Thursday, July 17, 2014

When a Routine Blood Donation Isn't

It's good to be back after however many months it's been. I just haven't felt like blogging. It's not that I lost interest, it's just that I didn't have alot to say or share. There is something that I would like to share, however, and that's why I'm back.

Back in May, I decided to participate in a blood drive. It was one of the many service projects going on around our church that weekend, and this was one that I knew I could do. Afterall I'd done it before and it was no big deal. Just before the needle was inserted, I remember thinking, "Holy crap, that's a huge needle." It turns out that the needles used for blood donations are much larger than those used by a lab for a routine blood draw. This wasn't the case the last time I donated blood. Mind you, I'm not afraid of needles and I'm not afraid of blood and no, I've never wanted to be a nurse or a doctor because I don't want to deal with other people's blood. (How's that for a run-on sentence?)

As the needle was inserted into my skin I said, "OWWW!" A shooting pain ran down my arm, but the phlebotomist assured me that I was OK. Unfortunately, I have a high tolerance for pain, so I just tend to grin and bear it. I kept thinking, "Bleed faster, bleed faster." Afterwards, there was minimal bruising and stinging, shooting pain, but I thought nothing of it.

Over the next few days, that stinging pain didn't go away. About 10 days later over Memorial Day weekend, I noticed some weakness in my forearm and hand. I brushed it off because I had too many other things to do: upcoming graduation, anniversary, another anniversary party, vacay in Tahoe. I didn't have time to deal with it. It's quite easy to live in denial.

Finally, at the end of June, I called my doctor. She proceeded to test my finger strength by inserting a piece of paper between each of my fingers. I was to squeeze my fingers together while she tried to pull the paper away. I failed. She did several resistance tests and I failed those, too. Thinking that I might have nerve damage, she called the neurology department and it just so happened that the chief of neurology was on phone duty that day. (A total God-thing) He said to send me on over and he could squeeze me in for a consult right away. He performed many of the same resistance tests that my primary doctor did, and decided I needed to undergo a nerve function test. While in his office, I learned that he had been a regular blood donor. It was from him that I learned that at some point, blood banks switched to larger needles because they enabled faster blood collection. Nice.

Right hand
Left hand
A week later, I went back for the nerve function test. The good news is that none of my nerves were damaged. PRAISE THE LORD! The bad news is, it still doesn't explain the stinging pain and weakness in my arm and hand. The neurologist referred me to occupational therapy to try and rebuild strength. I had my first OT appointment today. She used a hydraulic hand dynomometer to measure the force of my grip. My right hand measured 80 pounds per square inch. Pretty darn good for a middle-aged gal. My left hand? Only 2 pounds. I was sent home with high tech tools such as a rubber band, an exercise band, and a list of exercises to perform each day. I go back in 3 weeks for a progress check. All of this from a seemingly routine blood draw. As you can see from the pictures, I can't fully squeeze my left hand and make a fist, nor can I flex my left arm muscles.
So what's the moral of the story? I'm not sure there is one. I guess I've learned not to assume that a routine procedure is not without risk or potential complications. Ignorance can be painful. Sometimes we just get the short end of the stick. We get shafted; we get screwed over. Yes, the shooting pain hurts. Yes, the weakness in my arm and hand is frustrating. Yes, I'm annoyed. In spite of this, I put my hope and trust in the Lord for his perfect timing and will continue to praise Him in good times and bad.

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:10


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