Find the Vein Game

Labwork is a necessary evil for those of us in the Diabetes Community.

While we all love to banter about our own vampire-like skills in blood tests, set or sensor insertions, and syringe stabs, our semi-regular visits to those other Vampires in lab settings are a whole different breed. I've shared the perpsective before of one Vampire Girl who's Better Than Edward Cullen, but as a followup I now offer my latest lab adventure where we got to play that game known as Find the Vein.

My fun came on Wednesday. Even though I've been meaning to take some time to get over to the lab to get that done, I procrastinated and didn't get around to it until a chance arose this week - the day before my nearing Endo appointment.

In the 4 years or so that I've been with this current Endo, my lab work sites have moved around a number of times - first in the adjacent hospital itself, then in a lab down the hall from her office, across the street at the same hospital once her office moved into a new building, on the first floor of her new building, now up one floor. They've all been pretty routine visits without much hassle, though the wait time has fluctuated based on location and time of day.

Being in my 27th year now of Living With Diabetes, I have noticed that during the past five or so that it's been more difficult to not only draw my blood but also to find my veins. I've heard others say they have always had that issue, but historically this was never a problem for me. I was the boy who grew into the guy with "good veins."

Or so it was. That's changed in recent years.

This new visit was the first time I'd gotten labwork done since the hospital implemented a new medical file system where all of the patient files are connected on the same system, no matter the location - "One Patient, One File" is what it's called. That certainly made the registration process easier than I recall it being. No insurance info was needed on her end, as it was all in the system - which should also prove to be interesting once it's all processed, as for the first time I've got insurance coverage that apparently fully covers all my regular lab work and diagnostic tests... We'll see whether that turns out to be accurate or not, but it didn't surface at that point in the lab.

After all the registration, we got going with the "pee in a cup" practice. As I'd been fasting for about 12 hours without food or coffee (and was a little cranky thanks to a nauseating High that morning...), we were then ready for Vampire Lady to suck a vial or two of red goodness from my body.

That's where the adventure truly began.

She couldn't find a vein. My left arm didn't look good to her after some poking and prodding, so we tried the right side. It was even worse, she told me. Back to the left side, she stabbed my arm and apologized - even though I hardly felt it and didn't grimace. No blood appeared. She moved the needle around, and found nothing. Pulling it out, no blood emerged.

"Did I miss," she asked rhetorically.

"No. My veins just don't like vampires," I replied with a smile.

"Well, they can't hide forever, can they? I'm pretty sure I can get one eventually..."

She tried my right arm, and had the same result.

"You have deep veins. Has anyone ever told you that?"

Nope, that was new. Can't say I'd heard that before. We went over the fact that I hadn't drank any coffee earlier or that I'd cut off my water supply - but were No responses.

Without any success, she started eying my hands. I pointed out that I didn't recall the last time I'd had a hand blood draw, but observed how my veins have become more reluctant through the years. That was a common thing for her, and she mentioned that she was only allowed to do three needle sticks unless a patient specifically consented that more were allowed. I gave her permission to do whatever was needed, but said we weren't going at my feet no matter what.

Turning to a butterfly needle, she set her sights on the top side of my left hand just below where my wedding ring rests. Apparently, it tried to run and hide. So she moved the needle to chase after it... "A-HA!" she proclaimed.

I took that as a good sign, released my fist, and within seconds saw the vial fill up with redness.

"See, it tried to run from the Vampire but couldn't escape," I said. We shared a laugh, then it was time to say goodbye.

In Vampire Lady's defense, she seemed to be qualified and not a Mindless Blood-Sucking Zombie like those I've encountered before. She appeared to know what she was doing, but was just foiled by my fussy veins. So I don't blame her at all, and she had a sense of humor about it where I've seen others get frustrated.

After leaving, I shared some of the fun on twitter and several fellow Diabetes Online Community members shared their own frustrations about playing the "Find The Vein" Game. One clever soul quipped, "That game is so draining." I couldn't help but laugh at that one as I left the building.

