Getting my Blood Extracted

Extracciones, read the sign outside the door.  They couldn’t have made it sound any less pleasant an ordeal.

My first experience of the Spanish GP surgery was fine.  I was pleasantly surprised.  She actually listened to my symptoms patiently as I stammered them out in Spanish, remembering the words I´d had to look up the day before.  The kind of words I got through my degree quite happily without, but which amused me nonetheless, and the kind I thought I´m quite happy to add to my repertoire.  I haven´t always had such a patient ear from British doctors, who often seem to want to throw you out their office with a prescription of some sort (if you’re that lucky; sometimes they make you feel like a time waster). She had the typical air I’ve come to know from Spanish women: the kind who are maternal in the way that they think they know what’s best for you whether you want to hear it or not.  Often I don’t.  I don’t want some brusque Gaditana telling me how I should be cooking my peppers, or telling me I’m rubbish at riding a bicycle.  However, this time, I rather appreciated that stern air gently scolding me for getting myself worked into a tizzy thanks to googling my symptoms.  “If your washing machine doesn’t work, you don’t look on the Internet for a solution; you call the repair man,” she asserted.  Having said that, I probably would try looking on the Internet, but then I am contrary.

Today’s experience was rather less comforting.  As I waited in what seemed like a cattle market, I felt myself become irritated with the whole system.  How was this supposed to make me feel at ease?  I asked myself, straining to hear them call out my appointment time.  Upon hearing my number (ocho y treinta-y-uno!) I shuffled nervously to the desk, fearful of what the nurse would say. Having seen other patients produce urine samples, I was struck with horror at the idea that she might make me have one.  I was sure it was just going to be blood, but what if?  They can’t make me, stamped the Karl Pilkington side of my brain.  I won’t do it, they can’t make me!  No, it was just blood bottles she handed to me.  What a relief.  I motioned to Mr Kites to come and stand next to me.  Screaming was heard coming from the adjoining room: a child having his jabs.  The inner child inside wanted to cry, or run away.  It occurred to me that I wasn’t even scared of the needle, nor the blood.  I was afraid of the watching eyes.

Sitting in a chair awkwardly while the nurse tied an elastic band around my arm, clearly from office stationary, I willed myself to somehow disappear.  I exchanged a few light-hearted remarks with the nurse, in between her talking to her colleague, who showed her a phone.  Jesus, cried the Pilkington-like voice.  Why are they doing using a mobile phone here!  This is MY BLOOD!  They should be concentrating!  Taking my blood seriously!  What happens if they mix my blood up?  What if I get diagnosed with prostate cancer because of human error?  This is not on! 

Upon emptying the last drop from my bloodstream, the nurse handed me a piece of cotton wool then spewed me back out into the crowded waiting room to hurriedly find an exit, holding my arm pathetically out, thinking Oh my God.  In England there had been no pressing cotton wool to my arm for five whole minutes, and no sympathy, but the whole experience had been strangely more dignified, and far more discreet an affair.

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