Hit Me With Your Best Shot! Surviving the Blood Draw
As part of managing our diabetes, we all have to have our blood drawn regularly. For some of you, it’s probably not a big deal. For me? It’s a big deal! I have always been a “tough stick.” Even when I was little and in the hospital a couple of times, I remember the nurses having to stick me multiple times to get blood. I came out of the hospital with so many stick marks across my arm–I looked like an intravenous drug user! It hasn’t gotten any better as an adult. My veins are deep in my arms and like to move or roll when the lab technician is trying to access them. I really have just one spot on one of my arms that can usually be accessed successfully. If that spot doesn’t work, the lab technician has to try to draw blood from the top of my hand. That can hurt, although not as much as when a lab technician decided to try to get a partial vial of blood from the tip of my finger! One of my previous doctors had worked his way through medical school as a phlebotomist and the lab actually called him in to try to draw blood from me one time. We had to pack my arm in hot towels and then pump it up really hard–finally we got the blood we needed. There were times, though, that I had to leave and come back to try again another day. Rarely did I leave the lab with only one spot having been stuck. I finally did learn a few tricks to help things along. I employ them if at all possible and have had pretty good luck. Maybe they will help you, too.
- I don’t let the nurses at the doctor’s office draw blood. Thankfully, I can go to the lab in the same building for any type of blood draw–whether planned or impromptu. The staff there knows me now and listens to me when I advise them of what works on me and what doesn’t. I make nurses nervous when I warn them that I am a tough stick, they generally decide to send me to the lab anyway.
- If at all possible, I hydrate myself really well before getting blood drawn. That always makes a big difference. On days that I am doing fasting blood work, it can be a challenge to force down a large amount of water early in the morning on an empty stomach, but I do it because I know I will have a better experience at the lab if I am hydrated.
- If I can, I sit in the lab waiting area for a few minutes before my appointment and hang my arm down. This helps the blood pool a little more in the arm and seems to help the vein be more accessible.
- If I happen to get a lab technician that does not know me, I am pretty firm with them about what they can try and what they can’t. I give them the spot on my good arm and if they can’t get it the blood they need there in one or two tries, they have to change to a butterfly needle and go to my hand. Most are appreciative of the direction, but those that aren’t don’t get to work on me again in the future. My body, my pain. I need to be in control.