Monday, July 08, 2013

What I Didn't Do

We got to the Vampires R Us, otherwise known as the lab, and lined up with other people waiting to be drained of blood and urine. We were third in line, though as it got closer to 8 the line up grew extensively. The hallway is narrow and my wheelchair is not so when an elderly woman came along with her son, they scootched by me and headed to a small bench at the far end of the hallway.

When the door opened, there wasn't a mad rush to get in first, people honoured their place in line and those there first got in first. How nice. I was third in line, the elderly woman with her son were sixth in line. I went in, got my number and went over to park my chair off to the side. When mother and son came in, she was clearly confused and a little upset about being there. Her whole conversation with her son was about death and illness and her will.

On a side note, when she said to her son that she was angry at her daughter and wanted to take her out of the will and leave everything to him, he said, "Mom, you are only angry with her right now. You and she have loved each other for her whole life. People get angry with each other and then get over it. You wouldn't want to make a decision now that could hurt her (he said her name) for the rest of her life. Give it time." So, he's a decent guy.

Anyways they were sitting near me and my whole body, my whole mind, my whole SOUL was telling me to switch my 3 for their 6 and let them get in and out quickly. I wrestled with myself right up until the number 3 was called and I went in to get my blood drawn. I could still hear her talking with her son, anxious about the test, anxious about her will, anxious about her life. I could hear his calm voice wrap around hers hugging it with understanding.

Why didn't I give my number to them?

I didn't need to be 3rd, 6th would have been fine. I wasn't rushing anywhere. Ultimately I decided that in that moment, I lacked the courage to be nice. It takes assertion to be able to enter into a conversation with another, to offer something to them. It takes a strong sense of self to risk embarrassment and refusal. It takes something that I have some times and that I don't at others. I didn't then.

Now all I have to do is remember what it feels like to NOT do something you are willed to do by the inner recesses of self and soul. That might be motivation enough.

And I'll have another chance because they just couldn't get a vein and after 12 pokes, two in the hand that hurt like, well NEEDLES IN THE HAND (sometimes a simile is NOT necessary), I said, "I'm done."

Opportunities to be nice are as much opportunities for us to assert what we believe, that we are part of a community, that we watch out for others, that kindness matters. I lost that one. I really hope that opportunity knocks again.


Anonymous said...

When I don't listen to that inner voice, and miss the opportunity unknown to all but me, I often wonder what the outcome would have been had I listened. I wonder if the person you got to draw blood would have been different and successful. One of those "I'll never know" moments. But at least you are listening now...

clairesmum said...

the universe has a lot of circles and loops and recurring waves, so the opportunity will come around again. but about the blood draw - that many pokes is way too many - how about asking to talk to the supervisor in advance, about figuring out ways to increase the likelihood of success - you and the techs all feel lousy after that many sticks! ultrasound to help locate veins, maybe?

Unknown said...

Aww Dave, I know exactly how you feel. It's not a "natural" or comfortable feeling to me to put myself out and offer something to others, especially strangers. It's a lack of self confidence and I also kick myself when I don't do it :(.

Kristine said...

It's oddly reassuring to know that I'm not the only one who sometimes lacks the courage to be kind. Afterwards, I'm always left wondering, what's wrong with me? It wouldn't have been so hard to say something... why didn't I? Some of those moments haunt me forever as opportunities lost. Fortunately, those memories help motivate me the next time. Overall, I think I've gotten much better about acting in the moment, checking to see if my assistance or support is welcomed. But it makes me feel a little better to know that someone as kind, thoughtful, and courageous as you also has these moments!

Anonymous said...

At our hospital there seems to be an informal system for getting hold of those best at drawing blood for those with tricky veins. You just have to say, my veins are a bit tricky, but so and so got it first go. It doesn’t seem to matter that the person you name isn’t on shift, just knowing the names of the monarchs of blood drawing seems to do the trick.
Would be fab if services had a special track for people with tricky veins.
And one for people who have additional issues with waiting in line.
That would be a kindness at an institutional level.

Anonymous said...

When I was in the hospital in January, they used a portable ultrasound to find the vein that was much deeper than the ones they usually can use, and went straight to it.

I'm not particularly needle-phobic, but it was at least the 9th time they'd poked me, and I was glad that it worked. You might try calling around to see if anyone has such a gadget.

Also, make sure you drink extra water starting the night before. If you are at all dehydrated it is harder.

I don't have any answers about letting someone else go first. From number 3 to number 6 isn't a big difference.

Jayne Wales said...

Sometimes it is just not the right time for anything other than being with yourself. I wish I could learn that and stop being a constant Nosey Parker.!

Mary said...

Coming in with a slightly different opinion - I used to have a real problem with needles, absolutely hated having to go for a blood draw, would have been sitting in the waiting room, not sobbing or screaming, but visibly agitated.

I would not have thanked you for offering to swap my 6 for your 3. I'd have said the words, of course, but they would not have been sincerely meant.

It would have been one more damn thing to deal with on top of the existing anxiety. Having to cope with the humiliation of a stranger in a public place taking notice of my distress, which I knew to be not entirely rational. Having to politely refuse and risk being thought ungrateful. Or worse, accepting and then spending the remainder of the wait feeling beholden to someone. Unless, of course, you'd waited right up to the point of being called, in which case overwhelming stress of having to deal with a stranger quickly, everybody's waiting for me to make a decision and being thrust into a blood draw that I thought I still had several minutes to steel myself for...

It could be the Brit in me talking, but the best bit of an impersonal queueing system (tickets, lines, whatever) is that it *saves* us from other people's assumptions about 'deserved priority' and kindly-meant-but-unhelpful interventions. I hold ticket 6 in my hand. That means I'll be seen after ticket 5 and before ticket 7, and that particular section of variables in the universe is fixed and doesn't need to be worried about.

Deb said...

Oh Dave, so many times I have been in that same position; wanting to step in, comfort a stranger, yet hesitant because I don't want to intrude on another's privacy.

As far as the pokes are concerned, I am in the same boat. In the ER they once did an arterial punch at my wrist after nine fruitless attempts in my arms, and they couldn't even get blood from the artery in my wrist! They finally got blood from the femoral artery.

You may already do these things but here's what has helped me. *Make sure you are hydrated*. If you are on a diuretic for BP or heart failure you may be chronically dehydrated.

Get some *pedialyte* electrolytes from the pharmacy (they are OTC) and begin drinking them 1/2 strength 24 hours before your test. Buy some of those gel heat packs that go into emergency kits, the ones that you bend and they heat up. While waiting for your test hold a couple of these little heat packs wrapped in a damp hanky. The heat increases blood flow to your hands. Ask that they use a butterfly needle. If all fails they can use your feet. I've had blood drawn from my feet on several occasions and it's not any more painful than my arms/hands.

Good luck,