Blood Test #298?
On the crowded morning tram I am grateful for being around at a time in medical history where blood tests are carried out in such a hygienic and safe way. I am drinking water from a reused glass coke bottle as I walk through the hospital 9am on Tuesday morning with a stomach sans breakfast and coffee due to to this being a no food after midnight the night before blood test. Im a little bit like that creature from that movie franchise of the late eighties. What where those films called? The creature was all cute and cuddly as long as you followed some simple rules for thier care. I think the film started with the letter G.
When I arrive at the pathology out patients waiting area it is crowded. I take a ticket and then look up at the number being displayed above the entrance to the pathology area with its admin desk and collection of curtained off blood taking areas. My number is quite a few numbers away from being called.
There is a beautiful woman sitting on one of the worn red couches and I recognize that perfect bob and perfectly made up face instantly. We break out into smiles and I rush over to hug her. She lets me squish in beside her. I tell her I am always hoping to run into her here but never expect to.
We had met three years ago in the nephrology out patients waiting room. She was there with her Dad and I was there with my parents. She had gotten her trainsplant a couple of weeks before mine. Her donor had been her mother. Our parents got talking before we did I think or was it her and I? It’s hard to remember at that time I was still pretty deep in recovery mode. I just remember how wonderful it felt to have someone nice and funny to talk to who was in the know of what it felt like to be that sick before the transplant and how weird and wonderful it is to consider the magnitude of what it is to have an extra organ placed inside you.
It has been ages since we had seen each other. The last time was when she had kindly come to visit me after the whole scary kidney biopsy nearly killing me for good. As people mill around us in the seats and standing waiting for their blood taking turn, we chatted excitedly like best friends. It is a joyful reunion. There is a coffee cart right next to the waiting area now that is a new addition to the overall vibe of this section of the hospital. The sound and smell of coffee percolating is pleasant. It alows the illusion that I am not catching up with a friend in the pathology outpatients waiting area, its a pathology waiting area with the option of coffee.
My friend has not wasted her time and as I listen to her fill me in I am blown away by her strength and fortitude. Since I last saw her she has left her verbally and emotionally abusive husband, bought her own apartment and moved in with her parents while she waits for it to be built. She tells me that she has started up body building and tried to get a job driving trains as a career change ( it is incredibly difficult to get through all the stages required to become a train driver as my friend found out first hand). My friend has her name called and goes to get her blood test. But instead of rushing off she sits back down with me and we continue chatting.
She has a favourite pathology nurse that she requests when she can. Once she has done what she came here to do, this strong and incredible woman sits back down and explains to me what made her decide to leave her husband. It was a continuation of things and themes that kept repeating wearing her down. It was the day that the kidney foundation had their yearly walkathon. A thing I was not aware of because I left the kidney transplant Facebook group because it started to annoy and agitate me. She had gone with her parents and husband. They wanted to go to one place for a delicious brunch at one place the husband wanted to go to another. They go to the place this utter trash monster wants to go to, making this day about him and not about celebrating the amazing gift that has allowed his wife to have a better and healthier way of life.
She had forgotten her wallet and when the meal ends and she explains she is yelled at right there in front of the whole cafe and in front of her parents. He says the most horrible things to her about how he should never have married her. As my friend tells me this I find myself wanting to overturn a table or more aptly find this guys house and light it on fire. Knowing how amazing it is that she got out alive and safe and has stayed safe I wrap my arms around her at a loss at what I could possibly say. It was not even just the fact I was nervous around him all the time. It was that he did not want to change he just wanted everything to stay the same. I was not done changing, I didn’t want to stay the same, she says this with the assuredness that comes from having to fight for your sense of self.
A nurse comes out looking for number 33 and calling out the name, nobody gets up but people look at thier own ticket to make sure they are not missing thier turn. The nurse calls the ticket number a couple more times and when nobody stands up the nurse moves on to number 34, an old lady gets up slowly clutching her ticket. My friend looks up at the clock and says she better get to work. I thank her for staying in this place longer than she needed just to stay talking with me. ”Are you kidding?” She says. ”You’re a scream.” We hug again one last time before she rushes of to spend the day with little four year olds, moulding minds and being her brilliant self. I simply sit there smiling until my number is called.
As I settle into the chair and expose my inner arm so the nurse can find a vein I listen as the nurse asks me about my friend ”she is such a lovely girl like you” the nurse says as she checks my arm. she says she will get a butterfly needle and I sigh happily. They are thinner thats why I prefere them, I tell her. This turns out to be untrue and the nurse explains that the actual needle that gets pushed into my vein is no smaller that others it is the tubing that is more flexible and covers more body area and it can also withstand more patient movement (not that I move my arm) than other needles. The butterflies precise placement facilitates venipuncture of thin or rolling or difficult to find veins. My eyes widen with excitement at learning something new and the fact I have been living an illusion: that I have easy veins.
The nurse fills me in on pathology nurses inner workings and gossip. Most of the nurses familiar to me have left since I was here last, brilliant nurses overworked and rendered anxious and forced to quit. I am assured the nurses have moved on to better things. This is just what comes from working in the public healthcare sector. My nurse manages to fill five tubes with my blood quickly and painlessly. I hardly feel the needle go in at all.