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The Curse of 'Bad' Veins When Chronically Ill

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There are few curses worse than being chronically ill and having shitty veins — veins that run deep, collapse at a drop of hat, don’t flow blood fast enough. Veins that play Houdini by simply disappearing.

Every time I go to get my blood drawn (as is standard for most chronic illnesses), I am sure to be met with a look of shock. After all, the vein was there! The shadow is still visible, taunting, just beneath the surface. So why is nothing coming out? Why has blood flow stopped after just two seconds? What trickery is this?!

Even the most experienced phlebotomists with experience working in neurology and geriatric wards have trouble with my veins. With certainty, these experienced warriors probe and push, searching for the best point of attack on such easy arms. I always tell them, “Please, just take it from my hands. I’m used to it. It works. Please.” They always scoff. Until, like magic, they feel the veins under their fingertips but no needle can find them. That’s when they get the look. How? How could a patient know this would happen?

It seems like such a small thing, but phlebotomists are health professionals too. When they just brush off what I’m saying – that I know my body, that it doesn’t work like other people’s – I’m back to being that needy, annoying hypochondriac. I’m that person “faking” my chronic illness. Except in this case it’s not an illness I’m faking; it’s exaggerating how difficult it is to draw my blood. After all, thin needles are for the deserving, not just anyone.

Today, I had to take a blood test over two hours with three blood draws. I ended up being stuck with needles eight times. It’s not even certain that the test will be effectively performed because I wasn’t allowed to drink during the test and the last draw dripped as slowly as thick molasses, barely meeting the required volume needed. Bruises are blooming angrily under my skin, forming clots which could become dangerous, and I am tired. I am tired that no health professional will take me at my word.

Not even phlebotomists.

Getty image by Airubon

Originally published: March 30, 2018
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