Tuesday, May 23, 2006

H is for Hell

Greetings from the hell that is the US medical care system. Having said my goodbyes earlier to the research studies of NIH, I am now a “civilian” again, a participant in the same health care system 99% of the country gets to enjoy. Today I am at a local hospital, getting my transfusions from harried and overworked nurses in understaffed outpatient departments, staying hypervigilant that I don’t get the wrong blood type or get the butterfly needle pulled out of my arm by accident when someone goes rushing by and catches the line on their hand. Just a few hours ago my blood pressure was 86 over whatever and I was feeling somewhat shpilkedic (sp?). So otherwise busy were the nurses that I had to yell out, “Um, hello! Is a BP of 86 OK or a bit low?!” A few crackers and some water later and I was back in the 90’s, but for heaven’s sake, who the hell is in charge here?! I don’t need to tell you that it’s exhausting to not only be the patient but to also be the last line of defense against human error in sickness and in health.

And, if you’ve read previous posts, you know how I feel about chemo nurses who can’t find a vein to save their own lives. I can see the borderline annoyed/terror-stricken look on their faces when I answer no to the question, “Do you have a port or a line?” (meaning, do I already have a contraption inserted in my neck or chest from which they can easily take or give blood and meds, or will they have to plumb the depths of their 30-years hence nursing school training to figure out how to advance a line into a vein). Today after the FOURTH attempt to find a vein with all of the weak excuses, “oh wow, your vein moved. Oh wow, your veins look good but for some reason they aren’t cooperating…” she called IV Therapy to come and “see what they could do.” Any shock that the IV Therapy woman showed up, found a vein from 40,000 feet, inserted a needle and set up my transfusion accoutrements in—I sh*t you not--less than 60 seconds?

I may have some lazy-assed bone marrow, but dammit I have awesome veins. My veins rock. I am the owner of the Donald Trump of veins: blue blooded, bold and attention-whoring, even without the combover. My veins BEG needles to come and take a look. And after so many years of this transfusion situation, I know which ones are the best and I direct the needle-stickers to them specifically. Which is why I know that anyone who can’t get some sangre in one stick is either having a bad day or needs to consider an alternative career in cosmetology or something. As I write this, the same woman who hacked up both my arms to the extent that my wardrobe choices will be limited for the next week lest I wish to revive the Oh-So-2002 “heroin chic” look, is saying the exact same thing to the patient next to me: “Oh wow. This vein is tricky…” Bee-atch. Perhaps you need a refresher course in phlebotomy, one in which YOU are stuck with a needle every time *I* am. Perhaps your success rate will improve a tad? It pisses me off. If you couldn’t tell…

Never let it be said, however, that I offer complaints without offering solutions. (Okay, that's my stock in trade, but moving swiftly along....)
The solution, my friends, is: Do NOT Get Diseases Which Require Blood Transfusions or Chemo.
Barring that option, Do NOT receive treatment anywhere other than at a world-class urban research medical facility.
Barring that, steal some lidocaine and inject yourself before offering up your veins to harried medical staffers.
Barring that, well, hmm…don’t fall asleep while being treated. You might wake up dead or maimed, or at the very least, short one line of blood tubing which will have to be reinserted after the 15th attempt at Vein Global Positioning by Nurse Marcy, Class of 1973.

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