Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The power of positive thinking

Current mood: Positive (what did you expect?)
Current song: Glee cast - Valerie

*disclaimer* This post is going to be quite long, and very boringly detailed. But this is one of those posts that is mostly for me, so I can recall every detail of this upcoming surgery and all its processes. I'm going to try to make it entertaining and fun, but unless you're really interested in my life, I wouldn't bother wasting your time reading it all. You have been warned.


Just one week ago, I wrote a post all about my apprehension for my upcoming knee surgery, and specifically the pre-admission testing. But I am happy to report that as of Monday May 2nd at about 11:30am, I am no longer terrified of needles.

I woke up monday morning with that normal feeling of horror for the events to follow. I know, "horror" is a bit strong, but this has been an ongoing occurrence for my entire life. I have really difficult to stick veins. Nearly impossible, actually. I'm pretty sure this is because of my disability, but doctors have never given me a "yes definitely" reason for almost anything in my life. But that's beside the point.

For most people, being difficult stick is probably not much of an issue. "It's okay, just keep poking till you find one. I have time." But for me, it's a nightmare, due to my quite low pain tolerance. Once again, I have no explanation for my tolerance level. Maybe it's biological, maybe it's psychological, maybe it's a combination of both. But as much as I try mind-over-matter techniques, I can't control how pain affects me. It's caused me to feel really bad about myself ever since I surpassed the age where it's still okay to cry at a shot, but what can I do... I am who I am. So you can see, 22 years of this unfortunate cocktail of unsuccessful blood work and iv's, mixed with the Niagara Falls from my eyes at practically the sight of a needle, "horror" is not a very far off description.

But despite all this, I decided that monday would be different. I have always been an upbeat person, who fully believes in the power of positive thinking and energy. If you tell yourself that today is going to be a good day, you create that day for yourself. If you tell yourself that everything will work out fine, more often than not, they do. Even something like whenever I feel a cold coming on, I just tell myself "I'm completely healthy and well. I'm gonna nip this in the bud before it even starts." The brain is a powerful machine, and positive affirmations are the oil that keep it running well.

Conversely, if you're the type of person who mopes about thinking how awful life is and what a bad day you're probably going to have, chances are, your day is going to be pretty crappy. You are how you feel.

So with that in mind, I quickly got over my initial morning panic, and decided that I would stay positive. A whole week beforehand, I had been talking to my veins, bonding with them. I chatted with two veins in particular, one in each hand. These veins were responsible for the only successful iv I had had thus far, for an endoscopy I had done in high school. So I spent a week saying things like "okay veins, we got this... it's you and me... this is going to go down in history as 'Lili's first successful blood draw ever'... we'll make headlines, veins, we'll be famous." Go ahead, call me crazy. But I'm telling you, this stuff really works. Case in point; the events that followed.

I walked into Lutheran hospital with my head held high, and as soon as I checked in I let them know that I needed to be sent down to the lab for my blood work, as the woman on the phone instructed me when I made my appointment. That's where they send their hard to stick patients. The check-in woman was extremely friendly, which was a great start to the day. After checking in, I proceeded to the pre-admission testing area to get my check up done. The physician's assistant was also very nice, and assured me that the women in the lab were experts. He said they took blood about 10 times an hour, so they knew what they were doing. He even said they had an "expert nurse" down there who was their vein specialist. I felt myself start to feel skeptical, but I shoved that aside to stay positive, and replied only with a "great, then I know this will go perfectly on the first try." He also assured me that I would not be given the same anesthesiologist that took 12 attempts to find a vein the day of my last surgery. The PA described him as a "typical arrogant arab who has very limited patience." So again, this guy was really great, albiet a bit racist. I was staying surprisingly calm, proven by my relatively normal bp reading. It was slightly elevated, but still, a huge improvement over the usual near-hyperventilation.

My trip into the lab was even more calmed at the sight of a beautiful service dog laying on the floor. I approached the man in the wheelchair and asked him if his dog was in working mode. He smiled and said "Nope. Here, give him a treat. His name is Jay." I'm pretty sure at that moment, my bp was back to a perfect 120/80. So walking into the lab, I was on cloud nine. But then I saw it... the chair.

No matter how calm I am, the sight of that chair still sends shivers down my spine. And what's next to that chair? Oh, just a few needles, some alcohol swabs, a tourniquet, and about 50 empty blood tubes... not to mention the big picture of gross looking veins running down someone's arm. And the worst part about this chair, is the arm rest that lowers in front of you. It's like a prison, you can't escape! Practically a torture device, where they strap you into a chair and tie rubberbands around your arms to slowly cut off your circulation, all while 4 women stand around you, cackling as they stab your arms repeatedly with needles, and the only thing you can do is stare at pictures that show you exactly where you will bleed to death from, and scream. It's a nightmare! No wonder children cry when they see someone in scrubs. They're vampires... and they're coming for us!

