There will be blood

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Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz
I knew I was a hopelessly timid Canadian when the armed phlebotomist approached with his hands trembling and needle drawn — and I didn't think to protest. No hand raised in the international symbol of “Stop!” No screaming dash from the room. I just gritted my teeth and stoically accepted my fate.

Meanwhile, underneath the epidermal layer that was about to be punctured by an alleged professional with the steadiness of a paint-shaking machine, I was a seething maelstrom of terror.

“I'm sure he's highly trained,” I said naively to myself. “The life insurance company wouldn't have sent him if he wasn't good.” But it turns out he wasn't, and they would.

He tried in one arm, then the other, fishing around like he was looking for a dime in the couch cushions. Then he turned his attention unsuccessfully to the top of each hand, which I probably don't have to tell you is not the most painless ride at the blood draw amusement park. He was longingly eying the veins in my neck and ankles when I finally stopped him.

But by then the damage had been done, and I was the proud owner of a sparkling new phobia  — one that persists to this very day. If at the beginning he had just raised the needle high above his head and plunged it straight into my heart like that scene in the movie Pulp Fiction, it would have been less frightening and emotionally destructive.

Which brings me to yesterday morning — when I was scheduled for annual blood work. As I sat there with knuckles white and that true-life horror story flashing through my mind, a cheerful young technician quickly identified a site, tapped on it with her finger, gave the area a good swabbing — and deftly hit the vein. No hesitation. First try. Like no other outcome was possible. I was awestruck, and told her so. To be able to set a person's mortal fear to rest with such a dazzling display of effortless expertise is a great gift.

The field of long-term care, of course, sparkles with folks like her — people who are, very simply put, Good at What They Do. They perform demanding jobs with an almost boring level of consistent technical skill and excellence, and despite being already great, they somehow manage to perpetually get better.

As inundated as we've been in the news lately with breathtaking examples of professional ineptitude, there's little I find more refreshing than that — plain-old competence, pure and undiluted.

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, who cobbles these pieces together from his secret lair somewhere near the scenic, wine-soaked hamlet of Walla Walla, WA. Since his debut with SNALF.com at the end of a previous century, he has continued to amuse, inform and sometimes befuddle long-term care readers worldwide.

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Things I Think

Things I Think is written by longtime industry columnist Gary Tetz, who resides in Portland, OR. Since his debut with SNALF.com at the end of a previous century, he has continued to amuse, inform and sometimes befuddle long-term care readers worldwide.

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