Nurse Apocalypse is a phlebotomist rather than a nurse, but I wasn’t familiar with that term when I first met him and I’m still not entirely sure how to pronounce it. Phlebotomist—bloodletter. But although the word doesn’t come naturally to my tongue, I’ve become very familiar with the process of phlebotomy over the past five years. I drink plenty of water ahead of time so that my blood will be easier to draw. I’ve exchanged personal histories with those staff at the pathology centre who are of visibly migrant background and have deflected the where-do-you-come-from question from most of the others.
I don’t wait to be asked before rolling up the sleeve of my left arm (my right arm is reserved for my forearm crutch) to offer the phlebotomist the vein that I’ve been told ‘doesn’t look too clapped out’ (yet). I remain pokerfaced at the Carry-On double entendre when I’m reassured that ‘it’s just a little prick’ as the needle hovers above my skin and try not to flinch as it penetrates the vein. I watch the blood flow into the vials and I press the dressing against the puncture site once the needle is withdrawn.
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