There is nothing that makes me cringe more than the thought of a needle entering my vein. A needle into flesh is one thing. They suck, but they don’t make me pass out. Stick a needle through my flesh and into a vein …well. Shit. I’m getting woozy just thinking about it.
Ever since the age of 12, I have either passed out, or have come close to passing out during multiple blood tests over the years. I’m not talking about gallons or even pints of blood. I’m talking a single vial, which means that it is completely psychological – well, for the most part.
As a result, I can never donate to a blood bank. Despite feeling guilty, the fear of passing out overshadows everything out.
Most of the times I have passed came on the heels of having to fast the night before. Low blood sugar is to blame for this. In fact, I have passed out from low blood sugar on numerous occasions that didn’t involve a needle at all. Like in church, which isn’t nearly as embarrassing as having to stop someone from giving me oral sex as the swirling clouds of gray clouded my brain halfway through the act (or, in an hot tub on my honeymoon in an even more involved act).
Though passing out has been far and few between in recent years, whenever my doctor prescribes a blood test, I still cringe. When (if) I finally summon the courage to go, I make sure that I have juice and a granola bar ready to go the very second the needle leaves my vein – especially when fasting is involved.
I have also found another strategy that works during the act of blood renewal. I simply ask the nurse to talk to me the entire time to keep me distracted (though, I learned to always clarify that this does not mean talking about drawing blood. Talking about it only makes it worse!)
As I mentioned, I don’t always need blood drawn to pass out. The only surefire to avoid this is to 1.) eat breakfast first thing in the morning and 2.) always have a mid-morning snack within reach at all times. Though I try to keep my glove box stocked with back-ups, I usually forget to refill my backup supply when it runs out. Fortunately, my wife is pretty consistent at bringing along snacks for both the kids…and for me whenever we leave the house – especially in the morning.
Though I have only passed out a small handful of times after breakfast, there have been countless times that I entered what I call the “grey zone” within an hour or two after I eat. And even though I usually don’t pass out, getting lightheaded is a common occurrence and usually accompanied by a massive headache, which often leads to a migraine, which often leads to vomiting).
The peak of these experiences occurred around the ages of 12-17. On numerous occasions, I hopped into the shower before breakfast, only to be visited by shades of gray, at which point I would scramble out of the shower, just barely managing to put a towel on, mustering whatever energy I had left to yell out: “I NEED JUICE!”, at which point I would crawl toward my bedroom, with my junk exposed through my loosely wrapped towel and lie in bed, waiting for my mom to bring me a glass of orange juice. By the time she entered my room with juice in hand, I was too close to the brink of passing out to care that my junk was fully exposed. With barely enough strength to sit up, I would gulp my juice until I would break into a cold sweat and color filled my world once again.
And leave it to my family to immediately begin making fun of me for my distress mantra: “I NEED JUICE!” (because I had no shortage of people making fun of me at school). In fact, not only was my family making fun of me, they thought I was only doing it for attention, like my incessant sleep talking, or the time I woke up in the middle of the night with all of the lights on in my room and my bed positioned perfectly in the center of my room (moved from against the wall). For what it’s worth, I solemnly swear in this NON-FICTION essay that this is all truth.
The strangest incident occurred when I collapsed on the bathroom floor during one of my pre-breakfast showers. Upon seeing me passed out on the floor, she passed out, too, resulting in a minor neck injury that took months to recover from. Of course, nobody believed me that I passed out for real. They thought I was only faking it and that my mom, on the other hand, had passed out from fright, and that I was too driven by guilt to admit it.
And then there was that dreadful Easter Sunday in middle school in church. Though I had eaten breakfast, it consisted of nothing but Easter candy. During the sermon, I began to feel woozy and thought I was going to vomit. En route to the restroom, I was overcome by a wave of darkening gray and then collapsed in the vestibule. Next thing I knew, I was being held in the arms of a large bald man, who happened to be the father of a classmate.
On the heels of this holy encounter, my doctor sent me for a four-hour glucose tolerance test to determine my blood sugar level. This test consisted of not only fasting the night before, but consuming mass amounts of an orange-flavored glucose-syrup each hour of the test. I passed out during the first round, thus ending the test. The needle wasn’t even out of my arm yet. I woke up to the pungent smell or ammonia in my nostrils. At least I had a diagnosis: I was hyperglycemic.
So despite a medical reason for crying out: “I need juice!”, it still (till this day even) hasn’t stopped my family from making fun of me. Fortunately, despite a few close calls, it’s been several years since the last time I passed out.
But as long as there is no shortage of granola bars and juice on this planet, I know that in the end, I’m always going to be okay.