I've always had a bit of a thing about needles and by 'a bit of a thing', I mean I am completely utterly horribly terrified of them.
I've had this needle phobia for as long as I can remember and, to be honest, there is no reason for it. I didn't have some sort of traumatic experience involving needles when I was a child and no one ever told me they were horrible painful things. In fact, I can only ever remember people telling me that they wouldn't hut me.
So why am I so frightened of them? What could have convinced me, as a small child, that needles were going bring unimaginable pain?
Well, I think I figured it out.
You see, I was a pretty cluey kind of kid. I was able to pick up things that my parents and teacher's weren't telling me by their body language and tone of voice. You know that look you give another adult in the room when you think you're being all sneaky with a kid? I would have seen that and caught you out. Now, what does this have to do with me getting needles? Let me take you back to the very first time I can remember getting a needle.
I was a small child living at Ayers Rock in the Northern Territory when my mum told my brother and I that we were going to go the hospital to get our needles. I can remember asking her if it would hurt, and I can remember her replying that it wouldn't hurt...I just had to be brave.
Instantly my little brain went into overdrive.
Question: if needles didn't hurt then why would I need to be brave?
Conclusion: Needles do hurt and your mum is lying to you.
I drew my conclusions pretty quickly and convinced myself that needles must be horrible indeed if I needed to be brave to get them. I tried pretending to be asleep in the back of the ambulance in order to try and avoid getting my shots...but my mum wasn't having any of my nonsense and dragged me out.
(Yeah, I rode around in an ambulance as a kid because my father was a paramedic - making me 10% cooler than you.)
My brother calmly got his shots. I screamed and wailed and carried on.
The fear stuck with me. It didn't help that every needle I got from that point on hurt me. It also didn't help that most needles I got from that point on were usually in my mouth and linked to dental surgery - which is always, always painful and really scary.
By the time I was a teenager my fear was deeply ingrained in my soul. Try as I might, and I did from time to time try and face my fears by getting flu shots, I always ended up in tears and shaking with terror.
A few years ago I was unfortunate enough to get food poisoning from something and I spent hours throwing up. Yucky and dehydrating. I ended up down at a 24 hour medical center where they decided to inject me with something to stop me vomiting. It was the first time in my life when I didn't have the strength to try and argue my way out of a needle. I simply lay on a stretcher whimpering while the nurse stuck a needle into my hip.
That particular needle had hurt a tinsy tiny bit...but not much. It helped to alleviate my fears and I started to think that maybe I could get over this whole needle thing after all. Then last year I had another set back when I got a flu shot. The nurse gave me what was possibly the most insanely painful needle of my life. I'm not sure if she stuck it in my muscle or something, but I was in tears from pain instead of fear and my arm swelled and the injection site turned black and purple as it bruised.
My fear returned like an unwanted visitor.
Imagine my horror when this year I was warned by my OS that the knee procedure I would be undergoing would require at least one...blood harvest.
I had my blood harvested last week. It was like a blood test but they whisked my blood off to a lab to defrost my knee cells. I tried to be brave but I did end up shedding a few tears and snapping horribly at my husband in my fear and panic. Honestly, the blood-harvesting was not that bad. It hurt a little bit but not much. It convinced me, yet again, that maybe needles weren't that bad.
Hey, the blood harvesting was over - I could afford to relax a little bit and entertain thoughts that I could get over this needle thing.
Then my phone rang today with an all too familiar number - the lab that was defrosting my knee cells. My heart began to beat faster. When I opened it and heard the voice of Kurt ('the blood harvester') it began to beat harder. When the first thing he said to me was, "Lena, I hate to have to phone you, but..." my heart almost stopped.
I knew what was coming. I knew that life wouldn't just let me pretend that I was getting over my fear of needles. Oh no, life had to test me. That's what life does. Life is an asshole.
"Unfortunately we need some more of your blood. I feel bad because I know how...stressful...you find it, but your cells are really hungry - Which is good because it means they're healthy! - and they've had all your blood and they need more."
I assured Kurt that I was fine with more blood being taken. I'm even going to go and get my blood harvested without my husband.
I'm not going to cry. I'm not going to flinch. I'm not going to picture my knee cells as miniature vampires waiting to suck my life blood.
I'm going to be brave...because needles don't hurt.