26 October 2010

An Aversion to Needles

There is simply no way in hell that I will ever end up a heroin addict – and not that I ever considered being one – for the simple reason that I have always had an aversion to needles. It is an aversion that I am still slowly overcoming but have carried since I was a child.

I’m sure it’s just me – but the nurses who stuck it into my smooth-skinned derriere when I was a kid all seemed to do it as though they derived perverse pleasure from doing so. Then again, I have yet to know of a child who actually derives pleasure from being pricked – and no pun intended – with a syringe needle.

As a kid, the greatest terror of all for me was to be taken to the E.R. and not be spared from having to watch the nurse draw the syringe from the sterilizer. In the old days, syringes looked nothing like the well-designed disposables you see in hospitals these days. These were those fat, ugly tubes that looked more like they were implements for killing rather than curing somebody.

I would be ashen when the nurse attached this menacingly long two-inch needle to the syringe, all the while silently praying to God and all the saints I knew, “Please! Please! Not that needle!!! Not that needle!!!”

But the needle was used, some nurses would be kind enough to explain, to draw the medicines from their tiny vials… That was a relief; except that soon it was time to pray again, “Please! Please! Not the green one!!! Not the green one!!!”

It was always the green one, of course! I do not even recall what that syrupy medicine was that the doctors always prescribed for high fever; all I remember is that it hurt because it was really, really viscous as it flowed from the syringe to my butt. And, of course, I would wail as though it was my last day on God’s earth…

Fast forward to my last year in college, when I had the utter misfortune to have fallen ill with viral hepatitis…

I was confined at the hospital and had never been stuck with so many needles in so short a time in my entire life! First, my finger had to be pricked and the blood that flowed placed on a slide for testing.

When I tested positive, off I went to the ward and – because a person with hepatitis has no appetite – then it was dextrose time. This was when things really got gruesome. The nurse who was tasked with inserting the IV needle took all of six tries before she finally managed – all the time making it sound as though it was my fault that she could not find a vein on top of my hand. It was – literally – adding insult to injury!

Can you imagine how my hand felt? Raw… Really raw… Like beef ground to be patted into a hamburger…

Three days later, I was asked to go to the lab for more blood to be drawn. Thankfully, this time, the extraction was from my arm. These arm extractions always seem to be less painful than arm or butt injections or IV insertions.

What can I say? The aversion, I suppose, is more instinctive than anything; a natural dislike for pain. But definitely reinforced by experience…

I am sure there is some technique involved; but there are nurses – and lab technicians – who seem to have a way with the needle so that it does not hurt so much. Then again, there are those we simply say have mabigat na kamay.

Unfortunately, you never know who you will get when you have to brace yourself to come face to face with the dreaded needle. Maybe everything is due to individual pain thresholds. Or maybe a combination of the nurses’ or lab technicians’ techniques and pain thresholds… Or maybe just plain luck!

Take last year’s annual physical examination. Most of those in my queue for blood extraction complained about the poor lad’s heavy hand; I thought an ant’s bite was significantly more irritating! The lad who did me just the other week for this year’s examination? I did not even know he was done until he told me!



To look or not to look? If I do not look, I find that my flesh tightens in anticipation of the needle coming into contact with the skin. If I look, I find that the flesh tightens at the sight of the needle getting close to the skin. There is nothing to choose from between the two! That said, I find that it is always best not to look, to take deep breaths and to engage in repartee with the one with the needle.

At least, these days, I deal with needles a lot better than when I was a child. Unlike some people… When I was in college, I had this big macho man of a classmate – 5’ 11” tall, muscular, mustachioed and all – who exposed himself for the pansy he really was during a Biology experiment when we were asked to draw our own blood to examine under a microscope.

Each of us was given this sharp pointed thingy and told to prick our fingers or – if unable to do so – to ask a classmate to do it for us. I had my partner prick my finger for me, and before long big macho man was at my side asking – nay, begging – for a couple of drops of my blood. When I told him what I thought of him and he had no choice but to get himself pricked – my word! – he cried out like a sissy!

It was comforting to know, of course, that I – at least – was not alone in my aversion. There is no male or female to it, either! Some of my female classmates even managed to prick themselves, something I can never bring myself to do. And, of course, there was this big macho man making a real mess of himself…

I do remember threatening my lab partner with physical pain if he stuck it in too hard…

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