You Can’t Get Blood From a Stone (or can you?)

Wrecked Veins

Not long into my chemotherapy, the chemo nurse was struggling to get an IV into my arm. I wasn’t surprised because my visits to the lab for regular bloodwork were one of the most daunting things I faced. The reason was my small and rolly veins. The veins looked easy but the second something pointy came near, they would roll into hiding. Every time, three jabs before it worked. So on this particular day when my  nurse was disappointed with her efforts, she looked me in the eye and said, “well Trudy, I see we are doing what we do best around here, wrecking veins.” And we laughed.

Now, that was 13 years ago and since that time the only veins that work, on the arm I can use, are not my arm but my hand. So every time the occasion arises, I do my little song and dance. It goes something like this:

“I want you to know that I have very tricky veins so when it doesn’t work the first time, or the second, I’m used to it. So don’t get nervous, as it usually works on the third try. It is better to use my hand.”

One of two things happen:

1:-) “I’m actually good at this,” the lab tech says confidently. “And we won’t need to use your hand.”

You already know what happens, and he or she feels pretty sheepish when they finally call for the one with just the right touch.

2:-) “I have the perfect solution,” says the tech I love to get at my chair.  “We have a tech who is a genius and she will get it on the first try. I will go get her.” Let me note that the genius does get it on the first try and as she surveys my veins she reaches for the child’s butterfly and inserts it deftly into my hand.

This is how it always goes until today.

I was at my favourite small lab in Ottawa, and having used their fantastic app, I knew beforehand that at 10:30 there was no wait time. (I was dropping in) I quickly drove over, parked, and walked in seven minutes later. The efficient and warm human behind the desk took what she needed and invited me to take a seat before she disappeared. It didn’t take me long to realize that not only was she handling the desk, but she was the lab tech too. Clearly, something had happened that she was working solo.

And then my mind started making up stories. Maybe I should leave, a tech doubling as an admin did not engender confidence in me. I was thinking about imminent torture. Ok, a slight exaggeration. However, during my ruminations, she came out and called me in.

And I discovered a new third option:

I calmly and pleasantly gave my usual speech and she took a brief glance and said “do you mind if I take my own look first?” No one had ever asked that question.

“Sure,” I said. And in her warm, yet, efficient manner, she found a vein in my arm and said, “I know this will work.”

I did point out the fading bruise, close to where she pointed, from the previous week.

“Ah,” she said, “finding just the right spot, is the secret.”

For the first time in 13 years, it looked like she was taking blood from a stone. I was totally astonished and told her so. I thanked her for this surprise and for her incredibly efficient handling of both the desk and the lab chair. She was amazing! She was a genius.

I then thought with chagrin about my earlier bias as I now re-looked at this superstar. It was obvious that a small lab, where they needed to open with one staff, required the best.  That special person, who was flying solo, handled it all with efficiency, skill,  calm and good cheer. No rushing. No sighing or complaining. It was all seamless. And the results were online a few hours later.

This was a highlight of my day. To be attended to by this woman felt like a bonus, as I said thanks and walked out the door.

We all know them,  have met them, worked with them, and lived with them. Stranded on a desert island we would like them to be there. It’s not just their resourcefulness and getting the job done but it is also their kindness and good cheer. They make life a little better for anyone who crosses their path, no matter where they land.

Gratitude requires noticing, and paying attention, otherwise, our life passes by in a blur. Such a simple ordinary thing to do – blood tests. And yet, today, I was the beneficiary, of about five moments of extraordinary care by a human being, who if asked, would say something like “I was just doing my job.”

For me, this young unknown woman in the lab was a bonus this morning.

A Poem

Yes   – William Stafford

It could happen any time, tornado, earthquake, Armageddon.  It could happen. or sunshine, love, salvation.

It could, you know.  That’s why we wake and look out—no guarantees

in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning, like right now, like noon, like evening.




1:) The photos today are all recently taken by Gottfried on Gabriola Island. Thank you.

2:) The fMRI I did last week is part of a Neuro-Cognitive Brain Mapping research study from the University of Ottawa. The two cohorts are 18-30-year-olds and my vintage, 60 to 80. I thought it would be interesting to be part of it and it was. The paper will be ready in February.

3:) As always I thank you for coming by here. May you have a lovely last Sept and first Oct weekend.

4:) See you in October. All the best, Trudy

11 replies
  1. Carol+Ingells
    Carol+Ingells says:

    Ah, Trudy, such beauty in your story, such beauty in Gottfried’s pictures! Thank you. I needed the uplift tonight. Daughter Melissa finishes her job at WI Public Radio on Friday. Then she “launches out into the deep”, selling her house, moving to MI, finding a new home somewhere, she knows not where yet. She’s quite alone except for her mother. I’m alternatively optimistic and hopeful, then scared to death and so wishing I could “save” her, which of course I can’t. Anyway, thank you, dear lady.

    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Thank you dear Carol. My Mother was still worrying about me when she was 100 and I was 74, so I get it. It never ends. I call it caring. ❤️Your beautiful daughter will have adventures and tales to regale you with. May she have safe travels. And may you not lose too much sleep. Warm and gentle hugs. Trudy

    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Thank you for your sweet note Sabine. It must be beautiful where you live in Germany. I’m sure you enjoy the autumn colours. And yes one jab was celebratory. 😊trudy

    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Thanks dear Janice. As a poet you know all about paying attention, and you know all about gratitude. You make the world better. As always, Trudy🙏🏻

  2. Purdy Mackenzie
    Purdy Mackenzie says:

    A simple message of gratitude that I am here to read your blog. Know that I look forward to Wednesdays to see what little gem – reminder – about living in the now, welcoming whatever arises and how being kind can have such an impact on our daily life. Thank you Trudy; sending best wishes and greetings to you.

    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Ah! Dear Purdy. Thank you for such a heart warming greeting. I think of you cycling in the Rockies, which must be stunning right now. I love, “look forward to Wednesdays.” You made my day. Warmly, Trudy

  3. Diane
    Diane says:

    Thank you for your beautiful story Trudy! It’s a wonderful reminder to always remain open to what (good) might happen in the next moment… and to be grateful for every moment, no matter what we think it might bring.

    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful reading of my scribbles Diane. And although we aren’t, nor should we be, grateful for everything, there is always something to be grateful for every single day. Warmly, trudy

  4. Kathryn
    Kathryn says:

    Dear Trudy

    Still playing catch up. Touching story that you convey so well.
    Thank you for being you. Lovely images from Gottfried


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