Every year I’ve got to get a blood test done, to test whether or not my thyroid is functioning normally. If it doesn’t I could wind up suffering from depression, losing iron, etc. (so far as I understand it – I’m no scientist). Anyway, it was about that time again, so I go down to the doctor’s. Even though I fixed my appointment first thing, I still have to wait an age before the beep to go in.
I knock on the door and go in. The doctor is a reticent man in a red turban that I have never seen before – in my medical practice, they just allocate whoever, not a fixed person. In any case, I never ever get sick and don’t go too often. This guy has enormous spectacles and just a few white hairs in his beard. He asks me what’s the matter. I’m slightly surprised, as I fixed this appointment specifically to get the sign-off sheet for the blood test, but maybe this guy didn’t get the info. So I tell him.
He looks at me quizzically. What do you need the blood test for? I try not to roll my eyes. To check out my thyroid, I say. He looks in silence at his computer for a while. Then he says, why? I’m thinking in my head that you’re the doctor, but I restrain myself and just say because my last doctor told me to get it done every year. To test what, though, says the doctor? I try not to growl. I just say, I don’t know.
The doctor says he doesn’t think I need the blood test so regularly, as he can’t really see anything wrong from the last result and that the original doctor was wrong in making me take it in the first place. That’s nice. Anyway, he gives me the chit and then says to come and see him after I get it done.
Next week I go down to the blood test clinic. As I’m the only healthy-looking young man there, I get evils from all the old people and suspicious stares from the housewives. One Eastern European lady sitting with her husband gazes endlessly at my chest. Even though I fixed my appointment first thing, I still have to wait an age before the beep to go in. Walking through a narrow and stunted corridor to the place of blood-taking, a mother and her teenage daughter barge past me hurriedly, even though I have made way for them. Is it really that bad? Last year it was quite painless.
It really is that bad. I hand the chit to a guy that’s getting dirty looks from his colleague, who’s with a young girl. The girl has gone very pale. The guy to inject me tells me to sit down and lie back. He puts a tightened belt around my forearm, rubs an area of my arm with alcohol, and tells me to clasp my fist ‘like so’. He then starts asking me for details off my form, my date of birth, my name, my address, my doctor, whose name I actually don’t know. Suddenly, behind my ear, a mobile phone blares with cheesy R n’ B music. I wait for him to switch it off. The guy is staring at me. It’s not mine, I say. Oh, he says. He roots around in his white overcoat. I say I think it’s behind me. Oh, he says. It’s my other phone. Sorry. I lean forward and he gets the phone and turns it off, after checking who’s calling. His colleague is giving me a dirty look now. The girl has gone off.
I lean back. You shouldn’t have clutched your fist so tight, says the guy. My arm feels really numb. I think back to last year when one of my friends in the NHS did my blood test for me and it literally took about a minute. The guy is finally ready to stick the needle in. He does so. For some reason, it is very, very, very painful. Is that alright, he says. No that is not alright. Yes, that’s fine, I say, through my teeth. Oh, sorry, says the guy in a second. He’s realised that he’s done something wrong. I feel the needle go in again (did this guy literally stick me twice?) Pain.
It is an absolute age before he takes the injection out and I can feel every milli-millimetre of it sliding out. This guy has performed the most incompetent venepuncture ever. I have to sit for ages afterward clenching some cotton wool to my arm while my arm aches with pain. When I peel off the plaster later, I can still see the hole.
After two weeks, I go back down to the doctor. It is a different one this time, a woman. She peers at me short-sightedly (why do they all wear glasses, again?) She tells me that everything’s fine and that I’ve got the highest iron she’s ever seen in a patient. I feel pleased with my health. Then she says, oh, the high iron is probably because I’ve never treated anyone that’s not a woman before. She tells me that I don’t have to come for about a year and a half next time. However, if anything ‘feels off’ that I should come down sooner.