A few days ago I had a trip to the ER. It was just a little reminder of what things were like last year. All is well. But, having now had a taste of what it is like to enjoy some post cancer treatment life, I clearly have less patience with medical stuff these days. This was sorely evidenced by the fact that I completely lost my cool with the nurse who guaranteed me that she could get an IV in my arm in one try . . . I lost it on her third attempt.
Why is it so hard for some in the medical profession to actually believe you when you tell them something? I am what they call a hard stick. My veins apparently do not cooperate. They run and hide. My veins are pretty taxed from chemo. I know it is me. And who knows, maybe this is what my veins were like before cancer. It isn’t like I was ever sick a day in my life to test out my veins prior to cancer.
But, here is what I don’t get: why is it that some doctors, nurses, and other medical care providers presume that they know the patient’s body better than the patient?
I know that I am a hard stick. I know that certain veins in my arm will likely produce nothing. I know that applying heat will sometimes help. I know that nurses, phlebotomists, anesthesiologists, etc. all seem to have the best luck with me when they use my hand or just above my hand to either get blood or to place an IV.
When the nurse came into place an IV I simply asked her to use heat. I explained to her that the veins in that area of my arm often blow out (their terms, not mine) when an IV is placed. I further explained that the last time an IV was place it was by an anesthesiologist and that it took him three attempts and then he brought in a “specialist” (even though he truly is a specialist).
It was as if telling her this was some kind of challenge. She told me that she saw a good vein. I told her that I really wanted it to happen in one attempt, that I have been through a lot and that it is tough on me to take multiple needle stabbings for the sake of an IV. I don’t know how much of the extreme discomfort this causes me is actually from the pain or the memories that this pain brings to the surface (the year plus of treatment, the near death experience during one chemo round when I went into anaphylactic shock . . . that time a needle truly saved my life). I don’t know why it is so. so difficult for me to “take” getting an IV placed. But, it just is.
So, I simply asked her to please not try it without the heat. She assured me that she was confident she could do it.
I let her try three times (for which I feel incredibly stupid) During her third attempt, I asked her to stop. She continued to try to force a needle into a vein in my arm. At one point she was actually forcing my arm still with the weight of her arm and upper body while she used her hands to try to continue to force the needle in my hand. Finally, I told her that I had “fucking had enough”. She stopped, took the needle out and left the room.
First time I’ve ever used the F word in the ER or any treatment context. I guess I am a cancer bitch now.
P.S. Don’t get me wrong, I DO have medical providers who listen and who provide me with excellent care . . . but, they know me, I have chosen them to be my care providers. All it takes is one trip to the ER to be reminded of how helpless all of this can make you feel. Ultimately, the ER doctor that night was excellent and I have already been seen by my cardiologist (who is also excellent) to rule out anything serious. Chemo and perhaps Herceptin can leave you susceptible to certain heart issues. So, because of some weird symptoms, I am getting checked out, will wear a heart monitor for a couple of weeks and will likely hear that everything is fine . . . that is what my cardiologist thinks. I just didn’t need to be reminded of how helpless being in an ER can make you feel. Or, maybe I did. Maybe I needed the reminder so that if there is a next time, I can put my cancer warrior suit back on and kick some ass . . . without having to use the F word.