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My irrational fear of all things medical

Posted Jun 17 2011 10:39am
I sat there on the exam table with my feet dangling over the edge, sipping apple juice out of a box with a giraffe on it--tears streaming down my face--and that's when it occurred to me:  I am a 34-year-old woman acting like a 6-year-old child.

While I've managed to bravely face several scary medical situations in my past, every once in a while, my irrational, deep-seated fear of all things health-related creeps up unexpectedly and I turn into a total spazz.  Such was the case this morning.

I had to fast overnight for a routine cholesterol screening at 8:30 a.m.  I haven't had blood work done in several years and my gynecologist suggested at my checkup last week that I have my cholesterol checked, "now that you're getting old."  Yeah, he said "old."  Not "older." Old.  Thanks a lot, buddy!  I told him you can't tell a woman that she's getting old, it hurts her feelings.  But, this is coming from the same doctor who said during my last pap smear that he earned his medical degree from sending in cereal box tops. (I find his sense of humor odd but comforting.)

So, I reluctantly agreed to the cholesterol screening.  I didn't want to do it due to my storied history with blood extractions.  The veins in my arms are very thin and difficult to locate, so a special butterfly needle is usually necessary.  I also have trouble with coagulation. That is, once the needle is in my arm, I sometimes just stop bleeding and they have to start all over with a new vein.  Oh, and I also almost always pass out as soon as the needle gets near my arm.  Basically, I'm a wimp.

After soliciting advice yesterday from a variety of friends in the medical field, I took the suggestion to drink a lot of water before my appointment and also to take an aspirin.  When I got to the doctor's office, I waited.  And waited.  I started out the morning feeling sane and well-adjusted, but as time elapsed, I got irrationally worked up.  And, I was starving.  I'm not used to fasting, especially in the morning, and I quickly became light-headed and shaky.  And then I started getting  hangry.

Twenty-five minutes passed, and I was still in the waiting room, psyching myself out and practically chewing off the arm of my seat.  Just as I arose to ask the receptionist, "How much f@#%ing longer?!" the nurse opened the door and called me back.

As we walked to the exam room, I rattled off the list of all the things that have gone wrong with blood extractions in the past so the nurse would be prepared.  Undaunted by the challenges she was facing, she retrieved a butterfly needle and asked me to lay down flat on an exam table.  She could see that my eyes were welling up, and did her best to comfort me as she quickly--and easily--extracted the blood. 

"That wasn't so bad," I admitted as she applied the band-aid to my left arm.  She then produced a package of crackers and the aforementioned juice box, and gave me a few minutes to dry my tears, sip my juice, and start acting like an adult again.


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