needles and chemo veins

I received a lot of feedback on my mention of my poor little damaged veins from my primary BC treatment, so I thought I would address a few of these for others who might experience trouble when going to the hospital or clinic.

It is true that sometimes when a patient says I’m a hard stick, the tech or nurse has this sort of sarcastic reaction as though they see it, as one commenter put it, as a challenge to overcome. That means, depending on the policy of your clinic or institution, they might stick you several times before, as s/he may see it, accepting defeat. I have learned to say that “some nurses” say I’m a hard stick but only after they start looking and seem to be searching (in vain—I know, I couldn’t help myself). That seems to help diminish the message that my vein warrior character is challenging him/her to a duel.

Another help is for using smaller gauge needles or pediatric needles. Sometimes I let them figure it out on their own, allowing them to stick me once without results. Other times I have offered in a very low-key version of, again, “some” say using a small-gauge needle works sometimes. Of course, some techs do not like this because on a blood draw, especially for cultures with a few bottles, it takes a long time to collect the necessary sample. It is, of course, more comfortable for me.

Sometimes I just mention that I have had a lot of chemo that has damaged my veins and let them draw their own conclusions. Often, it prompts the response, So you’re a hard stick, which seems to go better with those tech personalities who seem to need to feel in control of the situation.

By far, and not always an option, I go to my usual infusion center pro Danika who has magic fingers. If she is not available, the other nursing staff at the infusion center seem to be able to handle the job pretty well even though most of the time they deal with ports and PICC lines.

For sure, I speak up about not being poked too many times. Some institutions, like UCIMC, have a policy. Our phlebotomists will not stick a patient more than three times; I have made that my personal limit as well. If someone cannot do it and seems quite vexed after two, I warn them that I have a three-stick rule and will want someone else to do the job if they think they are not going to be able to get a vein. I do not usually have to enforce this, however, as most staff at UCIMC seem sensitive to poking patients and stop before I have reached my limit. In fact, they usually seem more bothered than I.

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© 2004–12 Donna Peach. All rights reserved.

8 responses to “needles and chemo veins

  1. Sticky situation Donna! (sorry couldn’t help that either!) I hope you are feeling better!

  2. Hi dear Lady! Hope you are getting some rest, and the fever has come down! Dreams of dancing! ♥

  3. You are an inspiration! I wish you well.

  4. Roni (RaptorRapture)

    Hoping you have good results from your tests and the fever finally reduces enough to start your new therapy! Is there any chance of getting a Hickman catheter placed so there will be no more vein hunting? Just a thought….I love you and dance with you in my dreams! Bright healing light to you. …and hugs!

  5. still sending prayers your way. my youngest sister tried to be a phlebotimist, but decided that wasn’t for her. you keep getting better, Miss Donna!

  6. What a timely post and such great suggestions.

    Yesterday afternoon, I had 4 tubes of blood drawn. I stuck out my left arm and the tech pushed and prodded with her finger, then removed the rubber tubing in preparation to move to the other arm. When I told her she could only stick my left arm, she asked me to make a fist. When I told her I’d repeatedly been making a fist since I sat down and that I was probably dehydrated, she got the tiny needle out. Would you believe, she then got a hot compress and left it on the inside of my arm in hopes that one of my tiny veins would present itself, which it didn’t. But, bravo for her, she found a vein on the first stick anyway. No bruise or anything.

    If you’ve had chemo, I think we’ve all experienced the stick nightmare. I’m just sorry it’s happening to you.


  7. I never let anyone stick my left arm anymore. I’ve had several draws that were immensely painful there and the arm ached for hours after. Fingers crossed, I never have an issue with the right arm in the future. Don’t know what I’d do if that happens.

  8. I’ve had most of my chemo through my port. Thank God for a Dr when I was in the hosptal who talked me into it because I’m a hard stick too. I have my blood drawn like this most of the time as well. Is that not an option because of the infection etc.. I certainly fell for you sister.

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