"Hard Stick" = Someone who has bad veins, making it difficult to draw blood.
According to Evonne at the Portland Red Cross, I am the hardest stick she has ever met, and she has been taking blood for a looooong time. She was extremely nice, patient, and cognizant of how painful this was for me. PAO will be a piece of cake compared to my two autologous blood donations.
I spent the past week hydrating and peeing, hydrating and peeing. This morning, before my 8:30 appointment, I had a quart of water and a big breakfast, peed 4 times, and arrived with my check in hand to pay approximately $500 (not reimbursable by insurance, BTW) for the privilege of giving two units of blood to myself.
First the good news. My iron was at 14.2, which according to Evonne is “like the men.” Yeehaw. I figured after that good news, this blood donation would go well. Not so fast!
I know I’m a hard stick because I’ve had this problem ever since I can remember. The phlebotomists always kind of look at me sideways when I describe the issues others have had drawing blood from me, and say “well, I’ve been doing this for xx years and I’m sure we won't have any problems." After a 40-minute encounter with my tiny, rubbery, rolling veins, they tend to agree with me.
I tried to relax, but it’s hard to do so when you expect the worst, even in the comfy reclining chair they have. I explained that my left arm has better veins than my right, but because my left hand is in a splint because of thumb tendonitis, it would be hard for me to squeeze anything with that hand. So we tried the right first.
Evonne found a vein, she thought, until she realized no blood was coming out. She said the vein was right next to a “structure” (I assume that might be a bone?) so it was tricky. She tried again, but again the vein moved. No blood. (By the way, for all of you with good veins, you probably don’t know how much it actually hurts when they don’t get the needle into your vein. People think I’m a whining needle-phobe because I have this aversion to getting blood drawn – they have no idea that there is actual PAIN involved. No, not just a pin prick or a sting. It’s real pain.) By now I was sweating and tense.
She got a vein on the left, but barely any blood came out. I had taken off the splint and was pumping as much as I could, but it was hard with a sore hand. The blood trickled out, then stopped, then trickled again. She almost stopped entirely because she said it had been too long since blood had flown and the blood was starting to clot; at that moment a bit more dripped out so she continued. She almost stopped again after repositioning the needle for the tenth time, when I grimaced. “You have a pretty bad hematoma,” she said, “I don’t know if we can get any more.”
I found out while sitting there that if they don’t get a full unit, they throw the blood away because they can’t use a partial unit. At that point I was dripping with sweat, tense, starting to get dizzy and quite sore, but I was not going to let her throw that bag of blood away. I kept pumping and enough blood eventually came out to make a useable unit. I had to pump for 45 minutes almost nonstop. It seemed like an eternity.
I went to work with two colorful (purple and green) bandages, one on each arm. They don't match and of course, neither matches my outfit. Geez.
Next week I am going back to donate the second unit, after the hematoma heals and my blood has time to re-build. I think I’ll need to take valium beforehand because just walking into the place is going to make me start shaking. And, as Evonne told me, I have to relax or the blood won’t flow. I’ve never taken valium in my life and have no idea how it will impact me, although I do have one emergency backup pill someone once gave me in case of dire need. I think I’ve found the right time to use it.