October 31, 2014

That one time I passed out at work...

Getting robbed while working would suck.  However, it happens far too often in pharmacies due to the prescription drug abuse epidemic in our country.  I have no idea what I would do if I had to face that situation.  I can tell you that I would give them whatever they wanted.  In the words of TI:  You can have whatever you liiiiike.  I would even throw in some bonus meds and sign them up for a pharmacy savings card.  Whatever they wanted.  Being robbed would have to be the worst thing to happen at work.

But I can promise you that fainting at work has to be in the conversation for the second worst.

I've always hated needles.  I remember being ten years old and the clerk at the military ID card office needed to know my blood type to put on my military ID card.  My mom didn't know my blood type (and this might be the only time ever that my mom didn't know something), so they sent me to the local military clinic to get my blood drawn.  Two young medics had to hold me down on a stretcher to get to my arm.  I had a total freak-out moment.  It was a very traumatic event.  (My blood type was O-negative... no need to redraw blood for that ever again.)

The above situation became a common occurrence in my life.  But don't think for a second that that fear has gone away.  One time, I near passed out when they had to insert an IV to administer contrast dye for an MRI.  After the procedure was over and my blood pressure returned to normal, the nurse walked me out to the waiting room as I was sipping Coke out of a straw.  The nurse told my mom, "Your daughter did good."  Kind of how your babysitter would give a report to your parents when they got home.  Only I was 34 years old and this just happened last year.

Ironically, I learned to give vaccination injections during pharmacy school.  But we didn't practice on oranges like I thought we would... we practiced on each other.  I sure as heck was not participating in that game.  Everyone had to give three shots and take three shots.  I gave my three shots no problem.  But then I looked at my partner and said, "Don't you dare come near with me with that needle."  A student nearby volunteered to take one of the three shots.  I bribed another student with lunch.  And then I approached the TA with teary eyes and begged him to take the third shot.  I was 23 years old and in my sixth year of pursuing a professional degree, but I wasn't above acting like I was ten.  The fear of needles is a real struggle.

Thankfully, I have never had an issue administering vaccines.  Sticking others with a needle doesn't affect me at all.  And it always annoys me when people overreact and get so dramatic right before I give the vaccination.  I always think, "Thank god I never acted like that."

I made it ten years of being a vaccination giver before I had an "incident."

It was a dreary weekday night and all through the store, not a patient was stirring and I was even bored.  A middle-aged gentleman came to the counter and asked for a flu shot and I proceeded to administer the injection the same way I had for the past 10 years.  As soon as I removed the needle, a nice thick stream of blood immediately flowed down his arm... and I hurriedly applied significant pressure with a cotton ball for a few seconds.  No biggie... blood happens.  But when I removed the cotton ball, there was a gross quarter-sized bruise that had already developed.  So I applied more pressure.  When I removed the cotton ball again, the bruise had turned into a knot.  Right before my eyes I watched the knot change to a pretty puke green color with a little black and purple in the mix.

This is about the time when I started to think, "This isn't good... not good at all."  Over the next minute, I couldn't take my eyes off what was growing out of this man's arm:  a green alien the size of a baseball.  I swear for a split second I thought I was Dan Aykroyd in Ghostbusters... I waited for green slime to explode all over my face.  I've been doing this for 10 years and nothing close to this has ever happened.  I didn't know what to do.

As I talked to the patient and asked him medical history questions, I noticed that I started to get very hot and dizzy.  I immediately knew what was happening.  This wasn't my first rodeo.  All I could think at this moment was, "Don't pass out in front of the patient."  I told the patient that I needed to check on something in the pharmacy as to not alert him that I wasn't feeling well.  I quickly ran back inside the pharmacy and my tech at the drive-thru stopped me to ask a question.  All I could hear him say was...

I just walked away from him.  I hastily took off my white pharmacist jacket and threw it.  I picked up the phone to call a another pharmacist because even though I was very light-headed, all I could think about was that the guy's arm was going to fall off any second.  I didn't make it past the automated prompts when everything went white.  I somehow had enough sense to walk behind the shelves so customers couldn't see me.  I laid on the floor and moaned for my tech to get the store manager.  Things get a little fuzzy here, and I was shaking, completely soaked in sweat, and very dizzy.  So very attractive.

One of my techs grabbed some glucose gel and squirted a tube of the gel in my mouth.  Cold rags were placed on my forehead.  I just laid there on the pharmacy floor.  As one manager was taking care of me, another manager was talking to the patient with the alien in his arm.  Shockingly, the patient was very calm and nonchalant about the whole ordeal.  Meanwhile, I was laid out on the floor.  Apparently green aliens scare me.

I believe I accidentally hit a small capillary in the deltoid muscle, which is very rare, but can cause that type of inflammation and reaction.  I've given over 500 injections since then and have had no problems.  But I can honestly say that I will never be prepared for my next arm alien.  And if one happens to you, don't call me.  I won't be much help.

PS.  I followed up with the patient the following day and his swelling had subsided and he had a small bruise at the injection site.  Crisis adverted.

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