*ahem*.... anyway. Despite the excessive amount of fantasy books I read, even the chair wasn't enough to make me panic, though my cloud nine state was definitely out the window. Still, I looked down at my hand veins and said "alright guys, showtime." The nurse came in and I immediately told her the skinny.

"Okay, I have extremely hard to get veins, but I have two in mind that I need you to try, no others. And you should bring out your best nurse. They told me upstairs that there was an expert here. I think I'll need her."

I assumed that was firm enough to warrant attention, but unfortunately I got nurse cocky, who while nice, was a tad over-confident in her abilities.

She took my right hand and felt for my veins, but as she noticed the size of my arms and lack of veins bubbling up once the tourniquet was put on, her confidence dropped. She attempted to stick the vein I pointed out to her, jiggling it around a few times, trying to chase the vein down. The poke hurt, but surprisingly not as much as pokes usually do for me. I didn't tear up, nor so much as say ow. I just clenched a little, but I was trying hard not to, knowing that the tension would close my veins up, and all would be in "vein" (haha, puns are fun =P ). Thankfully, this particular lab had something else to stare at besides the veiny arm picture. To my right, away from the sight of needles and blood tubes, was a whole wall of post cards from various locations the lab staff had traveled to on vacations. It was a fantastic distraction. So much so that I barely heard the nurse mumbling to herself about not being able to find the vein.

When I felt the needle pull back out, I looked down to find no blood tube. Crap. My positivity started to waver. The nurse sighed defeatedly, and called in someone else. Great, I thought. She resigned to get the expert nurse in. A blond woman comes in starts checking my arms. I didn't even have time to explain the hand veins thing before she strapped a tourniquet to my arm and attempted to jab a needle into it. Again, I looked at the postcard wall, spotting a picture of NYC and remembering my trip there. Ahh, what a thrill it would be to see the Phantom of the Opera again on broadway...

A minute and a half later, the needle was out of my arm. The blonde nurse looked at me with large sad eyes and said "aww you poor thing." I'm not sure if she mistook me for a child, or maybe she considers all disabled people to be "poor things," but irregardless, it was enough to bug me and send my positivity down further. The two women poked at my arms some more with their fingers, discussing the predicament, and kept referring to me as a "vita."

"I don't know, I think she's a vita. What do you think?"
"Oh yeah, she's definitely a vita."

What the hell did that mean? If by vita they meant a girl who was seriously starting to lose patience with a situation and felt like running out of the room back to Jay, then yes, I was certainly a vita. I was about to ask them what they meant, when suddenly Vita walked into the room. Aha! Their expert! Positive thinking was back on the rise.

Right away I spoke up, before the other nurses could, explaining the situation to her and how the only successful veins I knew of were the ones in my hand. Well thanks to nurse cocky, my right hand vein was shot. It was all up to my left hand. Vita felt around my arms first, just for good measure (no one seemed to believe me... I guess disabled children can't have accurate opinions), then went for the left hand. As soon as she touched it, her face lit up. "Oo oo, there it is.. give me a needle." Yes! This was it... the last quarter, the bottom of the ninth, the end of the game... and......


Right in the middle of my mental vacation to the beach on the Hawaii postcard, I saw blood start to flow through the tube. It felt remarkable. In 22 years, I had never experienced it a successful blood draw from my veins. Any other time I have needed blood work done, they've had to take it with the same method that they use on infants; prick my finger and squeeze my blood into a full tube, drop by painful drop.

I'm so proud of my left hand vein, who I've now named Vita. Unfortunately, either nurse Vita slipped and lost the spot, or vein Vita was just too tuckered out after this amazing feat, but it stopped giving blood before they got their 2 full tubes. But it was okay, the nurses said they could get all the tests done on the tube and a half they did get.

I walked out of the lab feeling on top of the world. And all it took was positive thinking. I stayed positive for a week before the day, and I was as calm as can be throughout the morning of. I didn't fret nor tense up, and my body followed suit. And it took a calm, positive nurse to get the job done. The other women were intimidated and anxious about the situation. But Vita had that "we got this" attitude, and it worked like a charm.

On the way out, I gave Jay one last pet and ear scratching, then skipped out of the hospital on a path of flower petals.

Even after all this, I still am a bit nervous about the surgery. The nurse said that the veins in my hand might not be stable enough to put an iv into for general anesthesia. But I'm still keeping my head up. Maybe the new anesthesiologist they'll give me will take the shot. If not, I am still very hopeful. Now that I've proven to myself, once again, about the power of positive thinking, I'm so ready to march into Lutheran in 2 weeks and kick this thing right in the tush!

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