September 5, 2007

The Shot Heard Round the World

So let's talk needles for a minute. I have an aversion to needles that goes way back to my younger days. Young as in very young. I was a bone breaker. Not anyone else's, mind you. My own bones. I broke my arm, wrist, ankle (twice), and let's not forget my collarbone (ouch!). And I never just "broke" them, I BROKE the heck out of them. So that they had to be set. So that I had to get a shot to numb the pain and sometimes several. This in addition to all your usual blood work, labs, vaccinations, etc so that by the time I was a wee lass, I had worked up a solid fear of needles. One that went as far as climbing under the patient table in a doctors office and screaming bloody-stinkin-murder. To say my parents were embarrassed when I had to be held down by three nurses, is a bit of an understatement.

This trauma (as I like to call it) spread well into my adult life and still nags at me every time it's "that" time. Time to get blood work done. Time to check the ol' thyroid. Time to measure the blood pressure. Time to adopt from a third world country. Shoot. I forgot that when you travel abroad, there are certain things in the fine print of the adventure that read like this: "unless you want to die a most untimely and miserable death of the Yellow Fever - or unless you want to be stuck in our country should an outbreak occur and you are not vaccinated - we heartily recommend getting a freaking immunization from it". The list of immunizations that we will need between China and Ethiopia reads like a John Jakes novel. It actually spans two pages. I'm not even kidding you.

Now people - you just don't do this to a needle-phobic. Have you noticed, the way that I have, that things that you need and are good for you come in rotten packages? For example:

Health (Cardboard) Food = Good Health and longer life, as well as a smaller dress size
Exercise (yawn!) = Good health and longer life, as well as a smaller dress size
Greasy Sales people = New Cars
Immunizations from horrible diseases = Needles stuck into your body

On the other hand, we could list the things that are terrible for us, but come in oh so lovely packages. Such as chocolate cake, chocolate ice cream, french fries, chocolate brownies, fried chicken, soda, chocolate bars....but I digress...

About two months ago, we applied for a new life insurance plan. The nurse came to our house, took our vitals and our information, and then proceeded to bust out his handy dandy needle case. I gasped. Audibly. My palms began to clam up and my feet got cold. I started cold sweating. I went into panic mode and started thinking of ways to get around it. I got so worked up, that by the time I had to sit there and allow this stranger danger to poke stainless steel into my flesh, I was actually crying. I was sooooooo embarrassed - so please hold the "big baby" comments. I could have died from feeling like such a fool. But I could not overcome my fear long enough to allow him to do his job without me freaking out. It was over in a flash and there was no pain. I sniffed into a tissue and off he went, probably thinking he had just witnessed the world's oldest surviving cry-baby.

Background on said fear: As an adult, I did ok for years. I would just suck it up and go get it done when it had to be done. I would be a nervous wreck and then I would want to vomit, but I would just get it over with. Then I had to get a blood draw for our China adoption two years ago while paperchasing. What should have been in and out, took 45 minutes of two techs looking for a vein. Five sticks later, I was in tears, demanding someone who knew what they were doing. I was devastated to learn shortly after that I'm what they call a "tough stick". Apparently, when you are blessed with extra poundage and beautiful extras all around, your veins - I don't know - go South for the winter. They take refuge beneath the folds. Including the ones on your arms. They just...disappear. And when they are spotted via a very tight and uncomfortable tourniquet, and then subsequently poked, they retreat hastily and dry up - so that no blood can exit through the infiltrating enemy. Thus started the next two years of difficulty with any type of blood draw. It was like overnight, I had been labeled and it never failed to happen. Every time I went for blood work, the same thing occurred - I was a miserably difficult "stick".

One time (recently) at the doctors office, I had sweat through four pokes total between the two arms, and as they headed for the fifth - the nurse was visibly upset. Her confidence was clearly slipping at my body's inability to give up the juice. She had to step out for a minute and bring in recruits to help. I was crying and apologizing for crying. The sad truth? She was rumored to be the best at phlebotomy in the medical office. Are you with me now?

So, this did nothing to lessen the fear that I had yesterday when I walked into the lab. I had to have blood work done in advance for yet another physical, for yet another adoption letter stating I was in good health and free of any communicable diseases. I made up my mind that this time would be different. I made up my mind that I was not going to be afraid anymore. It doesn't even hurt, for crying out loud. It's the mind's the fear of the mental picture we set up. It's the anxiety of the fear of the pain that we might have. So I prayed that God would just release me of this nagging fear I've had for far too long. This "trauma" of getting blood drawn. I just had to let it go and get on with it. There are far worse things in life, I reasoned. And who am I to cry over a needle, when sick children are suffering much worse procedures and bearing up under it with a smile on their face? What kind of freak am I to fear something that doesn't even hurt, really?

Well, I prayed all the way there. Lord! Help me get over it! Help me calm down! Help me release this incessant fear and give me peace!