Actually, I'd be returning to that building the next morning to visit with my Endo - and I am not ancipating a Happy Time. I'm dreading the appointment and don't anticipate a good A1c result based on how I've been lately (the 7.5% result I got from Santa Endo Claus just before Christmas will likely be higher...), and hopefully the blood work will reveal all else is OK. (Though, I also suspect my thyroid results will be off, but that's a whole other story for different post). We'll see. At least the blood work will be processed quickly and be able to make it to my Endo's office one floor down - that's awesome!

Prize for playing
Find the Vein!

Leaving the lab and now able to deviate from my no-coffee drinking that morning, I decided to reward myself with a large (venti-sized) Starbucks coffee drink. Of course, I really didn't need to keep the bandage and gauze on my hand after a few minutes - but since I didn't have my camera handy during the labwork, I opted to keep it on just so I could score a photo of my needle-stabbed hand holding a well-deserved caffeinated beverage. Evidence, you know, to earn some dia-nerd points from the DOC.

So there it is - my latest round of Find the Vein, a game we all know and love to not love. Or make fun of. At least there's rewards at the end, and blog-worthy topics to write about! Have you played this game before, and what have your experiences with these Vampires been like? I'd love to hear your stories.


Jess said…
well, at least she had a sense of humor! will be playing that game myself in a few weeks...
Amy Lederer said…
I've always had "run and hide" veins. AND I did have to have an IV on the top of my foot once. NO FUN. Good for you for standing your ground setting that limit!

LOVED the Starbucks to finish the day. You deserved it! My second favorite part of the post. My first is the term "dia-nerd." Doesn't have the same effect when you're a d-mom (d-mo-nerd or diamo-nerd . . . don't think it would work), but I will tuck that term away for my boy for later use.

Do keep us informed about the a1c. Fingers crossed for a pleasant surprise and good thyroid results.
Carol said…
That is so funny! I had my endo appt yesterday and found myself an unsuspecting participant in the find a vein game. Poor tech felt really bad, so I spent most of our game time reassuring her. I rewarded myself w/ a tall sugar free hazelnut latte from the local coffee shop. What is it about coffee and blood draws that go together so nicely?
Unknown said…
Well...I have great veins...they pop out of my arms...make me look like a "man-she". isn't about me...I guess I should talk about Joe's. When he was diagnosed, he was so dehydrated they tried three times and still could not get an IV inserted. Luckily, he was only mildly ketotic and he could rehydrate orally. I have to say he handled it like a champ...maybe one or two tears, but that was it.
Sysy said…
I've always had a tough time with nurses finding my veins until a few years ago when all my veins suddenly popped up (creepy for sure and almost a way of making me feel suddenly old or something). My daughter had blood taken at 8 months old and after an hour of torturing her they couldn't get blood out and had to come to our house and try for another hour until they found her vein. It was awful, I just cried and cried as they kept sticking her while she shrieked and looked at me like "why don't you make it stop?!" UGH...terrible, where is our technology to avoid this problem? I mean...where? lol Glad you got yourself a nice coffee :) That is what I do after my blood letting hehehe
Judi said…
"In the old days" before fingersticks, when you were in the hospital, the only way to see how a diabetic was doing was to draw blood. Down at Childrens it was the policy to have the interns draw the blood to get the experience. Then there was me with the terrible veins. They came three times a day and it took two nurses to hold me down while they stabbed at me trying to find a vein. At least now days, they have people who know what they're doing and that is their full-time job. A person with no experience on a kicking and screaming five year old is the worst.
Trev said…
Man, what the hell. That really bites, the whole not finding a vein thing, glad she didn't go for your jugular. Cheers! And thanks for your comments on Three 2 Treat
Victoria said…
I always tell them my veins roll, and I get so annoyed when they don't seem to care. I always get the ones who are like, 'sure, ok.' And then when they do roll, they seem surprised. I like the catch phrase, "find the vein game." Thanks! Good luck with the D-meetup and with your lab results!

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