My dread originated when I underwent a glucose tolerance test in my teens. The afternoon-long test took place at our local hospital in a shabby trailer that was half bookmobile and half Big-O Tire Center. I clearly remember downing a nauseatingly sweet, gritty orange drink and having my blood taken at intervals by a variety of phlebotomists in-training. After the third draw, despite numerous frantic pokings, the specialist couldn’t find a vein (or something like that) and she called a nurse for advice.
The nurse recommended drawing from my ankles. The whole procedure seemed endless. Every half hour the jabbing resumed as over-concerned students and the Butcher of Dresden alternately tried to “find a vein.” By end of afternoon I was sore and nauseated. The sight of a needle sent cold prickles up my spine and an oily lurching in my bowels.
As if my transformation into a giant needle-fearing pussy was not complete, a veinogram at nineteen was the coup de gras. Returning late from a date with my Biology Lab instructor (shame on us) and Robert Mondovi (shame on me), I realized that I had locked myself out. I hopped the back fence and crawled in through the dog door to avoid waking my folks. The next day, the pain I experienced was more than a wine induced headache; my left foot and leg ached.
Three agonizing days later, x-rays revealed–nothing. Four days later, our concerned and cautious family doctor sent me to the hospital to have my leg injected with iodine isotopes to check for a deadly blood clot. In a battered room at the local hospital, I made the mistake of watching the nurse prepare my iodine IV. The needle seemed super-size, as if radioactive iodine was granulated like paving sand. I looked away as he inserted the IV and pumpded in what felt like ten million microscopic ants. Within seconds, the ants transformed into ipecac syrup and assaulted my stomach, producing the most intense nausea I have ever experienced.
I told the handsome linebacker-esque nurse that I might be ill. Brusquely, he instructed me to be still or the procedure might need to be repeated. With that, I fainted, transforming myself into a full-fledged trypanophobe . I vaguely recall regaining consciousness, feeling relief to the point of giddiness, and noting that the nurse seemed mildly disgusted with me. Fortunately, no clot was found and a second x-ray reading revealed an elusive stress fracture of my left foot. D’oh.
Since then, I am grateful for my fundamentally good health, as it has reduced my exposure to needles. When I must have my blood taken, I warn the phlebotomist of my squeamishness. Generally, the medical staff is kind to me and engages in my banter, helping me to recover some self respect.