At this Station Again . . .
I recently celebrated my 11th year of work at my parish. I might not have remembered except for some nice notes I received via social media from parents whose children had prepared for Confirmation years ago and have now gone on into their adult lives.
This time of year is an odd one, coming as it does amidst the starts and stops of so many other cycles: start of school year, start of Church Year, end of one calendar year and start of another . . .
And so it was that I found myself in the midst of Lent in my doctor’s office that shares space with an Urgent Care Center for my annual blood draw.
Managing our routines
This is a common routine for me. Many years ago (under a much simpler and more affordable HMO) I did this on a regular basis. My doctor was searching for just the right medication for what turned out to be a relatively manageable condition.
The phlebotomists who routinely stuck my arm and drew blood got to know me very well. Early on, they discovered that I had small veins and adjusted their equipment and approach so that this routine took no more than a few minutes.
Since that time, healthcare has changed, providers have changed, doctors have moved offices, as have labs and technicians. Last year, my blood draw took a lot longer. It was much colder outside and I was getting over a cold. I waited in a cramped heated room until it was my turn.
When it was my turn, I told the phlebotomist what I always tell them to be helpful, “I have small veins.” No luck. The information didn’t help. I was pricked and prodded in both arms. A vein collapsed in the left arm, then the right. Two separate technicians tried and punctured me black and blue. Finally a third came in and drew blood from a vein in my hand.
I was told afterwards, rather gruffly, that I wasn’t hydrated enough and that had made it harder. It took almost 45 minutes, not including the time in the overheated waiting room, which is probably how I became dehydrated.
Pick up your cross and follow
All things considered, it was not the most painful experience in my life. But looking at my bruised arms and bloodied hand in the season of Lent, it was hard not to muse, even early on, about the Stations of the Cross and the Passion of Christ Jesus.
This year, my blood draw was the exact opposite. Winter weather has been much warmer. Although the flu continues to take students and children out of school, I did not find them crowding the waiting room. Instead, it was a quiet morning in the doctor’s office.
A nurse practitioner, who was probably half my age, led me back to the Urgent Care area to draw my blood. Her youth projected positive energy and a degree of confidence. Contrast that to my memory of the tired, older and grumpy technicians I had the previous year.
We greeted each other with few, but courteous words and I said what I always say, “I have small veins.” She stopped for a moment and looked me in the eye. She didn’t say anything at all, but just paused. Then she went back to her work silently and efficiently. She prodded and poked my arm in the normal manner looking for a good vein, checking each arm. Then she stopped, walked back to one of the drawers and switched out one of the objects on her tray and said emphatically, “You have small veins.”
Lazarus, come forth
With that, she turned around and took no less than 30 to 45 seconds to put on her gloves, take my blood, bandage me up and send me on my way. It was done so effortlessly and efficiently, and with a degree of grace and care that I found myself opening the door to leave and stopped. She was writing some notes in my chart and I felt obligated to tell her, “That was a lot less painful than it could have been. Thank you.”
On my drive back home thoughts of work and the Lenten Season swirled in my head. It occurred to me that my annual blood draw is a lot like the Lenten Reconciliation services that pop up this time of year. The sacrament itself is meant for our well-being. The check up is a good thing. But sometimes the experience can be drawn out, gruff. It can leave us bruised.
But not today.
There are so many things that are not the way they are supposed to be. These weigh upon me constantly and affect whether I am gruff, rude, or bruise others in my interactions with them. It is good to have these moments where we are reminded not just “that we are dust and to dust we shall return” but we can “Repent and believe!” and “Turn from sin and believe the Good News!”
Take the time to care for yourself this Lent. Take time to thank those who assist in the ministry of healing.
Copyright 2017 Jay Cuasay