The Joy of the Blood Test

My diagnosis of Graves disease came with a lifetime invitation to the laboratory to regularly test my thyroid levels. Regardless of what path I choose, I don’t see this happening any less frequently than once every six months. Right now, twice a year seems pretty far off.

I’ve had so much blood drawn over the last five years that I’m sure I’ve had a complete oil change by now. At best, I’ve gone to the lab every three months, but sometimes as often as every few weeks.

Blood Work Kit

not my photo

The insanity, by definition, is that I keep going to the same lab, hoping that the way I’m treated will change. Actually, it’s not really insanity so much as laziness. The lab is on my way to work.

When I show up, I wait by the sign that says “Please Wait Here” and is plastered with requests that I wear a face mask if I’m sick. Um, if I’m healthy, would I be here? But what I have isn’t contagious, nor is diabetes, high cholesterol or probably most of the other things people go there to get tested for, so the face mask thing is ridiculous. It serves no purpose other than to make me – the germaphobe to end all germaphobes – more nervous.

I have my lab paperwork and my blue card ready. The blue card is another thing I don’t understand. This particular facility and its affiliates require you to have a blue card to get service. Even if you have a gushing limb hanging by a single tendon, you need a blue card before they’ll get out the sewing kit.

Okay, not really, but I’m telling you, they’re blue card Nazis. The blue card has your name on it and your insurance information and to get it, you have to go deep into the bowels of the lab, stand in line again, hand over your insurance card, then wait 20 more minutes while it is printed up.

It also expires in one year, at which point you need it have it renewed. Fortunately you can do that online by filling out a simple 45-page questionnaire in less than 15 minutes, at which point it logs you off.

It’s awesome.

After waiting at the “Please Wait Here” sign for a few minutes while there are no other patients in sight of the reception desk, one of the women behind the counter glares at me and growls, “Can I help you?”

Either this is the worst place in the world to work, or they require their employees to fast for 12 hours before coming to work. Which would make it the worst place in the world to work.

I smile pleasantly as I approach the bench and say, “Hi there!” I hand over my paperwork and my blue card (because I’m efficient that way) to a silent individual who doesn’t once look up as she asked me the following:

“Spell your first and last name.” Why? Isn’t it right there on the paper?

“Date of birth?” Sure, no problem.

“Do you have your insurance card with you?” What?

Because I already have a blue card, I didn’t bother to bring in my insurance card.

“It’s in the car,” I tell her. She sighs heavily.

“Isn’t that what the blue card is for?” I ask timidly.

“We need both.”

This is retarded. And that’s all I have to say about that.

She lets me go this time with a warning. Yay! Still without looking at me, she tells me I’m all set to have a seat.

Since my blood work doesn’t require fasting, I get to thumb through old magazines about babies or race cars, neither of which I’m particularly interested in at the moment, while all the fasters go ahead of me. Once I finally do get called, a tech ushers me into a room.

Sometimes they’ll ask me how I am. Sometimes, not. But once I’m in the chair, this is always the conversation:

“Spell your first and last name.” Eye roll. I swear by all that is good and holy the next time I’m going to spell my name wrong, just to see what happens.

“Date of birth.” Didn’t we just do this?

As the tech preps the instruments, I roll up my right sleeve. I’ve only encountered maybe two people who have been able to draw blood out of my left arm. Without looking at me, the tech says, “Do you have an arm preference?”

Yes, I do. Please take the blood through the sleeve of my left arm. That’s how I like it done.

I really don’t have the patience for this kind of thing. But I answer civilly, if not pleasantly.

“Small pinch,” the tech says as she pushes the needle through my vein and out the other side. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened. It is not a pleasant feeling.

I used to cringe when I saw the interns coming because they looked so nervous. Now I pray for one. The interns are awesome. They are still new enough to be pleasant and they are so anxious to do a good job that they actually do. In my experience, it’s the seasoned techs that suck the most because they’ve stopped caring.

They draw a couple of vials (changing the vial sucks, especially when the needle is all the way through your vein), pull out the needle and press on the gauze pad. Invariably, they rip off a seven-foot piece of tape and practically wrap it around my arm five times.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but still. A two-inch piece of tape would suffice. Remember, I’m Italian. There’s no need to put adhesive on the front of my arms. If I wanted them waxed, I’d wax them, thanks.

The tech then recites the speech about applying pressure for 3-5 minutes to prevent bruising. I feel like saying, If you didn’t stick the needle clear through my vein, that would go a long way towards preventing bruising. Instead I smile and say, “Thank you.” Then I grab my jacket and high-tail it out of there.

I’m determined to find a new lab to try next time I get my “orders” in the mail. I’ll report out once I do – it should be in about three weeks.

