It’s In The Blood

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.

70 thoughts on “It’s In The Blood

  1. I was always the same way. I once had to get through 4 months of exposure to needles, so I got to the point where I just ask the needle-bearers questions about themselves to force my mind off myself and like magic my body forgets to spaz out. Now, although I don’t like having to do it, I can endure both needles and dentists without passing out.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It is amazing what focusing our minds on something else can do! That’s why I like doctors and nurses who chatter during procedures, so I can focus on talking to them, rather than what they are doing. I’m glad you got over your needle fixation!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. While I never had any problems to look at blood (perhaps because I grew up in the country), I understand your extreme fear of blood and medical procedures. My wife is still the same and probably will never overcome her fear.I remember how I had to put a bloody roast into the oven for her during the first few months of marriage. After 50 years she has no trouble doing that herself, which just proves your point on your post. Thanks for your insights!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, after a while, we do overcome some of our fears and quirks, which is a very hopeful thing, I think! So often I hear people say, “I have always been afraid of this or that,” and I think that maybe they just haven’t given themselves a chance to try it again. We will never overcome all our fears, but it is good to know that we an overcome some of them! Thank you, Peter!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Such a good feeling – isn’t it?! I have always feared the dentist, and I have really got better at it. I’m proud of that – lol – and it probably is no big deal to most people! Hope your procedure was successful!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I can really sympathise but I found my turning point was when I had children and I had to put on a brave face and demonstrate huge confidence that all would be well to get them through doctor/dentist visits. I began to believe my own hype!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I agree, having children can make us much braver! Before I had mine, I never thought I’d be able to bandage someone else’s bleeding cut, but when it’s your own kid who needs attention, you do it! And you’re right about having to put on a brave face for kids, to the point where the “brave face” becomes the real face! Thanks for the astute comment!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Ann, this one really resonated with me. I have always had a medical phobia and must take my BP at home as the clinical setting is too much for me–luckily I have an understanding doctor. Several years ago, like you, I had to put on my big girl pants as I had severe and painful varicose veins in my left leg. I underwent general anesthesia and was out for an hour and twenty minutes while a vascular surgeon stripped the veins in my calf, then “killed” the ones in my inner thigh. 17 incisions. For two days after that my leg was mummy-wrapped and when I finally saw it, I blanched at the sites and the bruising, which of course disappeared over time. I have never been more proud of myself, and it still makes me smile to think of it and to look at my now normal leg. Good for you!

    Liked by 3 people

    • My doctor described that procedure to me, which is the way they used to do it. I’m so glad that I didn’t have to have my vein stripped (although I think I treated it before it became too bad), but the procedure still made me very nervous! Now that it’s done, I’m proud, just like you! It’s amazing what we can do when we really have to. And I bet your leg feels and looks so much better!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. It’s also slightly easier, I’ve found, if it’s something gruesome happening to you, as opposed to having to witness it happening to someone else. Adrenaline and the animal instinct for self- preservation stop you from freaking out, at least in the short term. : )

    Liked by 3 people

    • That’s a good point. When it happens to someone else, it’s so tempting to look away and not have to deal with it. But when it happens to us, we have no choice, and the adrenaline does kick in. That’s for bringing that up, I hadn’t realized that before!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Ann loved this post. Made me chuckle. Then feel admiration.

    I remember, during my surgical residency, the standard treatment for varicose veins was phlebectomy (stripping the little veins with lots of tiny incisions). As residents, it was a fun procedure because it was a bit like fishing. We had to “hook” the little vein through a tiny incision, then pull it out enough to tie it off. Fun for us, but not so much for patients that watched as we performed the procedure.

    So glad that you not only endured the procedure, but conquered it!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Did you see Jean’s comment above, that she had it done the way you described? I have to admit that I’m glad the treatment is a little bit less invasive now. But it might be more boring for the doctors and nurses, as evidenced by the fact that at one point during the process, they were singing “The Day the Music Died,” seeing who could get get the furthest before forgetting the lyrics! I actually liked it, because it took my mind off the whole thing… And I have to say that I admire anyone who can actually perform this procedure, either the way you used to do it or the way it is done now!

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Good for you! Was it a varicose vein? I’ve heard conflicting reports on what one should do with these? Leave them alone or treat them. But maybe that’s not what this was…? Hey, we had folks on the ambulance that couldn’t deal with blood. Or they could deal with other people’s blood but not their own. Or they could deal with certain injuries, like eye injuries, or they couldn’t look at people’s feet. So you are NOT alone! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • It was a varicose vein starting on my lower leg, which they said was caused by the main vein above it no longer functioning properly. So that’s the one they sealed off. But I know what you mean because my friend has a bulging vein, and her doctor said don’t worry about it. Yet another friend told me this morning her legs are killing her because of bulging veins, so I guess maybe it’s different for different people?
      And thanks for letting me know I’m not the only one who has odd fears about these things!! Seriously, it helps!

      Liked by 3 people

  9. Good for you, Ann. That is quite the awesome story. Courage is hard to muster in the face of genuine fear. But, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right? I like to think so. How does one conquer a fear of heights? Let me know….

    Liked by 3 people

    • I am! The recovery is much better than I thought. And thanks for validating that sometimes there is a reason to be nervous and even afraid. I mean really, who wants their blood to actually be boiling? That’s just gross…..

