Wednesday 24 May 2023

Making new blood stories

Necking on the arm

“You are the vampire on duty today?” She laughed and called me cheeky, this being after I had seen my consultant for my biannual consultation which passed quite without event. Though I did fill in a survey for the registrar that saw me, who I did meet on my last visit, nothing memorable stands out from our conversation and it probably was the shortest engagement I have had in years.

Given the opportunity to ask questions, I had no inclination at all, beyond the cheerful greetings and recognition at the reception, the weighing-in, height measurement, and blood pressure readings were a rather perfunctory exercise.

Our man the hands like shovels was nowhere to be seen as I drank as much water as I could ingest through the night into the morning to ensure when the needle was coming for the vein, there was something to give. After giving up a urine sample, I sat and waited to be called into the treatment room where the nurse was taking blood for testing.

Cheeky and Swiss cheese arms

Presenting my left arm, she felt for a vein and then punctured my skin, I watched every action without being squeamish, but nothing came, it was dry and unyielding, and it was not Nicholas doing it. Then as she suggested trying my right arm, I could see a vein presenting quite boldly as I completed her statement about if she could not draw blood, “You’ll sink your fangs into me?”, I retorted.

The punishment for my precociousness was subtle, as she put a folded gauze staunch on the first needle puncture and applied enough tape that it almost rounded my arm catching the hairiest parts of my arm in the process. I knew the peeling off would be gritted teeth and some agony if I could be man enough to do it today or allow it to wear off over days.

The right arm initially did not come to play, but soon enough it gave in before desperate measures were needed. I am always surprised at the darkness of the colour of blood as it feeds and fills the vials. In no time, 7 vials were filled with blood.

Could we be better armed?

Yet, between the Netherlands and the UK, I am still surprised at the difference in the art of phlebotomy. Dutch hospitals insert a needle attached to a tube that feeds the vials, whereas here, there is no flexibility between the needle and the vial, which means the patient can easily be irritated and bruised by holding the needle in place and the action of attaching each vial. I should not have to write a novella about my many experiences of having blood extracted.

How I wish the Theranos experiment of Elizabeth Holmes had worked where their dream was to be able to conduct all blood assays from a single drop. Then I could not get a drop from my finger when I tried a home test kit some months ago. I believe Theranos was a good idea long before the means and technology were available. Maybe in a century, blood tests would be as easy as having a light spectrum impacting on the skin like we have with smartwatch pulse oximetry that records peripheral oxygen saturation (SpO2)

I received my prescription all sealed up only to realise when I got home that a second essential one has not been dispensed. The pharmacy was quite helpful in facilitating it and I shall pick it up tomorrow. The other parts of the day included an induction to volunteer as a welcomer to the cathedral. I have a bit of bedtime reading on church history to do.

Now, I think about it, how that I am always inspired to write something interesting about having blood taken for tests.

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