How about you? Have you ever had to have blood drawn? Was your experience good or bad? Any suggestions or ideas on how to make the process smoother?


15 responses to “The Joy of the Blood Test

  1. Whenever I get blood drawn it’s bad. And I’m the fool who is doing jumping jacks while laying down when I donate blood. The only thing that ‘helps’ me is to be very well hydrated. I did selflessly volunteer to let OccDoc practice placing IVs on me before he left on deployment since he was a bit rusty. He looked for my veins and said ‘no thanks’. I really hope the new lab is better, but I haven’t found a decent one yet. Maybe you should being a cupcake with you next time for the fasting receptionist. :)

  2. I have wonderful veins, so at least never have any issues getting needle-stick problems or bruising etc. But I can relate to the grumpiness of some folk at the lab – whatever happened to “Turn up to work and don’t be a jerk”. These folk should have a bit of pride in themselves and their work, and be civil to other folk. They might even grow to like it :)

    • I’ve had people tell me I have wonderful veins, too, but they’re not in the right place, whatever that means. They’re under my skin, aren’t they? As far as I’m concerned, that’s the right place. And I agree – whatever happened to “customer service”? Gone the way of the buffalo, I guess.

  3. Heh. You make me giggle with your complete oil change. That lab does sound like a horrible place. But it seems like every medical place makes you repeat your information hundreds of times. This is so they don’t get the wrong person, I think. The last time my husband had surgery, each nurse, doctor, technician, and janitor that came in pre-surgery asked him for his name, what medicines he was allergic to, and which side the surgery was on. It was cute, the first 75 times.

    Good luck with your next bloodwork! I’ll be crossing my fingers for you and your poor veins. :(

  4. Ugh… I hate having blood drawn. I bruise really easily and I’m allergic to latex and most of the adhesive stuff on the bandaids. So either I have a bruise and a rash or a bruise and tape that doesn’t stick. Either way you look at it, it’s a win/win situation. :)

    • Ah, yes. It’s good times, isn’t it? I’ve had the rash experience as well. And the adhesive that doesn’t come off, but collects all the lint from your shirt. That one’s fun, too.

  5. Ouch :( Lab techs and the secretaries usually aren’t the nicest people in all the hospital. I have had great luck with it…when I was sick as a kid (tumor in my kidney) they used to have to close the door because I screamed so loudly when getting my blood drawn or getting shots. I’m not that bad now :)

    The reason they ask for your name and birth date 7000 times is because it’s usually something they get dinged on for accreditation. They want to make sure they’re doing the right procedure/giving the right meds to the right person so they generally do that whenever you’re “handed over” to a new person. I used to work in hospital administration, and the name/birth date checks are done because there are a startling number of drug errors (plus if the Joint Commission–accreditation organization– comes in for a visit they’ll deduct points if you don’t do it). When my sister-in-law went in for her prophylactic mastectomy I heard her say her birthdate and name so many times that when I picked up her prescription I could recite all her personal information as if it was my own :) The whole blue card thing is ridiculous, however.

    I’m sure you totally wanted that little lesson in hospital standards, so you’re welcome :)

    • I know there are rules and regulations that go with any business and I certainly don’t mind a quadruple-check when anything health-related is involved – in fact, I’d prefer it! But it does get old after a while, especially when it comes with a ‘tude. I think if a person were nice to me, I’d have no problem answering the same question ten times in a row. Okay, maybe eight. :)

      Thank you for the insight, though. It helps put things in perspective.

      • I figured you probably knew, it just turned into a little bit of a rant :) And you’re right, they certainly could be nicer!

  6. I have pretty much the smallest and worst veins in history. I used to get really dehydrated as a kid and my veins still think they are in dehydration mode. I used to have problems with people drawing my blood. They would stick me several times (in both arms) and sometimes have to result to the ‘search’ method where they keep the needle in my arm and move it around trying to get the vein. I’ve started mentioning each time I go about how my veins are horrible and no one EVER gets it on the first try. This seems to cause some kind of competitive thing in the lab tech because the last several times I’ve said this to someone they have taken extra care, tried really hard and gotten it on the first try. Then I praise them and tell them that that never happens and they must be really good. LOL! It’s all about the psychological effect. ;-)

  7. Hi. I was reading your blog and I happen to have (unfortunately) lot of experience getting my thyroid levels taken. With TSH, T3, and T4, there is a large variation in values between labs. So it’s probably a good idea to stick with the same lab if you want to see what the trend is.

  8. The only time I think I’ve had any kind of blood work done, I was also recovering from head trauma & short-term memory loss, I’m not sure if that would improve the experience or not.

  9. Oh my gosh! I’ve been to that lab!

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