I had only been back to work for a few weeks (part-time), and was still settling back into my role as a media strategist at Wuesthoff Health System Corporate offices. Luckily, my energy levels had resumed and I was truly content being back at work; all in all, I simply missed being productive. I realized the hiatus from work had actually been a test in terms of my wanting, or psychologically needing to work, versus not working. It was the first time since I was 22 years old (post-college) I had been out of work for five months. I would take a few sabbaticals here and there from journalism (in my 20’s and 30’s) but never for an extended period of time.
One week before my third surgery (to replace the right tissue expander with an implant), I was required to have pre-surgery blood tests. With the magnitude of needles which had been stuck in me and the myriad of blood and drainage infection I had witnessed, having pre-surgery lab work was a piece of cake.
I made an appointment to have my blood drawn during lunch. I remember the phlebotomist looking at my chart and asking which side I had my mastectomy on. I told her it was bi-lateral and didn’t have lymph nodes removed so either arm would be fine to draw blood from. I remember sitting down for her to place the tourniquet on my arm; she inserted the needle and subsequently heard her say, “I’m sorry, I haven’t done this in 12 years,” and then pulled the needle back out. With that, it felt like a sharp pain with an extremely strong vacuum cleaner hose stuck to my arm sucking cold air, I became dizzy and passed out.
I vaguely remember being slung over a wheelchair and wheeled to the Emergency Room (ER), while passing confused familiar faces along the way. I heard a nurse say, “she has a massive hematoma on her right arm.” By definition, I didn’t understand what a hematoma was, but it didn’t sound good. I do remember asking the nurse who was tasked with pushing me to the ER, “Am I going to need to be admitted to the hospital again?”
Since it was November and our ‘snowbirds,’ otherwise known as individuals who spend the winter in Florida, were already here, the ER was packed. I was left in the hallway, on a stretcher, with the Wuesthoff Rockledge administrator, Chantal Leconte, holding my hand. There were so many people in the ER due to an early flu season. I had to wait for a room.
Once in the room, our CFO, George Fayer, came in and said, “What happened?” I told him I was not exactly sure but I was not paying for this ER visit. I proceeded to tell him it was the phlebotomists fault and she needed to either be fired, or sent to a continuing education course on drawing blood. He laughed and said all costs would be written off.
By the way, I now know what causes a hematoma. Essentially, it’s a collection of blood outside the blood vessel and occurs when the blood vessel wall has been damaged. Apparently, the sloppy phlebotomist who hadn’t drawn blood in 12 years had pricked my vein. The slang term would be “she blew a vein.” My blown vein caused a massive bruise and swollen arm which finally subsided in about 7 days. Just in time to be admitted into the hospital for my next surgery.
Lisa F. Crites
Shower Shirt Principal/Inventor
Corporate Healthcare Consultant
Health/Medical Broadcast Journalist