I blacked out this morning. Luckily I was in hospital at the time.
I’d popped along for my fortnightly blood test but this time the phlebotomist couldn’t get the vein in my arm to show itself properly; it was just a faint bluish trace under the soft skin of the crook of my elbow. After about five minutes tapping me and strapping my right arm she gave up and tried the left, with no better luck. So she went ahead anyway.
I felt a sharp pain shoot right the way down to my fingers. ‘Something not quite right here’, I thought, as I struggled not to cry out. The phlebotomist saw me wincing. ‘Should I stop?‘, she asked. ‘No, no, carry on‘, I said and then yelped as she wiggled the needle and the same pain shot down my arm again. ‘I think I’ll stop‘, she said, and in a slight panic knocked a box of the tubes that would have held my blood for the various different tests all over the floor and almost knelt on my groin as she stretched for some cotton swabs.
I felt sweaty and sick and my vision started to go. The other medic in the room glanced at me. ‘Leave him alone for a moment, he looks very pale‘, she said. Then I passed out.
I came round with five or six nurses hovering about. Once I could sit up they helped me to an examining couch, where I lay down and chatted to the nurse who’d been detailed to make sure I’d suffered from nothing more serious than a faint. After a while I felt better and another very solicitous phlebotomist came into the room to try taking the blood sample again. This time all I felt was a small sharp sting and the job was over in seconds.
‘I can’t understand it‘, I said, ‘I’ve had blood tests before, I’ve donated blood, this has never happened‘. I got to my feet. The senior nurse said, ‘Oh, don’t worry, it happens all the time. Besides, some people are more careful when they take samples‘.
So I think what probably happened is that the needle went straight through my vein and probably hit a nerve – that might account for the sharp pain down my arm.
Back again in a fortnight.