By: Meagan Esler
My previous boss once said to me as I freaked out about having to get some blood work drawn, “They should do a study on you.”
We laughed at the irony of my behavior since I should be one of the last people on earth who winces over a needle. I take five to seven insulin injections and prick my finger up to eight times every day without flinching. So why do I have a weird little panic attack every time the doc orders up some blood?
As a person with 18-plus years of type 1 diabetes experience, I have been known to drag my feet to the lab to get my blood work done. I think it’s partly because my first blood draw as a teenager didn’t go so well. I was with my boyfriend at the time and after the blood was drawn I naively lifted the gauze to see my arm. I was surprised to see how much I was still bleeding and that made both me and my boyfriend queasy.
He stood like a deer in headlights, unmoving, as the phlebotomist barked orders for him to get some juice for the two of us. I’m sure she thought we were both about to faint. She ended up running for the juice herself.
After that, I went a long time without doing the blood work the doctor asked for. It was not healthy for me and I knew I had better work on things or trouble wouldn’t be far off.
One thing that helps me now is that I try to look at the positive. The blood work will give me an idea of how I’m doing with my diabetes. Even if my control hasn’t been all that great, I’ll have the knowledge, and that is priceless.
Another thing that helps is that I have a favorite phlebotomist. I walked into the lab recently and another woman called me in for my turn. I really wanted to wait for Shehnaz, the woman who always chats with me and gets my mind off things so beautifully. She is flawless in her retrieval technique, never missing, never poking me more than once, and never giving me giant bruises.
I explained to the woman that called me for my turn that, no offense, but I’d like to wait for Shehnaz if it was okay. She sort of rolled her eyes and replied, “Sit down,” in an irritated tone to which I responded firmly, “No, I’ll wait.”
Lastly, I treat myself after having blood taken. I don’t go crazy or all-out, but I do take myself out for breakfast after each one. I generally have been fasting and need something to eat and a breakfast out for me is an extremely rare event. For me it’s a nice way to say, “Way to go, you’re doing what needs to be done to have a longer life.” It doesn’t get me to look forward to blood work, but it helps.
I’m proud of myself for being braver and for following my doctor’s orders. Lately I’ve been going for blood draws quickly as they are ordered and I’m happy to report that I’m handling it better, one draw at a time.