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Aug-27-2010 21:47printcomments

Blood Test Phobia Recalls Being Bullied as a Youth

Presumably many of our readers have had their own negative experiences that we can term mini-traumas. Hard stuff to simply dismiss.

Blood test phobia
Image courtesy: Student BMJ March 1999

(SALEM, Ore.) - This past week I was once again made to submit to a blood test at my local clinic. It was not a pretty sight, but I endured. Seeing blood has made me squeamish for most of my lifetime, but why?

It was initially rooted in my distant childhood. Yours truly was short of stature as a kid, and neighborhood bullies loved to pick on me. In characteristic fashion, I wouldn't yield easily but contronted my adversary.

Fighting wasn't my choice yet I was never loathe to defend myself. The frequent result: bloody noses.

Watching war films on the Technicolor screen often included bloody scenes. This was Hollywood's version of sensationalistic realism. I cringed instead.

It made me equate blood with violence. Both of them I grew to abhor.

In my early 40's one day I woke up with a backache. My thoughts were that I'd twisted some muscle overnight and it would heal in a few days. It intensified instead. How should I handle this sudden pain?

After a series of doctor visits, I finally learned that my kidney was playing havoc with my body. Several clinical tests followed. One involved injecting a colored dye into my bloodstream and checking if the kindeys were functioning on par.

It turned out that my left kidney had taken a permanent siesta and just quit. It would shortly poison my entire body (uremic poisoning) if not removed; thus surgery was required. Nearly three weeks of recovery stay was ordered.

During that time, IV needles remained in my arms to provide nutrition. They were changed and refilled regularly. One not-so-fine day the attending nurse made a huge snafu when she improperly reconnected the IV linkage.

In short order my blood was flowing from my arms onto my robe and bedsheet. A bloody mess was I. The instant recall of bloody noses and war movies came to the fore.

Several years later I sustained a bladder diverticulotomy. This meant that the bladder seemed to contain an unneeded extra pouch and it made no sense to retain it. In the aftermath of the operation I was fitted with a catheter to help ease the natural flow, but it backfired when blood and urine mingled. Once again the intrusion of unwelcomed blood had come to haunt me.

Recently, the Lab Unit folks (I affectionately call them the Dracula Patrol) found that my veins don't welcome intrusion but resist. This has resulted in needing several blood-line pokings before strking a friendly vein. Is this some new type of making me into a voodoo doll? Believe me, I don't find it very recreational.

All of the above are memory streams that flow into my vulnerable psyche. Thus, my adversion to viewing blood is rooted in past episodes that have gone awry.

Presumably many of our readers have had their own negative experiences that we can term mini-traumas. Hard stuff to simply dismiss. The best we can really hope for is to minimize their impact and find some means of distraction. Community Writer Barry Lee Coyne brings to our readers stories from his combined career of journalism and gerontology, and explains that these paths shaped his values. Lee Coyne once worked for The Civil Service Leader in NY State and covered the Legislature. He has also done features on mediation and arbitration, and believes in healthy skepticism. This writer-therapist often views the world as the masks of comedy and tragedy placed upon the scales of justice. For him, optimism inevitably wins. "Lyrical Lee" has traveled to 30 nations aboard and was once a press intern at the UN. His first published article was in The NY Daily News in '59, dealing with the need for integrity in public office.

He also launched the nation's first tele-conference on health education for shut-ins, created the Eldermentors project in VA to pair retirees with immigrant students needing role models, and was the main catalyst behind CCTV's "Public Public" panel show here in Salem. Lee received his BA in International Relations and an MSW in community organization. He currently serves as a member of Salem's Library Advisory Board. To send Lee an email, please write to this address:

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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