When people are asked to list their favorite things, it’s easy to come up with the common ones:
Long walks on the beach.
Raindrops on roses.
Whiskers on kittens.
Nope, you didn’t read it wrong. Who doesn’t love to walk into one of ICO’s labs and shove a 21-gauge needle, bevel up, into your friend’s veins?
I know I do.
In truth, like any sane person, the idea of Injections Lab is one that made me contemplate telling Dr. Keith and Dr. Wyles that I in fact don’t possess any veins and therefore could not participate in such a lab. However I decided since they both know more about anatomy than I ever will, I had to muster up any courage I had and face my fear head on.
The first lab was intramuscular injections and it was promising. Having “donned” my gloves like a boss, I filled up my syringe with sterile saline and tapped for bubbles (just like in the movies). I squirted that baby so a stream shot out into the air, and then was gently reminded to not walk around with an exposed needle, pointing straight up.
With alarming confidence, I did literally everything wrong on the fake arm: I poked the needle too high, too hard, and at the wrong angle, switched from my right hand to my left hand to push the syringe, and then capped the needle with both hands–forgetting the one-hand method that we’d been taught literally seconds earlier. But I was so confident, and the fake arm didn’t seem to mind.
With what I can imagine was with great trepidation, my partner Stephanie let me do three injections on her actual arm. Blind trust is a virtue that you rarely get to see these days. Especially when you come at people with a needle. But anything that ends with a Spiderman Band-Aid is surely worth it.
The next week was more terrifying, because I couldn’t find any Spiderman Band-Aids and this time there was blood involved. Intravenous injections are important for optometry because they are used diagnostically for Fluorescein angiography to manage several retinal diseases. With the ever-changing face of optometry and several states gaining legislation to perform these injections, it is an important skill to have. But let me stress to you again: I couldn’t find a single Spiderman Band-Aid and this time there was blood involved!
Here’s the trick, ladies and gentleman. Find the comforting and dulcet voice of Christopher Banna, colleague/phlebotomist/award-winning painter. After two attempts, have him tie your tourniquet (because let’s face it, have you seen his biceps?). He’ll tie it tighter than you with his eyes closed and one hand behind his back. Keep a straight face when he says you did everything right, even though you’ve now stabbed your partner three times and have yet to hit a vein. Then switch to the other arm, and let the frustration take over.
Slap your partner (on the arm if you can, but face is acceptable) until a vein jumps out at you. Hold that butterfly contraption deftly in your hand, and at this point, if you are like me, it might be easier to hit a vein with your eyes closed. Eventually blood will “flash” into your tubing, and even though you were expecting it, don’t be alarmed. You are allowed to scream, but you can tell they don’t like it. Pull off the tourniquet and feign concern for your friend. Put on the gauze and the painfully boring tan Band-Aid.
Throw everything, including your dignity, into the BioHazard bin. Take a lollipop.
The final week was the eye injections.
When you signed up for this profession, you thought it was all “one or two?” didn’t you?
In truth, it’s not the needles that hurt, or even a fear of squirting the needle so close to the cornea. It’s the anticipation. It’s watching the people in front of you squirm. It’s chatting with Matt Weinheimer and pretending you aren’t staring at the bloody growth taking over his limbus. It’s hearing the metal clamp down on your lid. It’s the words “Look at that beautiful bleb!” It’s those baby tweezers for pinching the conjunctiva. My conjunctiva doesn’t like to be tented.
But you get two drops of anesthetic; three heads hover over your own to make sure nothing bad happens; six hands are holding gauze, tweezers, clamps, and alcohol (swabs, not drinks); and before you know it, one hand presses on the syringe, and it’s over.
Come prepared to tell a few jokes to calm everyone down (Why does Snoop Dogg have an umbrella? Fo drizzle!) and sit down if you feel faint. Don’t let people scare you, unless it’s me. Appreciate that you are now part of an exclusive and elite crew that Chris Banna is a member of. Take at least one alarming photo to send to your mother, without a caption.
In the end, if you are lucky enough to have a partner like Stephanie, you’ll end up giving her a sub-conjunctival hemorrhage and you come out without a scratch.
May the odds be ever in your favor.