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9:53am on Friday, 18th November, 2022:

Blood Sampled


I went to have a blood sample taken at the local surgery this morning. As usual, it took some effort to extract any (the nurse — who has an image of a vampire on the tourniquet she uses — said I have "bad veins") and I had to lie down because past experience has told me that the moment the needle pierces a vein my blood pressure drops and I'm in danger of passing out.

The reason for the blood test was because I have to have one every year as I'm on statins. The reason I'm on statins is because my brother died of a heart attack in 2009 at the age of 47 and my doctor put me on them as a precaution. Had his doctor put him on them, I probably wouldn't be on them myself.

Anyway, as I was making the appointment, I mentioned that it might be an idea to have a PSA test for prostate problems. I don't have any to speak of, but at my age you never know so I figured it might be worth a check. I'd been under the impression that this was a free test that any man over the age of 60 could request at any time. It probably is, but what the ads don't tell you is that there's a whole process you have to go through beforehand. After several emails, texts and phone calls with receptionists, I had to make an appointment for a phone consultation with a doctor ("You are number 50 in the queue"). I wasn't actually all that bothered about the test, and only asked for one on a whim, but the wheels had been set in motion so I had no choice.

The doctor asked me a bunch of questions and said OK, I could have a PSA test. She said she could book me in for one in two weeks, but I told her I was already booked for one for a statins test. She said OK, well I could have that in two weeks' time instead. I pointed out that by then it would be too late to get my repeat prescription for statins set up, and wouldn't it be a better idea to attach the PSA test to the statins test rather than the other way round. The doctor, impressed by my crazy idea, concurred, so that's what I went for this morning.

At the end of the conversation, the doctor told me to keep healthy. She did this three or four times. I realise it's probably just her way of ending a phone consulation, but it's a little unnerving in a "The lady doth protest too much, methinks" kind of way.

I arrived in good time for my 8:40 appointment, as did the other man who also had an 8:40 appointment with the same phlebotomist. She sae him first. When he staggered back into the waiting room, pale and wan, it was my turn. Upon greeting me, the nurse checked what the blood test was for. She only had the PSA test on her list. I had to persuade her that no, there was a statins/cholesterol test, too; fortunately, she had the authority to tick that box on her paperwork.

I once read a black box flight recording from a plane that had crashed into a mountain. The captain had lowered the landing gear, but the light that showed the landing gear was down wasn't lit. The crew felt that the landing gear had indeed come down, but weren't certain. They spent several minutes trying to determine if the landing gear was down by other means, including peering through a gap in the hold, contacting nearby aircraft in case they could see and trying to replace the bulb by uncrewing it with a tissue. It dominated their thoughts, to the extent that they didn't notice they'd dropped height by a couple of thousand feet; hence, the crash into the mountain.

I'm sure there's a name in psychology for "focusing on the small problem so much that you forget the big picture". I'd ask my doctor, but then she'd probably forget to sign off on my new repeat prescription for statins.

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