The Meaning of It All

© 2015 (all rights reserved)

An article from the April 2015 issue of THE STAR BEACON.

The Blood Draw

       The rain drizzled down upon the soggy wood deck as I drew the drapes aside. On the final morning of winter, the light was still dim at 8:30 AM. The green lawn of our backyard erupted to life as a dozen or so songbirds flitted from the ground beneath the ridge feeder, where they'd been pecking at the fallen seeds.
          My daily routine was disrupted. Usually, my first order of business is to sip a cup of black coffee and read through emails. I had fasted so that I could go get my blood drawn. Water was the only thing allowed.
          Doug wasn't up yet, so there was no sense in making a pot of coffee now. Usually, I'd brew it and then bask in the leisure of drinking that first flavorful cup of the black brew in front of my computer.
          Slate-colored and Oregon juncos populated the standing feeder next to the deck, protected beneath its wooden roof. A colorful varied thrush, hopping robin-like, flew out from beneath the cedar. Brave tiny brown-backed chickadees danced, chattering from perch to perch on the dangling seed tube feeder. The rain bothered none of them.
          My birds ... God's birds, actually ... are my passion, especially since I can't have a cat or a dog. At the kitchen window, where I had a perfect view from the sink, a rufous hummingbird hovered at the syrup feeder, sucking sugar-water through its long thin bill, its bright orange feathers glistening in rusty iridescence. In a flash he was gone.
          I measured out the coffee grounds and poured filtered water into the coffee maker, but didn't push the button. No sense having that delicious coffee just setting there and I couldn't have any.
          I carried my glass of water into the office and turned on my computer. As it booted, I opened the blinds in the big room. No hummers at that feeder, but there would be. Each day brought several more hummingbirds, which had arrived early, probably due to the warmer than usual winter in Forks.
          I figured 9:30 would be an optimal time to head over to the hospital for my blood draw. Doctor Laura (she's really a nurse-practitioner, but I call her my "doctor") ordered a lipid profile, along with a thyroid check from my list of concerns we’d discussed the previous day.
          Plopping down in front of my computer screen, I waited for the programs to finish booting, and recalled how comfortable I had been with Doctor Laura. In fact, I'd say she is just about the best health-care provider I've ever had. She'd been thorough, competent and caring. The last doctor I'd gone to had tried to convince me I needed Prozac. Needless to say, I got out of there and never went back.
          After deleting all 15 of my spam e-mails, I went to brush my teeth. Might as well go and get it over with so I could come home and have my coffee. While in my bathroom, I could hear that Doug was up. Returning to the kitchen, I flicked the switch and started the coffee brewing.
          Soon the kitchen swelled with that wonderful, comforting aroma of Colombian beans. When Doug wandered in, I was pulling on my jacket, car keys in hand. "Are you going somewhere?" he asked.
          "The hospital," I reminded him.
          "Oh, that's right. The blood test. Want me to drive you?"
          "No." I was quite sure I could get there myself, get the task taken care of and back before he’d even finished his first cup of Seattle’s Best.
          "I hope you don't get that old lady." A look of concern furrowed Doug's brow. We were both remembering the unfortunate experience a friend had in the Blood Lab two weeks before.
          Bill had gone to get his blood drawn early in the morning, and when he got there, the usual technician who usually drew the blood had been called away before Bill had his turn.
          In his stead, they called in an older nurse. Bill described her as an elderly, feeble "hag" who walked like a zombie and appeared shaky. The man who was ahead of Bill jumped up and quickly left the waiting room.

          Bill took that as a warning, but bravely sat down to let this older nurse draw his blood. She fumbled around as if she didn't know exactly what to do, and this worried him. He was getting nervous with every increasing second. When she got ready to prick him, she couldn't locate a good vein.
          "What are you doing?" Bill finally demanded.
          She shook her head, obviously perturbed, and continued to poke holes in his arm. "I can't get any blood," she muttered.
Bill sighed as the prodding and poking continued. Then she stuck the needle in so deep, he cried out. "Stop! Stop! You're hurting me."
          "I'm trying ..." she whined.
          "Take it out," Bill ordered. "Just take the needle out of my arm."
          The nurse removed the needle, then turned around and quickly left the room. Bill sat there with his arm bleeding. No one came to give him a bandage or try to stop the bleeding. The receptionist stared at him from behind her window, frozen.
          Bill finally got up, grabbed his jacket, and told the receptionist what he thought of them all ... then he left the hospital.
          By the time he returned, which was about half an hour later -- after he'd cooled down -- he demanded to talk to a hospital supervisor about the "old hag." The normal tech guy was back in the Blood Lab by then, so Bill got the work done and then went home. Later he told us his tale of woe.
          All of this ran through my mind as I drove in the rain down Bogachiel Way to the hospital. "Don't you worry," I had said to Doug with a smile before I left the house. "If I see the old nurse, I'll turn right around and leave." I figured the chances of her being there were practically nil.
          I got to the hospital admitting desk at 9:45 and no one else was there, so she took care of the paper work right away and sent me back to the Blood Lab. I didn't have to wait. The receptionist called to someone in the back. "You’ve got a patient..."
          Then I saw her. The white-haired, older woman, dressed in a long white lab jacket, walked with a limp into the waiting room. She was just as Bill had described.
          "You've got to be kidding me," I grumbled to myself. Undecided in those first seconds, I didn't know whether to bolt out of there or make some excuse to come back later. If I left, it would mean I couldn't go home and enjoy my coffee until later ... maybe much later.
          So I decided to stay and take a chance. After all, I figured she's still employed at the hospital. If she was so incompetent, surely they'd have fired her by now. If she hurts me in any way, I’ll simply leave, I told myself.
          Called over to take a seat, I studied the woman's every move. She was tall, probably in her late 60s, and had a brace on one of her feet. Remaining calm, I realized that here is just another human being, not a monster. Maybe my experience would be different from Bill's. I decided to wait and see what would happen next.
          As I rolled up the sleeve on my left arm and laid my arm down for her, she remarked with a smile, "Oh good, you have nice juicy ones." I had to stifle a laugh because she reminded me in that moment of a vampire ... this was, after all, Forks, Washington.
          A wave of compassion came over me as I turned my eyes away and she pointed her long needle toward the crook of my elbow. The prick was made and I barely felt it.
          I turned back to watch the rich red blood being pulled up into the receptable, and then it was over. She carefully removed the needle and finished up her work in a deliberate, calm manner.
          I felt a voice in my head say, "See ... everything is just fine."
          "That's it?" I asked after she placed a small gauze over the prick hole that barely bled.
          "Yes," she said.
          "Good job," I told her.
          "Thanks," she replied. I had the feeling that not too many people ever told her that, but my heart swelled with gratitude and compassion because I'd given the woman the benefit of a doubt and decided to trust her.
          I left, satisfied and looking forward to my cup of coffee back home and the pile of work that lay ahead of me.
          This could be an example of creating our own reality. This scene could have been exactly the opposite, had I chosen to believe the old nurse was as Bill had described her to us.
          But I didn't want to have that experience. This was a lesson that taught me to look at the good that's in other people, and to expect good things in our lives. It doesn't always play out that way, but the more we show compassion and love toward our fellow humans, the more compassion and love we get in return.

          My memoir, Stepping Forth, An American Girl Coming of Age in the '60s is now out and available from Earth Star for $18.00 postpaid. The eBook is now available as well, from Amazon Kindle. For more information go to






This page updated April 10, 2015


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