Baseball players have superstitious rituals they follow before games. Seems trivial that because they have a good game, they repeat whatever they did that day over and over in hopes of a good game again. Silly as it seems, I understand the logic. I do the same thing whenever I have to get blood drawn, which thank God is only once or twice a year now. I have rituals. Anything that appears to have worked before, I try again. Starting the day before, I drink a ton of water. Right before bed, I take Advil in hopes that thinning my blood will make it more cooperative in the morning. I wear a jacket, no matter what the temperature is outside. I turn the heat up in the car in hopes that my veins will be warm and comfortable. I do some toe touches to get my heart pumping. I take deep oxygen-rich breaths. I visualize bulging veins. Then I pray for my veins to cooperate and…that I will not get Helga as my lab tech.
The first time I saw her I was waiting in a chair for the next available blood sucker, I mean technician. I shuddered involuntarily. I counted people in front of me. I counted technicians, trying to do the math and figure whom I would get. You can guess. When I sat in her chair, and saw her nametag I nearly burst into laughter. I would have, had I not been so scared. Just the name Helga conjures up a picture in your head that is probably accurate…minus the pinned up braids. Broad shoulders, probably 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide, solid as a brick wall. She makes the steroid-using Olympic swim team look like little kids. I wondered if she would have a heavy German accent. Add some pink teddy bear scrubs and you have it. The teddy bears gave me some false hope that there was some kindness in there somewhere. I smiled and meekly suggested that she use a baby needle since my veins are hard to stick. She glared at me with a look that suggested she had drawn more blood than all the vampires in the world. (I guess they made her wear those scrubs with teddy bears to “soften” her demeanor.) At least now, I knew she could understand English.
She reached for a regular sized needle with all the professionalism of a career torture expert. Once again, I made a suggestion that using a blood pressure cuff is usually more successful than a tourniquet. She reached for the tourniquet. By this time, I was sweating bullets. None of my usual humor that thinly veils my fear, hit home. Not even a slight smile. My arm felt as if it was going to be severed by a rubber band that was wound too tight. Finally, she uttered a word. An order really. “Squeeze!” No accent. Clearly an American, but in my current predicament that didn’t help me at all. I squeezed and pumped my fist as if my life depended on it. She flicked my arm with her fingers and then resorted to small slaps without a flinch of compassion. I saw her grab the needle and turned my head so I wouldn’t have to watch the butchery. I only wish turning my head could have avoided the pain as well as the view. The stick was hard and deep enough to bring tears, but remarkably, she hit pay dirt. First try. I filled the multiple tubes quickly and in the blink of an eye the needle was out and my arm wrapped with pink tape. There was a smug look that said I know what I am doing, as she chimed, “Have a nice day.”
I must say that Helga got me first try, and that is quite an accomplishment. I give her credit for that. However, ever since then, I have added a prayer to my pre-blood draw ritual. My usual one, that my veins will cooperate, and now, that I will not get Helga. Today at my regular blood draw…no Helga in sight. I had Sonya who smiles and jokes. She used a baby needle and a blood pressure cuff at my request. She got it first try…which was decidedly more pleasant than my last time. I am happy to report BOTH prayers were answered and both will remain on my ritual list in the future.

One thought on “Helga

  1. It is so pleasant to come across people who are more stupid than ourselves. We love them at once for being so
    (j.K. Jerome)

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