Noobs and Needles … Do Not Mix

Guess what I did today in school?! No, not a holiday ceramic project or muffin making or playtime with puppies. In medical school, you play with cooler things… That’s right, I played with those stabbers called needles, as sharp as icicles and ominous as dark cumulonimbus clouds.

Today, I had my procedural skills session in needle injections: IV (intravenous), SC (subcutaneous), and IM (intramuscular). First we played with dummy arms to practice IV injections. That wasn’t the shocker. The shocker was playing with my classmates. With a doctor nearby, my friends and I basically had to stab each other, never having stuck a needle in anyone. Medical schools make the students guinea pigs before we are let loose onto the wards. So here was the procedure: tourniquet the arm, find the delta of a vein on the hand, pull the skin taut, inject some lidocaine subcutaneously, wait a little, pull the skin taut again, stick in the IV catheter until you hit the vein (blood will pool), push the catheter in, release the tourniquet, and retract the needle.

Simple right? I would not be so sarcastic if I didn’t stumble somewhere.

1) Apparently, I have huge veins for an Asian girl. Both my friends had tiny veins that the needles probably wouldn’t even fit. When the tourniquet was applied and the venous blood pooled in my hands, I had bulging veins. I was pressing and squeezing my visible veins like they were plush toys! I have relatively small, thin hands, but those bulging and pumping veins made my hands look absolutely masculine! I learned two things about myself:  a) I exercise too much and b) there will be no problems injecting an IV line into my hand, ever… The only time a nurse had difficulty finding a vein was when I was donating blood; I was poked and prodded and it was not walk through the meadows.

2) When it came time for me to practice the injection, I was nervous. I was the lucky one to do it on the resident doctor. But lucky for me, he was a dude with big hands and veins. I followed the procedure diligently with the other resident doctor saying encouraging words. I could practically smell success inches from my nose … until I did something stupid (of course). I got the catheter threaded in. Instead of releasing the tourniquet first, I retracted the needle and released the catheter. You can imagine what happened next… Law of physics and biology tells you that when you apply the tourniquet, you are cutting off circulation and preventing blood flow. All the blood pooled up in his lower arms came rushing out the catheter. So yes, I made a bloody mess. The most I could do was apologize, laugh at myself, and pitifully clean away the blood on his hands with a tiny alcohol gauze. But with two doctors there (actually three, including the anesthesiologist who happened to witness the event), all they could do was shake their head and give themselves a figurative facepalm. Now I will forever remember the resident doctor saying to me, “Do not release the needle BEFORE the tourniquet!”

As a souvenir of today’s event, I have some pain and a hole in my hand. The school was nice enough to give us lidocaine, because patients do NOT get an anesthetic for an IV. Today, I got the anesthetic so my partner could fiddle under my skin. It was a strange feeling, not feeling the sharp needle but seeing it weave and enter my blue vein. Honestly, the more painful part of the day was ironically the lidocaine injection. Now that the anesthetic has worn off, I feel the slight bruise and ache. While driving back today, my hand hurt a tiny bit on the steering wheel. Typing on the computer elicits some pain. I’m not crippled or anything, just a little bruised from needle play.

Today’s text message from my sister: “Our school is bringing us therapeutic puppies to play with to lessen stress during finals!”

My response:  “Lol. I just played with neeedles!”

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