Sunday, January 21, 2024

needles and pins

I just returned from a three-day, unplanned visit to the hospital. I spent the first twelve hours in the emergency ward, where I was poked and stuck and prodded by a variety of apologetic medical staff wielding a variety of sharp objects. After a quick assessment by a very astute doctor, it was determined that a regimen of antibiotics would clear up the nasty pinna perichondritis (Google that. Go ahead.) from which I was suffering. 

The antibiotics would be administered intravenously and a young nurse (Who am I kidding? Everyone on staff was young!) came by to insert an IV line into the crook of my left arm. Now, admittedly, I don't like getting needles. I have been vaccinated. I have had blood taken from me. I've been hooked up to IVs. Each time I experienced one of these, I have to close my eyes and turn my head away from the arm in which the needle will be inserted. Usually the nurse or technician will offer a cute verbal warning — "Little pinch..." — before sliding that slender metal spike beneath the top layer of my skin. In reality, I don't ever feel anything. Sometimes, I don't even feel that "little pinch" that was promised. I just don't care to watch the actual process. I can't watch it happening to someone else and I can't watch it happening to me. Kind of like the teacup ride in Disneyland.

Once the IV port was inserted in my left arm, each bag of healing antibiotics would be painlessly connected to the long tube that was now securely taped to the inside of my elbow. However, after two bags were emptied into my bloodstream, the vein that had received the IV was determined to be "sluggish" — which, I have come to understand, is a medical term. Another "little pinch" warning was issued and a new IV was inserted on my forearm just a few inches closer to my wrist from the original entry point. A third IV was connected and we were back in the "getting better" business. A lot of activity at 4 o'clock in the morning.

At around 6:30 AM, just after I quickly finished my hospital breakfast of Rice Krispies and horrible coffee, I was moved to a regular room in a new wing of the hospital, where it was quiet, secluded and devoid of any of the loud, wet coughs and woeful moaning that were rampant in the ER.

In my new accommodations, the antibiotic procedure continued. Every so often, a new nurse would come into my room and regretfully inform me that I needed to provide serval vials of blood. Since my left arm was otherwise occupied, my right arm would be the source of the required sanguine extraction. Once again, the "little pinch" heads-up was announced, immediately followed by a faint twinge in my arm. Because my eyes were tightly shut and my head was turned away from the action at hand, I could only hear a length of medical tape being ripped from a roll to hold a wad of cotton in place over the withdrawal point. I was asked to provide blood several times during my stay, each new procedure similar to the last.

On the morning of what would be my last day in the hospital, a new nurse came in to my room to tell me that hospital policy requires all patients who are in bed for extended periods of time (like me) receive a blood thinner to combat clotting. This medication — surprise! surprise! — would be administered via a needle. And this particular needle would be delivered to my abdomen. Getting a shot in the abdomen for someone who does not possess a rock-hard, six-pack of rectus abdominis muscles is no treat. Unlike a shot in the arm, it is very difficult to brace and tighten the abdomen of someone who stretches out on a sofa rather than a rowing machine. So, while the nurse readied the sharpened syringe, I tried my best to tense up my gut. It didn't work and unlike my non-reaction to previous shots, I let out out little "JEEZ!" Well, maybe not little and maybe it was fully pronounced "JESUS CHRIST!" The nurse empathetically winced herself and said, "Oh, I'm so sorry." 

I explained that I never had an involuntary reaction to an injection before, but that one caught me off guard. I went on to say that, while I don't like needles, I can tolerate them. She laughed and said that she has had patients — brawny men whose arms and torsos are covered with intricate tattoos — wince and scream from injections. She couldn't understand how a quick tiny needle could freak out someone who obviously had to sit for a considerable length of time while needles were repeatedly inserted and extracted — over and over and over — into their skin. Getting tattooed — especially some of the more elaborate designs — requires hours and hours of needle pricks. A blood sample or vaccine takes less that two minutes.

I looked at the nurse and answered: "It's simple. Tattoos are cool. Getting blood work done.... not so much."

She laughed.

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