Blood on My Hands

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My blood glucose monitoring routine’s pretty routine (although probably not textbook). I unzip my kit and fold it open. On the left is my lancet pen (an Accu-Chek Multiclix), the test strips (FreeStyle, which go with the CozMonitor glucose monitor that piggybacks on my insulin pump), and the tiny FreeStyle Flash monitor I use if I’m not wearing my pump. On the right is a zippered pouch with an extra glucose monitor battery, a couple of extra lancet drums, and usually an AAA battery for my insulin pump. Oh, and there’s the piece of paper towel or tissue folded to about two inches square, on which are dried streaks and drops of dried blood from the previous few days of monitoring.

As far as the finger-sticking goes, I don’t use alcohol swabs, and also don’t wash my hands beforehand, unless I’ve had something supersweet get on my fingers. I stick my finger with the lancet, squeeze up the requisite amount of blood, nudge my finger up to the test strip, and wait for the “we got the blood” tune to play on my monitor; then I wait for the reading.

Pretty simple. To close, I dab excess blood on the tissue and often get most of it off (always a wee bit of dried blood on a fingertip somewhere), zip up the kit, and voila! No more checking for another three or four hours.

Yet I wonder about any of you who might be hemophobic (afraid of blood)—either mildly or severely. What do you do? Or what about those of you with aichmophobia—the fear of needles? I suppose it’s possible, too (though probably rare) that you could have both hemophobia and aichmophobia, a combination I’d guess would make controlling your blood glucose a most onerous task.

If afflicted with either of these phobias, let me ask you: How did you learn to deal with it? Or have you been able to? And what alternatives are available? I also wonder about the different monitoring techniques—which ones work and which don’t. For example, for the person who fears needles, does the lancet device that has hidden needles—such as the drum device I use that never lets me see the lancet—still, umm, get under your skin? Or, for insulin pumpers, does an infusion-site applicator such as the one I use, which has a hidden, springloaded needle that places the canula, work without causing the freak-out to set in?I have a friend who’s mildly hemophobic. He doesn’t have diabetes, but, as you may have gathered, I do. So, when we hang out, I’ve had to make it a habit to check my blood glucose in the next room. Early into my life with Type 1 diabetes, my wife and I were out at dinner with him and his wife—it was our first time with them after my diagnosis, so much of the talk was about my newfound pancreatic unglory.

Before the meal came out, I prepared to check my blood glucose. I didn’t think to ask if checking my blood glucose at the table would bother him; heretofore I’d never had cause to witness his fear of blood, nor had he mentioned it. So how was I to know? I was excited, actually, to share the experience, because coaxing this drop of blood from my finger and having the test strip suck it up to give me a reading within five seconds was new and rather cool. Here I was, a newly-diagnosed person with diabetes and dedicated to getting off on the right foot with my self-management, and you, too, could share in all that this new world had to offer me.

As I started to draw blood and apply it to the test strip, however, my wife noticed our friend turning even paler than normal. He had to excuse himself because he felt as if he might pass out. While he was gone—off to the restroom—we learned from his wife that he can’t deal with other people’s blood, even hers. If he cuts himself, he’ll do OK with the patching up, she said, but blood from someone else would lead to the situation we’d just witnessed (the situation I’d caused—me and my stupid diabetes).

How were we to know? My wife’s been best friends with this guy for a decade, and she had no idea this queasiness at the sight of blood was in his repertoire. Although I felt badly, initially, our relationship with this guy (and I’m withholding Steve’s name out of consideration of his feelings) is such that our concern for his well-being quickly morphed into making fun of his inability to handle seeing a pinhead’s worth of blood on my finger.

There was no need to diffuse the situation simply because of who our resident hemophobic was. No feelings were hurt. No real harm was done.

It does give me pause, though, to think about what other situations this kind of fear of blood, or an irrational fear of what someone might “catch” from having blood exposed and out in the air, in public, could lead to. Any of you have blood-glucose–checking stories to tell? If so, do share. Recruit your other diabetes friends. Ask around. Maybe there’s a book someone could write. You know, A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to My Blood Glucose Reading sort of thing.

I’d appreciate any anecdotes you may have: funny, or embarrassing, or whatever. I have several others…but I’ll probably save them for later blog entries because, well, I’m back here next week, too. Same time, same URL.

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