This morning I had my blood drawn. Prior to a mastectomy and removal of 5 lymph nodes after being given a diagnosis of cancer in June 2015, I never had ANY problems with blood draws. Now... it's often a bit tricky.
Because the lymph nodes were removed from my right armpit, it's highly recommended that I never have a blood draw, IV, or even blood pressure taken on my right arm. There's other things too... no cuts, no infections, no sunburn, no bug bites, etc. Therefore, after a year of treatment, I feel like I know the veins in my left arm inside and out.
If they want to use the one on the left side of my elbow crease, I tell them it's sideways. (What that means, I have no idea... but they understand). I can tell by how my veins look on the top of my left hand if it's going to be easy or not... teeny-tiny, thin, completely flush with the skin veins are no bueno... Hulk-like veins popping out = we are good to go!
Before I go to have my blood drawn, this is what I do... based on my own experience of what works and what doesn't. Feel free to Google more if you need to!
1. Hydrate Before You Get Your Blood Drawn
I drink lots and lots of water. I want my veins to be big and juicy. On average I would say that I probably finish at least 2-3 liters (about 2-3 quarts or 8-12 cups) of water at least an hour before the appointment so that I'm well hydrated.
2. Take Deep Breaths in Your Belly Before You Get Your Blood Drawn
This helps to keep me relaxed and my blood vessels dilated... which means they are nice and open. If I need to do visualizations of the blood draw going well, then I do that too. Using a Flower Essence like Bach Rescue Remedy can help with this too.
3. Use a Hot Water Bottle on Your Arm Before You Get Your Blood Drawn
In the winter, morning blood draws that require fasting are challenging for me. If I drink hot water, wear lots of warm clothes, and keep myself warm, it goes better. Even though today it's over 90` F, I wore a sweater and scarf to keep myself warm in the air conditioning. I put a hot water bottle (not too hot! don't burn yourself!) on my elbow crease and/or top of my forearm to get those veins nice and warm.
4. Consider Exercising Before You Get Your Blood Drawn
As with the other suggestions, this gets my heart and blood pumping! Do the exercise that works for you, whether that's walking around the block before your appointment or busting out 10 push-ups in the room before they poke you.
5. When All Else Fails
If you're sitting there and they just cannot get blood out of a vein, you can talk a break. It's not a fight between you and a vampire! Make friends there... if they are being rude to you or saying "You have really bad veins," think about speaking up or giving feedback afterwards. (Why are people mean to other people?!? I have very little control over the length of my legs, let alone the goodness/badness of my veins!) Ask if there's someone more experienced; I always decline a student and ask for someone experienced to avoid extra pokes. If you've been traumatized in the past, consider doing some work around that trauma.
Go for a walk and come back. Drink a bunch of water, use a heating pad or hot water bottle, and/or put your arm below your heart. Pray (that's worked for me!), know it's not the end of the world, and do NOT let them use veins in your feet (unless you're in an emergent situation) because I've been told it's insanely painful and has a higher risk of getting infected. Having a port in the left side of my chest during the last year has allowed alternative health care providers to give me IVs and get blood draws when needed. I feel that it was an excellent decision to get the port. And if you're at increased risk of lymphedema, don't let anyone pressure or bully you into using the affected arm.
What Works for You?!
I'd love to hear your ideas and suggestions in the comments below. Got a horror story that you want to share so that other people can avoid a similar experience...? Go for it!
Lots of Love to You! xo