Speak Up

It is guaranteed that I will get blood work done at least once every month for the rest of my life. I have spider veins. They are tiny, they roll and have lots of scar tissue. I am far from an easy stick and am particular with the phlebotomist that I allow to draw my blood. Before my blood is drawn, the phlebotomist asks me to spell my name and give my date of birth. Before I give my blood, I ask them to review all of the tests that are being drawn so I assure that I won’t have to come back for another stick.

My mom recently shared with me an unpleasant blood work incident she experienced. The more details she shared, the more my blood boiled. We call my mom “mother hawk” because of how protective she is with me, her “birdie.” However, don’t underestimate how caring a little “birdie” can be with her “mother hawk.” Mom recently switched from Johns Hopkins Hospital to a new hospital due to her nephrologist taking a new position. Following her appointment, she was to get her blood drawn before leaving the hospital. This was mom’s first time at the new hospital lab. She was initially surprised upon seeing two chairs outside the lab as she was used to the vast waiting room at Johns Hopkins. Mom was called back to a small room. As she sat down in the chair, she found herself continuing to compare everything to Johns Hopkins since that is what was familiar to her. There was a woman close by at a computer telling mom’s phlebotomist which tubes to use to draw her blood. Mom’s phlebotomist laid a few tubes on a table next to her. She proceeded to tell mom, “I am a trainee but I have been told I am good at this.” This is the point in the story that my gut told me this was going to go downhill.

Speak Up 1

Mom continued by telling me that she was not being judgmental or criticizing the woman, but did notice that she seemed a little clumsy. Here’s where the fun begins. The phlebotomist inserted the needle into my mom’s arm and no blood came out. My mother has voluptuous veins and I would pay a lot of money just to have one of them. The trainee pulled the needle out and pushed it in, then pulled it out and pushed it in, then pulled it out and pushed it in with no success until my mom finally told her to stop. The trainee said what she was doing was fine as long as she doesn’t pull the needle completely out. With raising me, this was not my mom’s first rodeo and she knew better. The woman sitting at the computer now came over to mom, put gloves on and put the needle–that had been pushed around the inside of my mom’s arm far too long–into one of her healthy veins. Success at last! The phlebotomist said the trainee was putting the needle the whole way through mom’s vein and that is why she was not getting any blood return. Yikes! Not what a daughter wants to hear from the opposite side of the United States. I was wishing so bad that I would have been there with my mom and spoken up for her like she has done countless times for me.

The worst is yet to come. Instead of pulling the needle out and then applying pressure to gauze placed over the needle site, the trainee put gauze over top of the needle and pushed hard while the needle was still in mom’s arm. Are you kidding me? Now this is over-the-top and not acceptable. Mom again told her to stop doing that. Filled with complete frustration, I asked mom, “Then what did you do?” Mom said she was in such dismay by the whole experience that after the needle was removed and gauze was wrapped around her arm, she just quietly left the hospital.

I said, “Mom you HAVE to tell your doctor about this. You just HAVE to.” Mom said, “Really?” I replied, “YES, really!”


Speak Up 4

Thankfully, mom reached out to her doctor who was very upset and brought this to the attention of the hospital’s human relations department. A woman from human relations, who was very polite, contacted my mom to discuss her first experience getting lab work done at their hospital. The hospital was very thankful that mom brought this to their attention. Mom later found out that the protocol has been changed and the lab no longer allows trainees to draw blood and instead now they only allow certified phlebotomists. I am very proud of mom for speaking up as she has not only helped herself from having to go through this again but has helped future individuals from having to go through a similar difficult experience. Thank you mom for showcasing that we are our own best advocates and how important it is to speak up not only for ourselves but also for future patients that will walk down the same paths as us.



  1. Brianne Mundy

    Oh my gosh, Valen, MY blood boiled reading this! I’ve had several procedures, and blood drawn more than a few times (not as often as you, but more than most people I know) – and I CRINGED

  2. Brianne Mundy

    Sorry – didn’t finish my post. I CRINGED reading this and can feel you and your mom’s pain. Yes, thank goodness she spoke up! Always enjoy your posts, Valen. I enjoy your positivity and your commitment to helping others. 🙂

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Brianne,
      I am sorry to hear that you can personally relate to being a pin cushion. I am very thankful for your support and friendship. 🙂

  3. dominique

    wow i think thats horrible to go thru that ! i had bad expierences too where i actually got sick in the room its was a hot day i hate needles nurse couldnt get any blood out my veins are small they tried in 3 different spots , i nearly passed out cus of the heat the pain of the needles . This was for an iron infusion i threw up from all this went home i couldnt deal with it any more ..long story short went again had an annecegiologist (misspelled) do it and this again was after 2x luckly he came in and i asked “you dont have to repoke do you “? he said no thunked on my vein and blood came out. i was so relieved i nearly cried and i did give him a hug i was so happy ..I dont go in for those anymore luckly i take B vit. and i did tell my dr. about what i went thru.

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Dominique,
      I am sorry to hear of your challenging experience. I can appreciate your excitement when blood came out of your vein. Something like this may seem like a small victory for some, but is huge in our worlds. Thank you for sharing this and I’m glad to hear that you did speak up.

  4. Mark Kaufman

    Valen, you are so spot on! I’ve been there and also realized we the PKD patient have that right to speak up. We are our best advocate. We suffer the pain and know what is right for us. Sept. 23 I will be 5 years transplanted. You should be very proud of your mom!! Stay positive!

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Mark,
      Absolutely! We know our bodies better than anyone and should never hesitate to voice our thoughts. That is fantastic! Enjoy celebrating such an amazing milestone! 🙂 Congratulations!!!

  5. Geralyn Moore

    Wow, that story sure rang a bell to me as I once had a trainee do the same thing to me. She did it so much that after telling her to stop I had to put my head down to keep from passing out. I quickly changed doctors and told my doctor I was tired of the lack of professionalism in her office. I now go to Georgetown University hospital and have had wonderful professional people handling my care.

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Geralyn,
      I am so sorry that you had to endure such an awful experience. Great to hear that you took control of your health and found yourself the best care which you deserve. Thank you for sharing your story of speaking up!


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