Friday, 17 April 2009

Would You Rather Draw: Tea vs Blood.

Ok this isn't something that I like but it's something that's happened. I got these swollen glands on my neck on Monday. They've started to hurt a fair bit so today I went to the doctor.

By the way, it's not glandular fever. I've had that. This is something the nurse at the walk-in centre said she hasn't seen in 33-years of her career.

I watched The Hospital on 4OD last night. It was all about how alcohol-fuelled teens tend to take up much of the a+e staff's time and resources. After watching it, I grew a lot of sympathy (and bigger glands) for the NHS. They do put up with a lot of shit.

And then today I lost a whole lot of that sympathy. In the whole city of Exeter, there was only ONE doctor on call who I could see. That's cool. I'm not under immediate threat. I can still stand up. I just have a neck like pebbles.

It's the bloodtest I can't stand. I'm not afraid of needles. There's no need to make this a post-Freudian reading of needles as phallic implements that I can't hack penetrating my flimsy humanity. It's just the nurses can never find a fucking vein. You psyche yourself up for the test. You're prepared for the little plastic tourniquet. You feel the comforting dab of anaesthetic on your arm. You know you've got a little tube of metal poking into some really sensistive skin, but you know it'll only take about ten seconds.

Well. It doesn't. And that's cool. There are so many veins, and really, as Sex and the City's taught me; how can the first one be the one?

'Sorry love, this one won't seem to work, I'll just try the next'.

Ok. So I can handle this. Just one more go and it'll be over. Just one little sharp prick. That's all it is.

'Oh! Looks like the blood doesn't want to come out today!'

The 'little sharp prick' turned into a harsh vacuuming tug. And now the nurse is suggesting my blood's formed some coup against my body. It has a will of its own and it's decided to play indoor football or puzzles or whatever people do indoors when they're not cooking or sleeping or blogging or watching Charlie Brooker's Newswipe on iPlayer.

Is my blood not flowing properly? No, of course it is. This is the second try. It's got to work on the second time around. So I turn to get a quick visual confirmation of the blood being taken. I hope to prove to the medical professional harvesting my vital life-supply that I don't have rebel blood. That I may not be able to control my hairstyle when it's windy, or my emotions when I'm hungry, but I do have blood that does what the fuck I want it to do.

Neck bumps I can deal with, but the prospect of not having a circulatory system that gets blood to each and every one of my cells kind of irritates me. It's like being excluded from life. I look to confirm that blood is flowing.

But it's not. All I see is a needle waggling about in my little pallid arm.

I start to feel a bit faint. The next thing I know I'm wobbly-legged and dazedly stumbling to the bed. I quite frankly haven't felt so awkward since I got a Thai 'foot' massage in a darkened room off of the Koh San Road. The masseuse was 50 and laid me down on a bed with plastic sheets. She proceeded to rub my crotch in circular movements whilst a lurid TV in the corner emmitted blaring saccharine commercials featuring little yapping kids.

Back to the white-green hospital. Coupled with the awkwardness, there's the sharp pain searing through my inner arm.

I lie down on the bed, clutching a cotton wool pad to the now-profusely bleeding hole in my left arm. I look up to the ceiling, desperately trying not to faint. The third needle goes in. This has to be it.

I convince myself the needle's snapped inside my vein and blood's about to spurt in pulses all over my baby blue polo shirt. The nurse is using a decent proportion of her own weight to keep my arm in place as I involuntarily tremble.

I think about all the salt and nutrition in my body, my body as one solid matter, a really turgid entity, instead of a pile of mottled splodgey sinewy bilious mess, bound together by fragile little stringy tendons and cell-thick membranes.

'Come on, where are you, veiny?'

The third needle. Hasn't taken.

I feel light slaps on my arm, and a finger nibbling around for a new vein.

It might be the Uggs in April, it might be my undiagnosable gland condition, it might be the heavy-breathing woman giving me deep vein accupuncture. Whatever it is, I'm covered in cold sweat at this point. I'm asked to open and close my fist. I space out a bit, willing myself to faint at any point. I take momentary pleasure in reminiscing about the times in primary school when I used to draw a face on my hand and have it talk to people. Then I think it a bit tragic to see my life flash before my eyes.

Just one little bubble of air can kill if it gets into your bloodstream. The professional capabilities the nurse seem somewhat dubious at this point. I start thinking of shooting up, about how needles look cooler and a lot more accessible in the movies and how the next time I look at my arm it'll look like this.

Then a massive release. On the fourth attempt, she's found it, and my blood is flowing beautifully.


The moral of this story? THERE IS NONE AND THAT IS HOW SAD LIFE IS.

No, not really. My one fucking request, Mr. NHS. I know how you like to keep your hospitals all cold and clean and sterile so that bugs die, but when you want to get blood from a patient, you might as well take them to the toilet of a pub in Shoreditch where the landlord incorporated UV lights in the toilet so as to deter smackheads from getting their groove on in the premises.

When you're taking blood from me, make sure the room is WARM. It doesn't take anything more than um. COMMON SENSE. to know that my vein's going to play hideaway when I'm in a 15degree room.

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