Kidney — TransplantLyfe


PTSD at the blood draw

Transplant Patient
August 16, 2022 in Kidney

Every time I'm called to do blood work at my transplant clinic, I'm secretly excited while also scared. 

It's an odd “dual feeling” - as a competitive individual, I crave rankings and numbers of all kinds, like: 

  • listing me against the norm
  • explaining symptoms I may have
  • and reading more about the possible reasons why some values may be up or down. 

So I do crave getting the results back. 

In fact, before patient portals were available, I would be that patient who terrorized the assistants and doctors to get my results back asap just to analyze the numbers myself and study them versus previous data.

However, the moment I sit down in the chair for Venopuncture, my mind is lost and my emotions are raw. 

I start freezing and shaking, and often tears fall. 

I'm reminded of my status as a chronic patient with a severe condition and I'm brought back to several other situations where I was sick and hospitalized. Memories of my diagnosis at 16 with T1D, my transplants, my pacemaker surgery and the times I had a difficult infection... 

I guess this is what people call PTSD - and I have tried to combat it by talking to the phlebotomist, thinking about other things, or studying my phone. 

But nothing helps.

These PTSD emotions last only a few moments, but they scar me for the rest of the day. 

What do YOU think about in these situations to distract your mind and focus on the positive?

1 - 11 of 11 Replies

  • hazzlerTransplant Patient

    It is nerve wracking for me as well and I am about to celebrate my 33rd kidneyversary. I chat with my phlebotomist and reassure myself that I have not felt any unusual symptoms recently. But it does blow up my day. My wife has come to realize that I am going to be out of sorts and is very nice about my paranoia. 😬 I envy those who are unaffected by the process. 🙂

    August 16, 2022
  • AliEm14Expert
    Transplant Patient

    working and living in the transplant space, I’m usually very aware of my chronic status but I agree it hits different when you’re confronted with the real nature of it. For me it’s ultrasounds. Labs and MRI’s I’m totally fine but ultrasounds do it for me every time. I also just passed my anniversary, which surprisingly hit me really hard.

    In the moment I try to explain to any medical personnel what’s going on. I try to surround each medical procedure with a song and dance break, literally moving emotion out of my body and singing at the top of my lungs (usually after, though I have been known to sing during scans and do a little shimmy on the table). Giving myself time to really feel the extent of my emotion before and after helps too. Yes it’s hard, and I can do hard things. It’s ok to cry, it’s ok that my brain is telling me this isn’t safe. And then just breathing. I also find making eye contact with myself using the selfie function on my phone helps, like a reminder to me that I’ve got me and my wiser, adult self can be there with the traumatized part of me

    August 16, 2022
  • Sanj77Transplant Patient

    I've literally today jsut had my bloods done for my regular post-transplant clinic and it is the thing I dred the most. I hate it. I hate the needle going in, the feeling of it hanging out of my arm and wondering if they'll get the vein the first time!

    I've just posted on my insta about this.

    I used to feel like a pin cushion when I was in hospital!

    November 25, 2022
  • ShelbycreatesExpert
    Transplant Patient

    I created a visualization-meditation to listen to on the way to getting my labs drawn. And yes, that definitely sounds like PTSD @Karin I feel like it’s the same for me too! I used to love graphing and charting out all my results and trying to figure out what was going on. If anyone wants the meditation, I have it here-

    November 28, 2022
  • HRB52Transplant Patient

    Prior to dialysis blood draws never bothered me, I usually watched the process. Now I can’t even watch getting a flu shot, much less watching blood draws.

    January 28, 2023
  • Care_massTransplant Patient

    After my ordeal with my failed pancreas - I have developed a pretty heavy panic towards blood draws. By the end of my 3 months of hospital stays and rejection, I had an order for immediate picc line insertion, bc my veins LOOKED reachable, but they were not - and every nurse thought they could get it, so no one would listen to me when I said I was a difficult poke. I've made friends with the local lB so we have a special procedure when I go in - and a dedicated nurse who listened to me. Things she better now, but the ptsd is real.

    January 28, 2023
  • AliEm14Expert
    Transplant Patient

    I feel this. I have a PICC placed for all my admissions for this reason. I get my labs done every month and while it usually takes a while, I can usually get through it. I go to a specific lab, see a designated tech and have pre-lab rituals I do every time, though. This last time I had to go to a different lab and thought I'd be fine. I ended up with such bad anxiety all day, and definitely will not go to any other lab/tech again if I can help it

    January 30, 2023
  • BrightLightTransplant Patient

    I am scheduled for a nerve block Monday and panicked the last time I had an IV line put in my mid arm. I need some help for prep tools to prepare me for the IV line done Monday. Any ideas, meditations, things to do while they input the line? It was so painful last time and never had this problem prior to transplant. The tacrolimus shakiness certainly increases the anxiety. Thanks for you ideas, BB

    February 1, 2023
  • KarinExpert
    Transplant Patient

    Thank you for sharing - it doesn’t get easier for me and w chronic mgmt it is a monthly experience that I don’t enjoy! I do want the data though - just not the feeling of being drained and pricked and poked

    February 2, 2023
  • AliEm14Expert
    Transplant Patient

    @BrightLight can you have someone with you? I always have to have a support person - and got documentation from my therapist that I have medical PTSD and need a support person with me at all times so even if it’s not policy I can have one.

    i try to do a lot of deep breathing before and during, I will use my other hand to squeeze a comb or an ice pack to help distract my brain from the sensation of the IV, I request them walk me through everything they’re doing, and to use all the tips and tricks for getting a start right off the bat. Also music, shows, anything to give my mind something else to focus on is helpful

    February 2, 2023
  • BrightLightTransplant Patient

    Thank you. I did not think of these ideas. I left a message for my therapist. I will also ask my daughter who is trained as a phlebotomist for some tips and tricks. Anything that will distract me and calm me down. I am already stressed and it is 4 days away! I will make a list of ideas and use them. I am also having a nerve block done Monday and nervous about this too. Thank you again, BrightLight

    February 2, 2023
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