Blood on My Hands

My blood glucose monitoring routine’s pretty routine (although probably not textbook). I unzip my kit and fold it open. On the left is my lancet pen (an Accu-Chek Multiclix), the test strips (FreeStyle, which go with the CozMonitor glucose monitor that piggybacks on my insulin pump), and the tiny FreeStyle Flash monitor I use if I’m not wearing my pump. On the right is a zippered pouch with an extra glucose monitor battery, a couple of extra lancet drums, and usually an AAA battery for my insulin pump. Oh, and there’s the piece of paper towel or tissue folded to about two inches square, on which are dried streaks and drops of dried blood from the previous few days of monitoring.


As far as the finger-sticking goes, I don’t use alcohol swabs, and also don’t wash my hands beforehand, unless I’ve had something supersweet get on my fingers. I stick my finger with the lancet, squeeze up the requisite amount of blood, nudge my finger up to the test strip, and wait for the “we got the blood” tune to play on my monitor; then I wait for the reading.

Pretty simple. To close, I dab excess blood on the tissue and often get most of it off (always a wee bit of dried blood on a fingertip somewhere), zip up the kit, and voila! No more checking for another three or four hours.

Yet I wonder about any of you who might be hemophobic (afraid of blood)—either mildly or severely. What do you do? Or what about those of you with aichmophobia—the fear of needles? I suppose it’s possible, too (though probably rare) that you could have both hemophobia and aichmophobia, a combination I’d guess would make controlling your blood glucose a most onerous task.

If afflicted with either of these phobias, let me ask you: How did you learn to deal with it? Or have you been able to? And what alternatives are available? I also wonder about the different monitoring techniques—which ones work and which don’t. For example, for the person who fears needles, does the lancet device that has hidden needles—such as the drum device I use that never lets me see the lancet—still, umm, get under your skin? Or, for insulin pumpers, does an infusion-site applicator such as the one I use, which has a hidden, springloaded needle that places the canula, work without causing the freak-out to set in?I have a friend who’s mildly hemophobic. He doesn’t have diabetes, but, as you may have gathered, I do. So, when we hang out, I’ve had to make it a habit to check my blood glucose in the next room. Early into my life with Type 1 diabetes, my wife and I were out at dinner with him and his wife—it was our first time with them after my diagnosis, so much of the talk was about my newfound pancreatic unglory.

Before the meal came out, I prepared to check my blood glucose. I didn’t think to ask if checking my blood glucose at the table would bother him; heretofore I’d never had cause to witness his fear of blood, nor had he mentioned it. So how was I to know? I was excited, actually, to share the experience, because coaxing this drop of blood from my finger and having the test strip suck it up to give me a reading within five seconds was new and rather cool. Here I was, a newly-diagnosed person with diabetes and dedicated to getting off on the right foot with my self-management, and you, too, could share in all that this new world had to offer me.

As I started to draw blood and apply it to the test strip, however, my wife noticed our friend turning even paler than normal. He had to excuse himself because he felt as if he might pass out. While he was gone—off to the restroom—we learned from his wife that he can’t deal with other people’s blood, even hers. If he cuts himself, he’ll do OK with the patching up, she said, but blood from someone else would lead to the situation we’d just witnessed (the situation I’d caused—me and my stupid diabetes).

How were we to know? My wife’s been best friends with this guy for a decade, and she had no idea this queasiness at the sight of blood was in his repertoire. Although I felt badly, initially, our relationship with this guy (and I’m withholding Steve’s name out of consideration of his feelings) is such that our concern for his well-being quickly morphed into making fun of his inability to handle seeing a pinhead’s worth of blood on my finger.

There was no need to diffuse the situation simply because of who our resident hemophobic was. No feelings were hurt. No real harm was done.

It does give me pause, though, to think about what other situations this kind of fear of blood, or an irrational fear of what someone might “catch” from having blood exposed and out in the air, in public, could lead to. Any of you have blood-glucose–checking stories to tell? If so, do share. Recruit your other diabetes friends. Ask around. Maybe there’s a book someone could write. You know, A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to My Blood Glucose Reading sort of thing.

I’d appreciate any anecdotes you may have: funny, or embarrassing, or whatever. I have several others…but I’ll probably save them for later blog entries because, well, I’m back here next week, too. Same time, same URL.

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  • Calgarydiabetic

    Dear Eric. Most of the time when I prick my finger a very small amount blood comes out hardly enough for the reading without squeezing more (which they say you should not do). But on occaision I get a gusher. This time not having any kleenex handy I called his Lordship (a Wheaten Terrier with proper pedigree) to lap up the excess blood. Well He was appalled at the tought of drinking master’s blood and ran away and hid in his bunker.

  • Denise

    I am a needlephobe–MAJOR–as in pass out if I see a syringe! Comes from my childhood and kidney disease and IVP’s before they used IV’s,etc…etc….

    So being diagnosed as diabetic (T1)was VERY traumatic—more because of the needles. Thankfully I have a VERY VERY patient, loveing helpful hubby..who after I quit crying long enough said “we’ll get through this and I’ll do your shots if I have to until you can”

    He talked me through them all, not that it made them easy. I can do them myself now–with only a few panic attacks now and then–thankfully I have a pump now so they are not needed often.

    The pump with the magic auto inserter is fantasic–I got to the point I could do that without coaching much faster.

    I am going to be starting the CGMS which is going to be another hurdle I hear…but one my endo feels will beneficial as I need to try and stay very tightly controled to preserve the kidney function I have….

    And I still pass out when they take blood if not laying down, and have to leave the room when my hubby gets trigger point injections.

    I guess it all boils down to you really can and do learn what you need to to survive.

  • Ephrenia

    The first Thanksgiving after my diagnosis, when I decided after dinner to see if I had eaten enough to need a shot, the kids in the family were fascinated. So I put on a live demonstration. My Dad, also diabetic, but who’s Dr had him only testing once daily, decided to also test.

    Mom decided to have me test her blood as well, then both my sisters said, “me, too.” Every adult in the family was tested except my big, tough, needlephobic brother-in-law.

    When I saw I did need an insulin boost I offered to let one of the kids do the honors. I have pen, so I set the dose and the only one brave enough was the 5 year old! So she pushed the button. My B-I-L had to go outside during this procedure.

    The sad part is that one of my sisters registered a 143, and has still not talked to her Dr about it. She says “I gave up salt, I’m not giving up sugar, too”

  • Ashley

    I’m type 1 diabetic. Ever since I was in the 1st grade, and now I’m in the 8th. I’ve never been grossed-out by blood. It’s natural, and it’s part of our bodies. Needles? I had some issues dealing with. Especially the checking of the blood sugar and shots 4 times a day. But when I was in the 5th grade, I learned how to do my doses and shots myself. And blood sugar. Now, I love the fact I know I can take care of myself when I’m alone.

    My blood is usually a dark or light red. My fingers are full of blood, too. So whenever I stick it, no matter which finger, blood oozes down my finger. Like a little red waterfall. Sometimes my stomach would bleed because of my shots. And a little drip of blood would appear. Nothing major. I also have to have some blood taken from the hospital.

    It amazes me to see that much blood come out of one vein. It doesn’t make me sick. People wonder how I do it. My older cousin(who is in her 20s) has a fear of needles. So she asks me at times “How do you stand that?”, and I’ll be like “I just do.”

    It has become a big part of my daily life.