“What’s your success rate?” He asked me nervously – referring to my ability to draw blood; as that was what I was preparing to do.
“100% so far,” I assured him with a smile. “Though either way, our policy is no more than two attempts. If we don’t get it after two, we leave it and have a different person try a little later.”
He breathed a sigh of relief. He certainly didn’t need to go through someone digging for veins or otherwise causing him undue pain.
This patient had recently had a double thorocotomy – basically, both lungs had been operated on. He was a trooper though, always friendly to the staff, never complaining even when he was clearly in pain, always patient, and tried his best to get up to walk among other Doctor’s orders even though it was hard work.
After setting up my supplies, I put on my gloves and swabbed his arm with alcohol before sliding the needle easily into his vein and collecting the necessary samples in their respective tubes.
I pressed a cotton ball over the insertion site and tugged on the tube. It was a safety butterfly needle so this action was supposed to pull the needle out of his arm and into the plastic casing, thereby making it less of a risk for accidental needle sticks.
Still keeping the pressure on the cotton until I could tape it down, I pulled the needle away from his arm and went to grab the tube up with the intent of tossing it in the sharps container.
The needle hadn’t retracted. It poked me in the forefinger of my left hand.
I paused for a minute, looked up at the nurse who had started examining the patient’s chest tube insertion sites and said “Uuuuuhhhhmmmm…. Staaaacey…. I think I just stuck myself with the needle….”
I squinted; wanting to close my eyes, but knew I needed to look. I hoped that perhaps… MAYBE… these latex gloves were thicker than they seemed… Totally plausible, right?
I pulled my glove off.
Blood. Blood inside my glove.
I squeezed blood out of the prick wound and washed my hands thoroughly – per procedure.
I notified the charge nurse that I had sustained a bio-injury who then pulled out the necessary paperwork and then sent me down to the Emergency Department for my own now-required labs to be drawn.
I felt horrible because I knew now the charge nurse was on her way to take further labs from the patient – now they’d have to test him for other diseases that could have been passed on to me – HIV, Hepatitis, etc.
I strolled into the ED and told the triage nurse why I was there. It was a very slow, quiet night (I can say that now that it’s years later 😉 It’s bad luck to say the “Q” word in a hospital – it ensures that the shit will hit the fan, so to speak, and ruin a shift.)
He took me directly back to draw my labs himself.
He was very talkative and frankly flamingly gay. Stereotype embodied, to be sure.
He had to take my vitals before poking me with one of his needles. We chit-chatted about how our respective shifts were going as he took my temperature, counted my heart rate, and then measured my blood pressure.
“120 over 80,” he stated. “So perfect it sickens me.”
I cracked a smile, the way he said it made me want to laugh out loud. 120/80 is literally textbook perfect, so that’s why I can still remember it exactly this many years later.
Not matching his feigned disdain, I cheerily responded “Thanks!”
We finished up within a few minutes and I headed back up to the 9th floor to finish my shift.
Before the shift was over that morning I was notified that the patient’s samples had returned negative for any diseases.
Oh, thank fuck.
“I feel like I want to go in there and thank him for not being a crack addict.”
The charge nurse just gave me a look; curiosity, disbelief maybe.
“Yeah… I thought not,” I said as I grinned at her and then walked away.
Medical memory series number 4… Hmmm… Back to nursing school? Still haven’t decided… 😉