Monday, March 16, 2009

Thank You, Mean Phlebotomist!

I've been a blood donor for over 10 years. I finally got around to donating here in Sacramento through BloodSource. Over the last decade I've had more good experiences than bad. Last time I went in to donate they asked if I could try giving platelets. I've never really thought about giving components, as it takes FOREVER and no one ever asked. But, hell, I'm game, so I told them to go ahead and run all the tests to see if I'm a good candidate. Part of the original screening process was checking my veins to make sure I had a good one. I warned them that some had had difficulty with my veins in the past. The nurse reviewing assured me my veins were just fine.

Sure enough, I got a letter in the mail stating that they'd love to have me as a platelet donor and a day later they called to schedule my first platelet donation. I told them I could only donate on weekends, and they gave me their last available Saturday appointment: 7:45 am. Not too bad, except the closest location is a 30 minute drive (it's the suburbs. EVERYTHING is a 30-minute drive).

Saturday morning, I got up at 6:30 showered, dressed and managed to get there only 5 minutes late. (What do you want? I'm pretty much always late for everything except work.) I patiently awaited my turn for the pre-donation interview and torture/finger prick to test for iron. I was certainly dragging ass at such an early hour on a Saturday (especially following a night of cocktails and crummy tv), and so was the nurse who interviewed me. But, it was going along swimmingly, until she went to pull my blood vial from the centrifuge. The vial holding my blood exploded over the course of its spin. So, weird, whatever, she pricked another finger and spun it. A second exploding vial. So, a third finger prick, with a new batch of vials and a new centrifuge. Finally got my iron count, and it only cost me three fingers.

I finally got to sit in the donation chair, where I had to sign all the waivers and hear all about how the blood was separated and pumped back into my body. Fine. The phlebotomist who was setting me up was professional if brusque. She poked and prodded my elbows for a few minutes without any luck before asking a superivsor to help. The supervisor moved my arm to a different position and sure enough, a vein popped right up to the top. "See, just position her arm like this and it's all good," explained the supervisor.
"Oh, I see. Well, I'm going to do this a different way," responded the phlebotomist. Which should have been my cue to run screaming from the chair. But, being the good little patient I just smiled and let her get on with it.

She moved my arm, and then pulled out the sterile pen to mark the vein. This should have been my second cue that all was not well. But, she was confident and went about scrubbing my arm and prepping her needles.

So, here comes the stick... and nothing happens. No blood. She missed the vein. So, she starts moving the needle around IN MY ARM trying to spear my elusive vein. Then she calls the supervisor over, and she takes a turn wiggling it around. No luck.
With the needle still hanging out of my arm, they both head over to my other arm looking for a vein. Nothing doing. So, they decide this ain't working. Which I'd figured out right around the third time she tried to "fix" the needle.

As a parting gesture, as though the day hadn't been yucky enough, the mean phlebotomist patronizingly patted my hand and sneered at me, "You know, if you're not all that successful giving even whole blood, you should probably stick to whole blood." As though she was doing me a favor.

So, before 9 am I'd been rousted from my bed before the sun was up, sacrificed three finger tips, been stabbed in the arm, then had the needle shoved all around my arm (resulting in a delightful bruise), before being judged then asked to leave.
And then we wonder why more people aren't donating platelets.


Faith said...

I wouldn't have been able to be polite in that case, Coley. Not at all. As soon as they removed the needle from my arm (because I ain't stupid. Just mean.), I would have torn into them and their ridiculousness. FUCKIN'. A.

This proves that you are a better person than me. In case you were wondering...

jen breese said...

This is a pretty crazy experience. Aren't nurses supposed to care about humans?

Coley said...

Yeah, I've got a bit of White Coat syndrome. When the health professional speaks, I can't disagree, or argue or tell them to FUCK OFF at all. It is a weakness.