I don’t know who first coined the expression “you can’t get blood out of a turnip,” but I suspect that that person had veins just like mine.
Veins the size of the filament in a lightbulb.
Veins the size of a single strand of hair.
Veins that make a cat’s whisker look like thick and robust in comparison.
In short, veins with as much blood in them as, well, your average turnip.
Last week I had my annual visit to the oncologist. If you read last year’s account, you know that my yearly bloodletting is not pleasant. However, to make sure that my little white blood cells and my little red blood cells are still playing nicely with one another, my blood must be drawn.
I walked into the room of needles and took my seat. The phlebotomist laughed when she saw me.
This is a woman who does nothing but draw blood out of current or post-cancer patients all day long. It’s gotta be at least 65 a week. At least 3,000 a year. And after looking at all that blood and searching for all those veins, mine are the ones she remembers.
“Oh, we had to poke you in the knuckles last year.”
“Yes,” I tell her. “I’m just now getting over that trauma.”
She wraps the giant rubber tourniquet around my arm and starts tap tap tapping on my inner elbow. Tap tap tap. She doesn’t look for long. She turns my arm over and starts look along the oh-so-tender, oh-so-white underside of my arm. She moves down to my hand.
Another phlebotomist comes in and starts checking out my other arm. A third woman joins us and now I have three technicians searching for veins.
Tap, tap, tap.
The doctor comes in, no doubt wondering why a good part of his staff is gathered around one patient.
They finally think they’ve found a winner.
You know, the pain that comes from having blood drawn isn’t in the actual insertion of the needle…it’s the poking around once the needle is under the skin. Finally she gets a little blood to flow. She orders me to relax and coaxes the red goodness from my body. Then she sighs and withdraws the needle. She had, what appeared to me, to be plenty of blood in the little tube, but she just tossed it in the toxic waste container.
And then, when I wasn’t looking, she grabbed my finger and jabbed a giant staple in it and started squeezing.
Yes, they actually had to SQUEEZE the blood out of my finger and scrape each precious drop into a tube.
Squeeze. Scrape. Squeeze. Scrape.
I heard that leeches are making a comeback. I might need some this time next year.