Houdini Veins: When Your Veins Like to Play Hide-and-Seek

06.12.18 06:40 PM By Putri
Last weekend we were supposed to do something fun but I was down, I had a mild case of tummy pain that felt like it was going to be the reason I would die young. I told Nico about my symptoms and he was like; “I hope for you that it isn’t appendicitis, one of my uncles died from it, even my dad had it too but he was lucky and had a surgery before it’s too late. I guess it runs in my family from my dad side. What the odds that you have it too, eh?”.

His comment didn’t make me feel any better, mentally nor tummy-ly. I took it easy that Saturday; stayed at home, ate healthy food, tried to be Zen and all that jazz. Hoped that my tummy ache would get better, but it didn’t.

Sunday morning was worse, so I went to see a doctor. I told her that I had been having excruciating pain on my lower right abdomen, right next to my belly button since Friday evening. And her first reaction was squeezing down my belly and asked me if it hurts. Cheesus, it hurts even without her trying to squeeze the life out of me. After a long interview about my symptoms, some more squeezing, an extensive review of my diet habit, and more squeezing, the doctor came up with a verdict: “you might have an Appendicitis” …

She sent me to the ER to undergo a further examination. First, I had to get a blood test. The thing is, I am one of those unlucky fairies of the world with extremely fine veins. So fine, they are impossible to poke. I mean, phlebotomists can locate it, but it seems to disappear when a needle penetrates my skin. I call it the Houdini veins. I told the nurse that I am a difficult case when it comes to blood drawing. She told me not to worry and that they are extremely experienced. Then nurse #1 came to collect my blood. 

#1 put a tourniquet (tied) my right upper arm because I am a righty and asked me to clench my wrist. Then proceed the normal procedure; tried to draw my blood from the inside part of my right elbow. The first try didn’t work. The second try was on my right wrist, didn’t work either. Well, third time the charm, right? Wrong! She made her third attempts on my inside part of my left elbow and her syringe came out dry. #1 failed.

#1 then sent #2. Looking at the color of their uniform, #2 seemed to outrank #1. I felt hopeful, I thought #2 could do better. I also told her that it only baby needles ever worked for my Houdini veins. She said she would not need it. She failed to understand that she might not needed it, but my veins did. 
#2 made her attempts. First attempt was on the inside of my left elbow, and it didn’t work. Then on my left wrist, then back to my right arm wrist. Then, she was frustrated. If she was frustrated, how about me?? Then she brought me a warmed blanket to put around my both arms, she said it would help to make my veins pop up. 

Oh, did I tell you that I needed to have an Intravenous fluid (IV) administered into my body too? Well, so far we haven’t succeeded to administer anything, thanks to my Houdini veins.

After 15 minutes being wrapped in a warmed blanket like a hot burrito, #2 came back and made another attempt. One on my outer part of my right arm near my elbow, which failed miserably, a few on the back of my hands, then back to my left arm. I gradually lost my cool on each attempt. #2 gave up and left me with bandages, marking the spots where she made her attempts, covering my hematomas.

Then #3 came. #3 seemed to be the most senior of them all. He looked poised and confident. He tried to reassure me that all would be okay.

I shared the room with a middle-aged couple, the husband was having his intravenous antibiotic for his severe rash. I could see the pity look from their face. They seemed to forget about their problem and I could see a growing worry on their face when they saw #3 came to see me.

#3 was smooth yet persistent. Each attempt became harder and harder to bear. Left arm, right arm, back to left wrist then right wrist. I involuntarily winced and started to weep. Tears ran down my cheeks uncontrollably without my permission. I acted tough as much as I could, but at a certain point I could no longer mask how my body responded to every puncture. Yet, I continued to being cooperative. 
The middle-aged couple couldn’t hide their empathy any longer. They tried to calm me down, saying that it would be okay. They seemed really concern about me. The wife even tried to hold my hand and pat my head. If you think about it, it was just a blood drawing procedure. An unsuccessful one. #3 finally finally decided that I was over-phlebotomized, and stopped the venipuncture procedure to draw my blood.

He then did this brilliant maneuver as his last attempt to draw my blood and it worked!! Why didn’t we do this remarkable blood drawing maneuver since the beginning, for pickle sake?!!! He let my right arm hang down, then made a tiny incision on the tip of my middle finger and started to massage the finger while taping the blood that came out of it into a vial. He was literally milking my blood out of my middle finger, like a farmer milking his cow’s udder. I moo-ed a little bit. LoL.. We both laughed. In about a minute or two, two vials were filled. He also managed to insert a peripheral venous catheter for intravenous fluid. Mission accomplished. Hoorah!
I had to go home with venous catheter attached to my arm for the MRI test the next day. Have you ever had an MRI test? It was my first MRI so I didn't know what to expect. A polite technician helped me prepare before going into the tube of terror. She strapped me down, both legs and arms. Good call. I am claustrophobic so suddenly I could lose any clue on how to remain motionless when I am in a tight space.  She injected me (thru the said catheter) with a dye chemical fluid to improve the MRI imaging and that chemical tasted nasty. I could feel the fluid ran through my veins, it felt warm-ish. Then there was this pungent chemical odour came out from my body, I could even taste it in my mouth when I breath. It was probably the worst haleine I ever had.

The doctor came to check up on me (read: to check if I was well strapped down. I was). She explained to me what were about to happen and how an MRI is done. I didn't quite understand what she was saying. My brain was fogged up with the smell of the dye fluid in my blood. All I know was she was saying that everything about MRI is completely save. Yet, she ran to a bunker made out of thick glass in Egypt next door before pressing the freakin' button. Left me all alone, strapped down, helpless, and stinky. And to complete the distress, I had to follow her instruction over the PA on breathing while this giant metal thing scan my body up and down on my torso area. It went on and on. For all I knew, the doctor and the tech were discussing and deciding which body part to harvest and sell on the black market. 

After the painful blood draw, an ultrasound checkup, and an MRI checkup, the doctor was convinced enough to say that it wasn’t appendicitis. She casually said that I just 
blew a cyst, and my body would heal itself. And I was like:

Cyst??... what cyst????

Anyway, she sent me home and told me to take a rest. I had no further information on my mystery cyst-ery. The doctor said busted cysts are pretty common and there’s nothing to worry about unless I got other symptoms. I had a mixed emotion about how it’s all turned out. I mean, I was happy that there was nothing serious, I was also surprised that I had busted a cyst, fig, I was surprised to have a cyst at all. But mostly I was disappointed that after all those hematomas and unsuccessful blood draw attempts, I didn’t have any badass health-related story to brag about because apparently busted cysts are as normal as farting.