I would take one.
Today for my CT scan I had a sweet girl who “loves a challenge.” To me that is code for lots of holes. Ultimately, she quit after three. Two in the place they usually get me and one blown vein in the other arm. (She did listen to me about the starting location at least.) The CT technician finally got an IV half way in my wrist. It was enough to get the dye into the vein. However, it also got a lot of it in my arm as well, since the needle was only in part way. The burning sensation went almost up to my elbow before they finally cut the flow of the dye. He said there was enough in my vein to get the pictures they needed.
After the scan, I went to the hospital lab to have blood drawn and started the whole process again. Two more holes and one more blown vein…but I am done…at least until Friday when I have another blood draw. I am hopeful that by then the bruises that have appeared this afternoon will be gone and that the holes will have healed up enough to get stuck again. If you see me in the next few days please know that I am not a drug user, and I have not been abused, the tracks and discoloration are part of the check-up process for me. Now the 2 week wait begins, it is my plan to have good reports all around. But let me just say for the record, I hate needles.

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