The appointment went well. The doctor was great as always: smart, personable, and though always busy, acting like he has plenty of time to talk to me and answer my questions. Yes, I like this guy a lot. His new fellow (it’s a teaching hospital) seemed really good, too. I left with a plan.
The next step went better than usual. Instead of waiting 6 months or more for my 3-month followup, I actually got an appointment in just 3 months! I was told they had hired new residents and that freed up some of my doctor’s time.
I happily went for blood work. They usually stop taking patients at 5:15 and it was 5:20, but they said they were happy to squeeze me in. Good thing I’m an easy draw!
Yes, everything was going smoothly. Until it wasn’t. Because apparently I can never just simply have a good, smooth, simple appointment.
I felt the needle moving around my arm. Then it moved more. It wasn’t slipping, it felt deliberate. I didn’t look – I never do – but I asked what was wrong. The phlebotomist told me the vein was moving away from the needle, and that that can happen with overuse.
Overuse. Sheesh! Well, it was probably true. I’ve gotten A LOT of blood drawn over the past 20+ years since the doctors first took my symptoms seriously. And it was almost always in my left arm, because I have so much more pain in my right. And it was usually in the same spot on the same vein, because that’s the one that pops right out, practically asking to be stuck. So yeah, I could imagine overuse was a possibility. This would suck. I’d have trouble doing it on my right. But what could I do?
She offered to try a different vein in my left arm but I said no, to just do my right. I didn’t like the way that needle had felt in my arm. It had made me a bit queasy. I just wanted this over. Then I felt funny.
Then she was running into the room with water. Wait, hadn’t she been standing next to me? Apparently I’d lost a minute somehow. She was calling out, “Bring me some juice ASAP!” I drank the water. She put a cool wet papertowel on the back of my neck. The room was swimming. My face was tingling. I felt foggy-headed. I drank more. I was having trouble sitting up straight. There was juice in front of me. I drank it. She said my color was coming back. I hate to think how bad I must have looked before that, because I doubted I was looking so hot at that moment. I drank more juice. There was a nurse in the room. A doctor came in. They all looked concerned. Oh boy.
The room was steady now, but I felt a bit shakey. I walked around a bit, because they wanted me to prove I could. Thankfully, this was one of the only times I hadn’t driven to the office; I had taken the bus so I could avoid rush hour traffic going home. I was worn down, but generally feeling better. But I was confused. I wasn’t foggy-headed, just confused. What the fuck just happened?!?
The staff kept reassuring me, saying that this was common. Maybe it’s common to them, but not to me! I was seconds away from fainting and I don’t faint. Ever. Ok, once, but I had lost a lot of blood that day without eating anything and that was 19 years ago. This made no sense! Once last year I had 9 vials drawn as a fasting test and I just felt a little light-headed afterwards. I drank water, ate a granola bar, and was completely fine. I’ve never had anything like this! And besides, she hadn’t even drawn blood!
The staff was great. I left the office after drinking more juice, eating a bit, and promising to eat more when I got home. Good thing I always carry food with me, because all they had was gluten-y food! I wasn’t hungry in the slightest, but I forced myself to eat.I promised them I would take an Uber home instead of the bus. Luckily I had just used Uber for the first time a couple weeks ago, so I had the app on my phone and knew how to use it. The doctor gave me her cell phone number and made me promise to text her so she’d know I got home safely.
Waiting on the street corner for the Uber sucked, but he finally came and we made it home. I was in the office so long that by then, ironically, traffic wasn’t so bad. The minute I got home I pulled off my clothes and put on something comfy, texted the doctor that I was ok, grabbed some juice, and got on the couch for some light tv. After several hours of lying down, watching tv, and feeling like crap, I suddenly started to feel better. Thanks to my chronically ill body, of course, I still felt fatigued the next day from the whole experience, so it took another full day of resting on the couch before I felt decent enough to leave the house. And then finally I could think about all of this.
The phlebotomist, nurse, and doctor who had crowded around me all mentioned something with a “v” that I couldn’t remember. When my doctor and his fellow heard about what happened, the fellow called me. We talked for 20 minutes. She felt it was most likely a vasovagal response. Ah hah! That was the “v” word the others had used! Today I saw my naturopath for a checkup and she also felt I’d had a vasovagal response.
Basically, it’s the body overreacting to a trigger. Often the trigger is the sight of blood. The sight of blood doesn’t phase me in the least. The feeling of a needle moving around in my arm, on the other hand….
So that’s the theory. And there’s no way to know if it will happen when I return next week for that blood draw again. Or if it will ever happen again. Maybe it won’t. But with my luck healthwise, that’s probably too much to hope for.
So much for my simple appointment.