Butterflies and Tourniquets
“You’re crazy!” That’s what I said when she suggested this… You don’t just go around sticking needles in people, much less your own mom.
“You’ll be fine, I’ll tell you what to do,” she insisted. My mom is a Medical Lab Technician, but she is also one of the best in the lab at drawing blood.
“But that’s crazy! What if I stab your arm off?!” I was nervous already.
“You won’t. We’ll use a butterfly needle. I’ll be fine; it doesn’t bother me,” she said as convincingly as she could.
“You’re a crazy person…” I said, but then hesitantly admitted, “But I honestly can’t think of anything better to do…”
During the following days, my mom brought home all of the things needed for a blood draw: tourniquets, needles, tubes, alcohol pads, cotton balls, and band-aids. She packed all of these things into a biohazard bag and left them on the table, so all day I had to look at them. They were taunting me, it seemed, jumping into my stomach and swirling around to make me ill.
The time finally came to do the draw. My mom took all of the equipment out of the biohazard bag and laid it out on the dining room table. She explained, “You’re only doing this once. I’ll explain it and then you’ll do it. First, take the tourniquet and tie it around my arm here,” she said pointing about three inches up from her elbow. “Here, tie it on there.”
I grabbed the neon orange elastic strip and tried tying it around her arm. “Just tuck one end underneath, and leave a tail sticking out,” she instructed. I did as she said: wrapped the tourniquet around her arm, criss-crossed the ends and tucked one side under.
She said, “Okay, now that’s a bit too loose; try again.” I pulled on the little tail to release the tourniquet and tried to retie it. My mom stopped me and said to try to keep it flat because a twisted tourniquet hurts. So I untwisted it and tried again, pulling tighter this time. Apparently, I finally got it right, because she said, “Okay, good. Now feel the vein.” I did, and then she took the tourniquet off.
“Then, you take an alcohol pad and clean the area where you’ll be drawing,” she said, opening the small paper pouch and cleaning the underside of her elbow with the pad. “Then take the needle, and, do you see the beveled end? Do you see how there is a hole on one side? That open part faces up, or else it will suction to the bottom of the vein.
“Make sure you put it in following the direction of the vein; don’t go sideways and stab through it.” My mom really knows how to put someone at ease.
She continued, “Then, once you’re in, you only have push the needle in a little bit, and the natural suction will pull the blood in just a little bit. When you see the blood go in, push this tube into the end here.” She was pointing to the contraption at the end of the tube connected to the needle. It has a sharp point to puncture the seal on a purple glass tube. The puncturing of the seal creates a vacuum that then pulls the blood into the glass tube.
“Just don’t pull it out after you see the blood go into the needle. If you pull it out with the tourniquet on, blood will squirt out.”
“MOM!” I exclaimed. Did she really have to say that? I could just see it: blood would shoot from my mother’s arm, and I would be scarred for life.
“Okay, it won’t squirt; it will run down my arm. But after you connect the tube, pull the tail on the tourniquet and just let it drop, grab a cotton ball, and put it over the needle as you pull it out. Okay?”
I got a bit faint. “Okay.”
“Are you ready?”
“I’m gonna die! Oh man…” I said as I tied the tourniquet around her arm.
“Okay, now clean it off.” I grabbed a new alcohol pad, and swiped over and around the large blue vein. “Now grab the needle…”
I picked it up and looked closely to be sure the beveled side was up. The butterfly needle is the smallest available, and has two blue wings to hold on to that make it look more like a dragonfly than a butterfly.
My mother instructed, “Now take the plastic cover off the needle. Just pull it off.” I did.
“What if I can’t do it?”
“What do you mean?”
I explained, “What if it won’t go through?”
“Then you have to push harder. That’s the hardest part: knowing how to push hard enough to break the skin, but not hard enough that you go straight through the vein. Okay, now hold the side of the needle.”
“With both hands?” I asked.
“No, just one. Now do it.”
Shaking, and with just one hand, I gently pushed the needle into the vein as my mom said, “Go, go, go… Okay.”
With her free hand, my mom pushed the glass tube so it connected with the tube from the needle, and it filled with deep red blood.
I took the tourniquet off and dropped it on the floor so I could grab a cotton ball. I held it on the needle as I drew it out.
“Okay,” said my mom, “Now hold the yellow part of the needle where your fingers are, and push it up to cover the needle. Push it until it clicks.” I did.
She just had to ask, “So, did you enjoy the feeling of a needle piercing skin? You couldn’t even tell could you?” She was right; it went in so smoothly that there was no resistance.
“Good draw, Devastasha!”
“Thanks. I almost cried, you know?”
It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I guess you can just go around sticking needles in people—it’s not that big of a deal—but only if you do it for a living.