When you think you know more than your nurses

nurses and chronic illness

Those of you reading this who have a “complicated case” (*eye roll*) or have been through the long process of getting properly diagnosed are probably laughing at this title already. You’ve been there. You’re at your fourth doctor appointment this week. The nurse comes in to ask what’s wrong, and you not only tell him or her your symptoms, but also every probable cause of said symptoms. You are sitting in a doctor’s office diagnosing yourself, wondering why the hell you are even there in the first place. You catch yourself spelling terms that the nurse “isn’t as familiar with,” as she takes notes and nods away. Every now and then she mumbles “right, right,” and you know what that really means is, “I’ve never even heard of those words let alone the connection between them.” The nurse asks you to slow down five times because you’re already halfway through your life’s health records and all she’s asked is “State your full name and birthday.” Sound familiar? Well, up until last year, that was me.

This post is not meant to mock or discredit all the amazing nurses out there. I have had many wonderful, intelligent nurses. In fact, I believe nurses often do not receive the credit they deserve. It’s just to say that over time, we Spoonies get to know our “medical mystery” of a body better than anyone else, and sometimes, at least in my case, start to get a little impatient … and maybe even a little cocky (me? Never!) … about the medical process. Eventually, I learned the hard way that I shouldn’t be such a know-it-all …

I plopped down in chair that fateful day for a blood draw, armed with my usual attitude; a perfect combination of feeling like I’m there so often that I run the place, and wishing like I could blow the place up so I would never have to take another blood test again. I had to get my blood drawn so frequently lately that it was hard to draw any out because my veins were building up a layer of scar tissue. I could pretty much do it in my sleep. Right away, I pointed to the fattest vein on my right arm that still worked and told the nurse that she would need to poke that one or else she wasn’t getting any blood. “Okay, well let’s just take a look first,” she said, understandably assuming she knew better. “Fine, but you’re just gonna see that I’m right,” I mumbled with indignation.

She smirked, both irritated and slightly amused by my arrogance, and chose to ignore me while she proceeded with her usual practice. She looked at both arms carefully, tapping around to find the best vein. Realizing that I was in fact right, and she ought to choose the big vein I pointed to on my right arm, she decided to prove me wrong anyways. She slapped at a vein on my LEFT arm over and over until she could see it well enough, and finally said, “Oh no, see. This one is better.” Yes, when you slap it hard enough, it will show, I thought. “Okay, but you’re not gonna get any blood out of that one,” I sniped.

Woops. Big mistake. She was pissed now, and determined to get the blood out of that vein at any cost.

She shoved that needle into my arm and sure enough the blood did not start flowing. She began to dig around under my skin, growing ever more annoyed and determined. She wasn’t about to admit defeat, so she kept on digging with no results. And let me tell you, it was not comfortable. Rather, it hurt like heck. Now royally pissed off, I suggested “Why don’t you just take it out and try the other arm so you’re not digging under my skin?” “No,” she replied, “This is the right vein. I’ll take it out and try again.” And so she took out the needle and proceeded to stick it right back in to the same spot in my arm. I winced. She dug around again for a while until she finally got some blood dripping very slowly into the vile. I looked down at the basket of empty tubes at my side and cringed. This was going to be the LONGEST few minutes ever. Luckily she finished the first tube and decided she didn’t have the patience to win this game anymore. “Fine,” she said angrily. “We’ll try the other arm.”

She stuck that needle into the big vein on my right arm, and the blood started pumping out right away, quickly and effectively filling up the other 6 tubes. I smiled, because I thought I had won.

But I hadn’t.

I woke up the next day with a bruise the size of Texas around the vein on my left arm. And let me tell you, it hurt like hell just to bend my elbow for days. I had to cover my arms in public for two weeks so I didn’t look like a junky. From then on, I swore that no matter how many times I went through the same tests, saw the same doctors, experienced the same symptoms, or filled out the same questionnaires, I would never get cocky with a nurse again. Until maybe next Tuesday when I have to take that stupid rubber band test again…


With great love,

Jessica Kendall James

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