I walked in, did the paperwork, smiled at the lady behind the desk, and took a seat. Only a moment later, I heard it. My name. I gulped, but remembered my prayer. I took a deep breath and stood up. I smiled and walked forward and in I went. As I rounded the corner, I could see the chair right away. The kind with the folding arm that comes across your chest. I sat down and made small talk while the tech quickly assembled my "stick kit". The fear was not there. Just a few nerves, which I made haste in ignoring. She grabbed a butterfly needle (smaller, but takes a little longer to draw). One last attempt: "Lord, she knows what she's doing, but now it will take me be calm". Calm came. I smiled. She warned me and there it was - the pinch that hurts far less than slamming my toe into the table, much less than ramming my head into the trunk of the car as I remove groceries, far less than slipping and falling in my kitchen on the two drops of water that I spilled. And just like that...I looked over at her and then at the two viles already filled up and laying on the table beside me. Poof. Done. Bandage on. I'm leaving and she's saying "I wish everyone was this calm!" Did she just say that to me? Am I imagining that I just got a compliment for being so calm whilst having a needle in my arm? Am I dreaming that it took one stick, and no pushing on my arm and coaxing the blood out? Did she really just break the curse of my "tough stick" badge? Let's face it, I'm probably still a "tough stick", but she - glorious needle goddess that she is - managed to do what no one has been able to do in two years. Get me in and out the door with no sweating and no tears, and only one small needle mark to show for it.

Lessons Learned:
Shots don't kill people, people kill people.
I don't like shots, but shots like me.
Shots don't always hurt.
Mind over matter. Thanks Mom, sorry I learned it 30 years too late.
Prayers are answered. Even ones we think are silly.
I'm the world's oldest living cry baby.

Lessons Not Learned:
How to get through the doctors visit tomorrow (said necessary physical) where I will be receiving three of my 216,543,213 shots for travel. Gulp.

It's just a pinch, it's just a pinch, it's just a pinch,
It's just a pinch, it's just a pinch, it's just a pinch,
It's just a pinch, it's just a pinch, it's just a pinch,
It's just a pinch, it's just a pinch, it's just a pinch,
It's just a pinch, it's just a pinch, it's just a pinch,
It's just a pinch, it's just a pinch, it's just a pinch,
It's just a pinch, it's just a pinch, it's just a pinch,

Double Gulp.


Unknown said...

Bless your heart. I met a wonderful family who have been home from Ethiopia for a few months and thought you might like to see their site..

YOur blog has really encouraged me

Anonymous said...

I have an option for your flu vaccination (notice I did not use the word shot). Flumist is a nasal vaccination against influenza. Here in San Antonio, I give immunizations at HEB during flu shot season. I am not sure if the pharmacies in your neck of TX have shot clinics or not.

Kate Johnston

Erin said...

I know exactly what you are talking about. This is how it is for me and flying. I will definitely use your technique though and see how it works for me. At least yours is over in a few seconds - I usually have hours in the air to stress about it. Ugh!

You will be fine tomorrow, I promise. It's nothing, really. And this is coming from someone that hates needles, too. And just think - Baby B is SO worth it.

Love you!

Anonymous said...

I'm a needle phobe too honey, and I freak out just as much!! When I had my blood drawn for a life insurance policy they came out to take my blood and prior to that I had told them I was a big baby.

Well they sent their best guy who used to do babies at the hospital. He said he was going to use a baby needle, most likely the butterfly needle. He sprayed some freeze stuff on, and then poked it in, it hurt worse because of the freeze stuff that is supposed to make it all better. No chance, it hurt, I could feel the needle in my arm, but it was over quick and like a pap smear, much easier than the mind lets you think it will be.

From one phobe to another, it's the mind that is the freak not you, um, well maybe it is you, but, OK enough, you know what I mean!! Chin up, arm out, head high, you will do great, tell your mind to take a hike, well maybe not you do need it after all ;-)
Love you
deany (!)

Robyn said...

Don't leave us in suspense, what happened with the immunizations today???

Glad you were able to remain calm for the blood draw. Maybe next time I can loan you my teddy bear.:)

Love ya!!

Headmeister said...

I'm right there with you - I'm a total needle-phobe, with the tears and all. I got my phobia during an eye surgery when I was 5 and three nurses held me down to prep me for surgery and lied to me, saying the 4 inch long needle going into my thigh wasn't going to hurt at all...

Well, now they can't get any veins in me, either. So what have I learned to do? I give them the back of my hand!!! No no, silly - to get the blood from! lol... I would much rather they just stick my hand and get it on the first try then search for an half hour and then find one in my arm, after several pokes. The anxiety of them not finding one right away is what does me in and brings me to the edge of throwing up. So now I just give them the back of my hand, show them the vein, and it's done in less than 60 seconds :) However I don't know how well I'll do with shots for the immunizations... that's a totally different

Dena said...

Love the title!
I hate shots too. What works for me is to tell myself that if I don't look, it will be fine.
This was my least favorite part of the adoption process.