Don't Curse the Nurse!

Sharing support with stories & humor

What Are You Afraid of?

on October 16, 2015

0630 is “Go” time.

My IV bags are popped, consents are neatly stacked, and labs are printed and placed on charts.

Hyped up on all the sugar from a pastry and a Decaf with three tablespoons of sugar, I call my first patient back. He ambles toward me, late forty’s, average weight, antalgic gait – back pain can’t be too bad this morning. It is early.

Why the funny look on his face?

“Hi. I’m going to help you get ready.”

He sat on the edge of the stretcher, looked at me with woeful eyes and said, “I’m a little nauseous.”

“Sir, you just lay down right there. Go ahead. Don’t worry about your sneakers. Put your feet up on the bed. I’ll get you a cool washcloth.”

I included a stop to the clean supply room for an emesis pain.

He, I’m going to call him Joe, had sat up again and was looking around while talking to me at the same time.

“Miss, I have a needle phobia. It’s embarrassing, but I like pass out and stuff.”

Hmm, so I figure I gotta take my time. Make him feel comfortable. And, get the IV on the first stick.

I put Joe’s side rails up, placed the blood pressure on his arm and lowered the head of the bed until it was almost flat.

Anesthesia staff milled around, reviewing charts, interviewing patients. They were all within earshot. I charted until there was nothing else I could chart. My next step was to keep Joe distracted as I opened the IV kit.

“Joe, talk to me. About anything.”

Based on his response, he seemed more relaxed.

“Ah, let’s just get this over with.”

I made eye contact with him one last time before putting the tourniquet on.

“O.K. I’ll be real careful.”

I had just threaded the catheter off the needle and into a hand vein when I heard him say, “Oh, here we go.”

I look up to see that Joe’s face has gone white, and to my left, his heart rate going down quickly.


I connect his IV, open the fluids wide, drop the head of the bed and with my feet planted firmly, lean toward the entrance of the bay.

“Dr. C________, I need you in this bay. Now.”

In less than ten seconds she was at the head of the bed, her thumbs under his jaw, opening his airway.

I lassoed the nasal cannula around his head and set the dial–a- flow to 8 liters of oxygen a minute. As I was reaching for the flow meter, his EKG reading was inches from my face.

There was only one QRS wave on the screen.

If the heart rate was 60, there would have been five of them.


Phobias are real.

22 responses to “What Are You Afraid of?

  1. Victo Dolore says:

    I was feeling a bit bradycardic myself there… Yikes!

  2. I’m terrified of bees. I don’t pass out but go into berserker mode and smash everything within my reach.

  3. Christy says:

    Yes, they truly are. I’ve had too many nurses and doctors not take me seriously when I warn them “I’m a fainter, it’s fear-based” Sounds like you did the right things, laying him down , cold cloth. For me the best thing besides those two are do it quickly before my fear catches up with me and takes over and whatever you do, I don’t want to know/hear about anything you are doing. From one who has fainted more than 60 times in my lifetime.

    • Susan says:

      Now I remember you mentioning this. Getting all the immunizations for your travels must have been exhausting to go through. The drastic change in blood pressure and heart rate makes a phobia literally a life and death situation. I hope someone in addition to the medical person can be with you next time you are up for any labs, shots, or diagnostic testing.
      Miss you! Know you’re real busy,Thanks for being able to stop by here 🙂

  4. Needles were created by the devil and given to good people as torture weapons! I hate needles… if you can’t tell…

    • Susan says:

      I would put your head down OM, lower than your heart, so all the blood could rush to it, and help maintain your equilibrium 🙂 In all seriousness, I hope your heart rate stays over 40 when the needle hits!

  5. Beth says:

    At times I am surprised just who has a phobia. I know a very tall, nice looking doctor who is deathly afraid of roaches.

    • Susan says:

      Oh my gosh- this tidbit from you inspires me to a short story!

      • Beth says:

        Shall I tell you more? 😉

      • Susan says:

        Yes! Do tell!

      • Beth says:

        Sorry to be so late with my story. I just now saw your response.

        He’s a giant of a fella’ and is pretty impressive–even for a doctor. His baby girl happened to find a roach in her toy box and put it into a bottle with a lid on it. Then she took it downstairs to her daddy to show “Ralphie.” He had no sooner seen the bottle (and the roach) than he threw it and several books he had been holding and ran.
        Unfortunately, he had been standing with a group of coworkers, and everyone saw just how real his fobia was.

  6. Imay says:

    Danggg… Vasovagal response???

    • Susan says:

      Big time – and because I had barely touched him with a #22 guage, I’d say an adrenaline rush made that vagus nerve say, “Hell yeah, sure, I’ll slow things down. Watch this folks.”

      • Imay says:

        Oh my poor guy! Just the right time to bolus him with those fluids though!

      • Susan says:

        Yeah, the irony of getting an IV made him vagal and the one thing he needed most was fluids. The anesthesiologist that stepped over calmy gave him a strong under the jaw thrust painful enough to stimulate him and keep him from going completely out. In less than thirty seconds, his heart rate was back up to fifty. It was pretty surreal!

      • Imay says:

        Good job! 🙂 I’ll surely remember this story once I get into this kind of situation haha.

      • Susan says:

        Been off from work for three day – have thoroughly enjoyed the dialogue with you! Thank you for visiting!

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