So at the prospect of again being yelled at by my GP, I wasn’t feeling that great to begin with when I rolled up my left sleeve and waited for the phlebotomist to go into her vampire routine. Despite my overall repugnance of medical procedures, I have–or I should say I did have–an abiding trust in those health professionals with whom I regularly have contact. I’ve had my share of ultrasounds, mammograms and bone scans, and I have great respect for the technicians and radiologists who all seem to demonstrate the necessary knowledge and expertise required to twist a person’s body into just the right variety of contorted positions so as to produce a negligible amount of interesting data. This data is then digested by a physician and presented to you in a semi-palatable form for maximum comprehension and assimilation. In this way, I have so far learned about my lucky escapes from osteoporosis, cancer and other medical miseries.
I wasn’t ready for a crisis of faith yet, but it snuck up on me anyway. While the youngish phlebotomist took a few stabs at a blood draw, I squeaked out little prayerful hints such as “use a pediatric needle” and “what if I pump my fist a few times?” Suggestions like these had helped in the past, but now they weren’t doing diddley squat. I noticed not a corpuscle was trickling into the tube and I knew I needed a few vials.
“You have small veins,” the vampire said in a flat, accusing tone.
“I know,” I replied. “I’ve been told before.”
“If I can’t find a vein today, you’ll have to come back another day when you’re more hydrated or else go to one of the satellite labs.”
That’s all I had to hear and every vein in my body automatically shut down. Going to a satellite lab anywhere in the Phoenix area was like hanging out in Dante’s hell. You sat, at first with a magazine or smartphone propped in front of you, and later with a menacing eye directed at the 1,000 people who signed in before you. Going to a satellite lab was a punishment only surpassed by having to sit in the ER on a busy holiday night with a 6-inch bloody gash dripping onto your knee and two heart attacks and a psych case winning kudos as “Triage Trauma of the Night.” Satellite labs reminded me of being at the DMV waiting and waiting and waiting a little longer for my dumb number to come up on the digital screen so I could scowl at the camera and be rewarded for my patience with another in a long series of lousy license head shots.
“I don’t want to go to Sonoco Labs,” I said in a whiny voice not unlike my normal one. “They make you sit for days.”
At this point the crafty phlebotomist was picking up on my urgent plea for pity. “Okay, you don’t have to go there. You can come back tomorrow, but only if you get hydrated.”
So now it wasn’t bad enough that my phlebotomist probably suffered from macular degeneration or a detached retina and shouldn’t be in a job requiring 20/20 vision. Oh no, now she had managed to divest herself of all responsibility for my blood flow, shifting it onto my not so strong shoulders. To succeed in getting a viable blood draw, she cautioned, I would have to drink myself under the table. And not with fruit juice, tea, soda (heaven forbid!) or coffee. No, that would be too easy. I would have to do it the hard way–with purified drinking water. Otherwise the hydration wouldn’t flow to the right vascular highway.
The only problem was I hated water, even if it was served in a five-star restaurant with crystal clear ice cubes and in a dishwasher spanking clean glass. Unlike most Phoenicians–who seemed to spend most days tethered to a bottle of water–I never touched the stuff. Cola, yes. Iced tea, of course. But water, no. I avoided it like the well-known plague.
But now, in an odd twist of medical hocus pocus, I would have to ingest tall glasses of a substance that usually tasted tainted to me. All this in order to squeeze out a few measly tubes of blood. It wasn’t fair. Furthermore it wasn’t supposed to happen. Clearly my phlebotomist had failed me. I would never look at her in the same way again.
Well, I’m happy to say the advice worked, eventually. But it took its sweet time. Although I watered myself generously, much like a cactus being victimized in a summer monsoon, the phlebotomist in whom I had put my absolute faith could not sweet talk even one red blood cell from my vein. However, I was prepared for this possibility. Before she could say “satellite lab,” I scrunched up my eyes and squeezed out a tear, at which point I heard a disembodied voice from the next room over say, “I can help.” And in walked the prescription manager, who unknown to me, had once served as a phlebotomist.
Where she was when I needed her the other day, I’ll never know, but within five minutes, my torment was over. My vein stopped turning over, behaved properly and gave up its treasures. I was good to go, leaving behind two healthy vials of blood as a farewell gift to human perfection.