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Way to go Ann! I am an RN and never been skiddish about anything medical… until I had a Superficial Thrombosis ( clot- but not deep vein) and was referred to a vein specialist as I have bad vericose veins. As he described the procedure for my ” leg pain” as you described above- my only comment was “but my legs aren’t hurting now that I am walking 2-3 miles a day. And they weren’t but another reason- I was very skiddish😂
    Way to go brave woman!!!
    ( and I find as I’ve gotten older the dentist drill really bothers me so I use headphones, guess I am going the other way than most😳 But I do like being different 😁)

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you! You know, that’s what bothered me the most about hearing that I had to have this done….the fact that I am actually rather healthy! I exercise a lot, and am not particularly overweight. So why do I have bad veins??? But I did, and now they are being fixed, and I’m sorta am proud that I went through with it without screaming or cussing out the doctors and nurses. As for dentists, they need to figure out a way to make a noiseless drill. That would go a long way towards calming a lot of us down. Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I just saw the movie “Wit”. Emma Thompson plays the main character. She has cancer. The movie takes place during her hospital stay. I thought it was going to be depressing. It wasn’t. It was very moving. While I was watching, I had a revelation. I was thinking how much money we spend to have medical professionals do such dastardly and humiliating things. Any other time they would have to pay us. But no, we have to pay them. Beaucoup bucks. And since doctors, and lawyers of course, only practice, makes me wonder when they are actually going to perform. After all, I would not pay a musician to watch them practice.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. It sounds like you did admirably well, Ann, and your aversion to such procedures is entirely understandable. I recently went into hospital to have a surgical injection — that’s an eight inch-long, 2mm thick needle — into my hip and groin region. I’d been warned it was going to be very ‘uncomfortable’. Anyway, duly psyched-up and now in the pre-operative waiting area, the surgeon approached me and said he didn’t think it worth doing after all. I was out of there in a finger snap I can tell you! As for blood, then that’s not an issue for me, and only two days ago I had to rescue an elderly neighbour who’d fallen in her house and gashed her face. She’d been crawling around (she’s 89) on the floor trying to reach a phone and haul her self up, and there was blood everywhere. Anyway, I cleaned it all up, and her too of course, and she’s okay. But had I been fearful of the sight of blood I’d have been useless to her. Can you get at what it is that makes you averse to the sight of blood?

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m so glad that doctor let you off the hook! I’m thinking “uncomfortable” is not at all an accurate word to describe what that would have felt like!
      You know, I have no idea why I don’t like blood (it makes me feel dizzy and faint), and I don’t remember a time when I didn’t feel that way. There’s probably a reason, but it must be from early enough in my childhood that I don’t have a memory of it. Having children did help, because when one of them was bleeding and my husband wasn’t there to help, I just gritted my teeth and did it. I don’t know how I would have reacted if I’d walked into a scene like the one you describe, but I hope I would have been able to suck it up and help the poor woman. It’s possible I may have only been able to get her up and cleaned up, and then had to ask someone else to deal with the bloody room, though… I’ve found that once the actual emergency is over, I sometimes backslide a little. Poor woman; thank goodness you came along when you did!!!

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Ouch! Doesn’t sound like much fun at all Ann but well done for facing your fears and getting through it. Hope your leg’s feeling better. Sounds like a good excuse for putting your feet up to me. xo 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Miriam! That’s the only weird part… my natural inclination is to sit at home with my feet propped up, but the doctor said he wants me moving as much as possible. I guess the only real complication they are worried about is blood clots, and the best way to fend them off is to keep active. So I am walking like mad, even though my every instinct is saying, “sit down and put your feet up!”

      Liked by 2 people

      • I can totally understand that Ann. Blood clots are no joking matter so you’d better do as the doc days and keep moving. I’ve done enough resting today for both of us, time to get my a—e into gear! Happy walking. xo

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Sounds like you did great! I’m not always good with medical procedures either. I recently had a tooth pulled and was not at all looking forward to it. I knew it wasn’t going to hurt, but I kept imagining the oral surgeon putting big clamp on my tooth and yanking it out. It wasn’t too bad after all. So you are right, we are still growing and evolving!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. First of all I’m glad everything went well and I’m sorry you had to go through the procedure.
    After saying that I have to admit I laughed through much of it mainly because I can relate.
    I hate doctors and all things relating to medical procedures. I’m the poster boy for white coat syndrome. Taking my blood pressure at a doctors office is useless so I take it on my own and tell him what what it is before I get there.
    I remember going to the doctor as a kid and not being very friendly..:)
    It’s a fear I’ve never conquered and you’d think at my age I wouldn’t be a baby about it any more but it is what it is..:)
    I’m just glad you’re okay.😊

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, George! And believe me, I completely understand your fear. My friends still make fun of me, because not only did I faint that time helping at the blood bank, but I also got very dizzy and almost fainted once just visiting my friend when she was in the hospital! Jeanie was the one who had surgery, but she was also the one asking me if I was alright… I’ve gotten better about it just because I had to, not because I wanted to or realized that my fears were unfounded. Thanks for making me feel less alone in this!

      Liked by 2 people

  16. I just came across your blog and am making my way through your posts. Loving them all!
    But this post, just had to have me comment. I have a massive fear of having blood drawn. I pass out every time. Every single time! I may take inspiration from you, and tell my story on my blog sometime too!

    Like

    • I’ve passed out a few times, so I understand your fears! I have gotten better over the years, and I admit that if I had tried to do something like this when I was younger, I would have been in serious trouble. Hopefully, you will get better about it too. And thanks for the comments and your kind words! I look forward to reading your posts!

      Like

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