The best needle ever

I had blood drawn this morning. As a person terrified of needles, this is an  incredibly difficult procedure for me. I once donated platelets for a former student at Sloan-Kettering in New York, and the nurse who took care of me told my wife that in her twenty-five years of drawing blood, I was her worst patient ever.

This is serious stuff for me.


I always attempt to explain my situation to the person drawing my blood so that they can be prepared for my nervousness, panic and potential for passing out.

Today’s nurse was a young guy named Dave. He may have been the first male nurse to ever draw my blood. I sat down in the chair, signed the paperwork and said, “I just want you to know that this is hard for me. I’m allergic to bees. Very badly allergic. I’ve nearly died more than once and there’s always a lot of needles involved after the sting.”

I opened my mouth to continue explaining but he stopped me. “So the PTSD really kicks in for you when you have to get stuck. I understand. If I was allergic to bees and got jammed with needles every time I got stung and nearly died, I’d hate them, too. I get it, man.”

As someone who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder for more than a decade following an armed robbery, I cannot tell you how good it felt to know that the person about to stick me with a needle understand my irrational but very real fear.

There was no eye rolling. No snickering about the big, strong guy afraid of a tiny, little needle. No suggestion that it might be time to overcome this silly fear. No assurances that it’ll just be a quick pinch and nothing more. No unending series of questions about my wife and daughter and career designed to distract me from the needle. No offer to hold my hand.

Just a guy who looked me in the eyes and said, “Yes, it makes sense that you are afraid. I get it. And there’s nothing wrong with it. Now let’s do this thing together.”

And you know what?

For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel the needle going in.

I’m not sure if this was a coincidence or if Dave had something to do with it, but I have never been more relaxed while sitting in one of those chairs.

For the first time in my life, it really was over before I knew it.

I told Dave that he will be the only one to ever draw blood from me again.

He laughed.

I assured him that I was serious.

I thanked him for making what should have been the worst part of my day a piece of cake.

He smiled, but I don’t think he fully understood the enormity of what he did for me today.

I’m thinking about bringing him lunch.