I spent the morning helping Dr. Mary Donovan out around the house. Given that she's officially my physician, it was kind of funny that I had to cut out early for a doctor's appointment, but it was just a physical, so I was scheduled with the practice's nurse practitioner.
I do not like getting physicals. I don't think many people are like, ooh, a physical, hurray! But seriously. They are ouchful. So, in the back of my mind, I'd spent all morning/early afternoon reassuring myself that the physical wouldn't be as bad as I thought. Total B.S., as it turns out. Despite the nurse practitioner being really sweet, the physical was at LEAST as bad as I'd thought. Once it was over, I just needed to have some blood drawn for a bunch of tests. (I'm trying to get everything done before I go off my parents' super-duper insurance in December.) I consoled myself with the thought that, after that awfulness, this would be a cakewalk.
Yeah. That was before I passed out.
I have never, ever so much as gotten light-headed while having blood drawn. On the other hand, I've never had this much drawn. The nurse practitioner, when looking at all the tests Dr. Mary had ordered (basically anything that might possibly be relevant to me; see above regarding insurance), joked that they were going to "drain you dry!" I wasn't, at the time, the least bit upset by this joke.
I admit to being somewhat put off when the nurse got out four empty tubes.
"You guys gonna take all my blood?" I said. "I'm using some of it."
The nurse laughed and assured me that she would leave me some. She said, though, that each test required two tubes, and that there were - she consulted another nurse - seven tests? Eight? That made me a little uncomfortable. Those tubes looked really big. Two tubes per test?
I was fine when the needle and tube went in. It didn't hurt. I even sat there looking at it for a bit, as I'd never had blood drawn with a tube like that before. I found it a little ooky after a moment (though I felt just fine), so I turned away from it. The nurse and I talked about Anne Donovan's upcoming wedding as she filled tube after tube. Me: Still fine. Not light-headed. When the nurse finished the fourth tube, she took out the needle, but I was starting to feel light-headed.
For anyone who's never fainted or experienced serious light-headedness, IT SUCKS. A LOT. It's amazing how uncomfortable it is, given that it doesn't actually hurt. It's sort of like a mixture of drowning and nausea. Your face feels cold, and your head feels fluffy and buzzy and just REALLY NOT GOOD.
I recognized the feeling - when I was about fourteen, and mentoring with a veterinarian, I got light-headed while watching my first operation. I then collapsed, though I never went entirely out. Afterward, I had to sit with my head down for awhile, hating the world. So anyway, today, I told the nurse that I was feeling light-headed. I remember raising my hands to rub at my face, trying to get the feeling back there. Then, I remember having a distinctly cheerful dream-thing, though I have no inkling now of what it was about. I was aware that I was dreaming, but this meant that my brain assumed that I was at home in bed. I freaked the heck out when I was jarred awake by two strangers shaking my arms and saying, "Ellen! Ellen!" I had a really intense, "Where am I?" moment - I can't even describe it. I was waking up in a sitting position in a lab, half-numb, with my face covered in sweat, being shaken by strangers. It was almost more of a, "Who am I? What am I? Have I just been created, right here, in this lab? Is this my first-ever moment of consciousness?" moment. VERY FREAKY.
After a few seconds, I remembered what had happened. I felt kind of stupid and kind of irritated, but mostly just ooky and awful. The nurses got my dad from the waiting room, and they took me in a wheelchair to an empty exam room and had me lie down. At this point, it was occurring to me that they had a lot more tubes of blood to do. I asked them whether they intended to draw the rest of it now. I asked them not to. Please. Were they going to? I really didn't want them to. They weren't answering. They were making me lie down, and they were sort of grabbing at my arms, and I freaked the heck out again because they weren't answering me about the blood. I tried to pull my arms away, telling Dad not to let them take more blood. He was just kind of sitting there, smiling sympathetically.
So, it turns out that while my internal monologue read rather clearly and logically, at least to me, my actual utterings were more akin to the following:
"You're not gonna do more tubes, are you? I don't want any more. Not now. Not today. No more tubes. Not four more. There were four more! I can't do four more. No more tubes, okay? Don't take any more, okay? No more! Dad, don't let them take any more!"
And the parts that were actually audible:
"You're . . . tubes? I don't . . . Not four more . . . No . . . Okay? Don't! Daaad!" *Ineffectual flailing*
Also, my lack of brain oxygen meant that my protests didn't convey the force and urgency I had kind of meant them to have. Eventually, I got my message across such that the nurse who was trying to make me stop flailing said, "We're not going to draw any more blood today." That was all I needed to hear. I quit flopping around, and they put some cool paper towels on my forehead and stuff, checked my blood pressure, and left me there to rest a little.
I was feeling kind of silly, but managed to freak out one more time - though less so, as I was tired and dizzy - when I realized how much more blood they still had to draw. Also, it took awhile for my brain to get its oxygen back.
Dad: How are you doing?
Me: Better. I feel kind of silly. But I'm really glad they're not taking more blood today. Are they going to reschedule?
Dad: They didn't finish?
Me: No. No, they had eight tubes. *Growing anxiety* They did four tubes, but there were eight tests! They have to do four more tubes!
Dad: Calm down, sweetie. They're not drawing any more blood today. If they have to reschedule, you'll be lying down next time.
Me: Four more tubes! I don't want to do four more tubes! They'll have to do two appointments or something!
Dad: I don't think you should worry about that now, sweetie.
Me: They have to do eight tests! Each test takes two tubes! That's a lot of blood! That's eight tubes! That's a lot!
Dad: . . . We'll ask them about that, sweetie. Don't worry. We'll ask them about it.
Me: *Hysterically* Ask them? They told me! Eight tests! Four more tubes! I can do math!
Dad: . . . I . . . don't think you should worry about that now, sweetie.
Me: *Brain suddenly recovers ability to actually do math, throwing me into real panic* Wait! Eight tests - that's not four more tubes!
Dad: *Looks resigned*
Me: That's, like - that's a lot of blood! I can't do that! I can't do it!
At about this point, the nurse practitioner came in and told me cheerfully, "You didn't tell me you were a fainter!"
That did pretty well in replacing my panic with poorly-communicated annoyance. It was some time after this that I regained the ability to speak forcefully, but that didn't stop me from trying.
Me: THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE!
NP: Okay. I guess it was probably the pain.
Me: Pain? What pain? That didn't hurt at all!
NP: *Knowledgeably* I guess maybe just the thought, then.
Me: *For some reason, massively frustrated by the suggestion that this was psychological and not caused by YOUR NURSES TAKING ALL MY BLOOD, WOMAN!* I WASN'T THINKING ABOUT IT!
Nurse: Yeah, actually, she was talking to me about Anne Donovan's wedding.
NP: *Wisely ditching the psychological-cause angle* You know, you do have low blood pressure. That could be it.
Me: *Satisfied* Yeah, that's probably it.
Like I said, the NP was really nice. I just was in no mood for anything at the time. Had I thought of it, I probably would have tried to demand my blood back.
The really funny thing? After I could walk and they let us leave, Dad and I went to the convenience store across the street so that he could get me a soda. I stayed in the car. My thoughts? "I'm going to have to rewrite that fainting scene in Rabbit and Cougar."