I have a long history of fainting at the sight of blood, which I ignore at my peril. Once when I was in high school, the principal asked me and a couple of friends if we would be willing to spend part of the afternoon helping out at the local blood drive by typing up the registrations of potential donors. I was so taken by the thought of skipping a few classes (legitimately!) that I agreed. At first everything was fine, since they had us sitting by the door with our backs to where people were lying on cots, having blood drained out of them, and I could just ignore the whole thing and concentrate on getting the cards filled out properly. But then an attendant walked by carrying a tray stacked with clear bags full of blood. I took one look and immediately passed out face down on my typewriter.
My fear of blood, and if I’m honest, anything remotely resembling a medical procedure means that I’ve never been what you would call a model patient. No medical professional has ever looked into his or her waiting room and said, “Oh good, Ann Coleman is here!” Instead, it’s “Oh crap, Ann Coleman is here! Maybe if we ignore her long enough, she’ll go away.”
So when I first found out that the bulging veins in my lower leg were a somewhat serious problem that had to be treated by shooting a laser up a vein in my upper thigh to sear it shut, I was, to put it mildly, not a happy camper. I’m pretty sure I turned pale, because the nurse had me sit down and brought me a glass of water. But I knew things were only going to get worse if I didn’t go ahead with the procedure, so I put on my big-girl panties and scheduled the appointment. When the day finally came, I was nervous and tired (I didn’t sleep well the night before, obviously), but also looking forward to just getting it over with.
And amazingly, I did pretty well. Even when it took them four tries to get the catheter (I think that’s what they called it) into my vein in order to pump in the numbing solution. The doctor told me that my veins kept “spazzing out” when they got close, which doesn’t surprise me. Clearly, my veins don’t like anyone messing with them any more than I do. Then came the laser, which they told me was 300-degrees hot. Do you know that expression, “I was so mad, my blood was boiling?” Apparently, mine actually was, at least for a little while.
Now I know that there are tons of people in the world who have had major surgeries, major medical procedures, and numerous treatments that were both horribly invasive and severely painful, and what I went through last Friday is nothing compared to those. Believe me, I know that. But I also know what a total wimp I have always been about medical procedures and anything involving blood, so you’ll have to forgive me if I’m feeling just a little bit proud of myself for having my vein fixed without the need for general anesthesia or copious amounts of alcohol and sedatives.
For me, this was a bit of a turning point. It was proof that I can be strong enough to face down my fears when I need to do so. It showed me that I am still growing and evolving, and that I’m not the same person who once fainted just from looking at a bag of blood. It proved that I don’t have to be defined by all my old fears and all my old doubts, and that’s rather liberating. I know I haven’t conquered all my fears, but believe me, this was a very good start.