Stephanie the phlebotomist had a hoodie draped over her chair back that read: “I stab people for a living.” The font was cute, the syringe art was filled with a playful shade of red, she kept her back to me for the first few minutes and requested payment before the procedure. I got the impression she was frustrated by something outside of her control, some inconvenience was under her skin.
I’ve had days like that.
My dad drove me to this bloodwork because I don’t do so good with needles. I strongly believe that blood belongs inside of your skin. Blood is definitely a good thing, and I’m happy to talk about it. But it isn’t supposed to leave your body. So that’s why I don’t like needles.
I tell Stephanie as much, and reassure her that I have done good mental and physical preparation for her. She’s not too moved, I’m just part of her 9-5 grind still.
I mention that I have a second prescription, other than the OB panel, for more draws, does she have it? Yes. Well, evidently she hasn’t seen who or what practice prescribed it, otherwise she would not be this frosty with the patient.
A colleague calls for Dave. My dad’s name is Dave. Dad-Dave approaches the window and confirms that he’s here for his daughter. No, that was the wrong Dave. Stephanie and I are within earshot of this exchange, and Stephanie asks me what’s he so fussed about?
I tell her nonchalantly that he’s worried. Stephanie’s back remains turned to me. Stephanie practically scoffs, asks what he has to worry about, and returns to read my second prescription at the same time that she asks who Soniwala is, and what they ordered for me. I elaborate to say:
My dad’s allowed to worry, I’m pregnant with cancer.
I can see Stephanie freeze in my peripheral vision. She keeps her back to me and asks if its been confirmed. I stare at a packing box and relay my lump n bump story to her in a mock cheerful tone. Stephanie takes a long time to turn in her chair to face me as I speak. I imagined her jaw dropped, but then again, I was focusing on the box out in the hallway.
When I finished, Stephanie approached me shaking her head musing if my dad had any hair left at all.
“Oh, yep, lots, unlike me in a few months!” And I slapped my thigh.
I apologized for the dark humor casually, but Stephanie appreciated the joke. From then on we were a team keeping upbeat, discussing theme songs, “gotta get through this.” And thank goodness, too, because I got real sweaty, pale, and faint halfway through my extraction. *gags*
Standard procedure for successful blood work on me requires 24 hour notice to my veins, and hyper hydration. I was ready. I asked her how long I’d be sitting with my eyes closed, Stephanie sighed sadly and replied with “a bit.”
I didn’t count all the vials, because I started passing out on the fourth one. Stephanie was an expert coach and reassured me that we were doing good and almost done, and one more left. Did I need anything?
Yes, a juice, please.
I wanted my dad, but that was too many emotions.
Stephanie ordered a passing coworker to get her a glucose drink. My eyes were closed because the room was dissolving and I was slipping into a world that resembled Dali’s melting clocks, but I bet the lady recoiled at the sight of me before she hurried to help.
Stephanie offered cool towels, my dad, and made sure I had the brakes on my seat before leaving to get him for me. She was my ambassador, my champion, and teammate. Stephanie told me she was in it for the long haul with me. Genuine comradery was forged in that little office, and I’ll be sad if I never see her again.
I mentioned that this location was far away from my normal life, it was just the first availability. But then I asked her to look for my blog. So hi, Stephanie, I hope you think on our encounter as fondly as I do.
Who knows where this lump and bump will take me.
A screenwriter for a prime time drama could not have scripted our encounter more perfectly. We were silly and lighthearted, but the humor was dark, and we overcame our personal struggles to accomplish our task together. I’ll remember this moment for many years.
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