Nurse Karnstein has been doing this job for a very long time.

Today went really well.

Got up to the phlebotomy suite at LGI at about twenty to eleven, and was immediately in the chair since there was no queue. The first phlebotomist looked me over a few times, noted all the bruises, and picked out two or three veins that she thought might work. First, the deep vein on the left arm (“It’s so tiny, but it’s there!”) then the deep vein on the radial side of the right arm (Which was so deep that I didn’t even know it existed), and possibly one of the “So pretty!” surface veins. Phlebotomists always coo over the glowy blue veins in my arms and chest. They are literally so bright that I was once told off by a supply teacher at school for having scribbled on myself in blue highlighter (Never mind the already heinous sin of having rolled up my sleeves on a warm autumn afternoon), and are completely useless for blood draw, since they’re collapsy and soft. She even had a look at the collapsed veins down the centre of my right elbow, which just have no blood in them at all and are thus dark purple, more for her own edification than for any chance of getting blood from them.

So she called in her superior, without even touching a needle to me, and had a good old complain about whatever cackhanded twat had tried to use 21g needles, when a 23 would be more than big enough. She also got a look of horror when I said that the last time I’d been to the LGI to get blood taken, I’d ended up with needles in my femoral artery. She reassured me that “Only the doctors are allowed to go that far off-piste, we’ll just try the arms then give up”.

Her superior arrived, and the blood draw took about three seconds. She picked one of the surface veins in my right elbow, then gently threaded the needle in, narrating “Just under the skin, you’ll probably only feel a single pop, rather than two…” as she went, and then the blood flowed out neatly in one long tap, filling all three vials. She got the needle back out, taped a piece of cotton wool over the puncture, and was done. No fuss, no faffing, no half-arsing about with the wrong kind of needle.

I was free to go, with the results being sent back to my GP.

I may as well mention now that I really like the phlebotomy suite – It’s in one of the older parts of the hospital, built in 1940, and it looks the part. It’s like a set from Carry On Phlebotomy, with tiny wards and sash windows and endlass narrow corridors. It’s also, apparently, due to be sold off, which makes me incredibly sad, along with the original LGI building (1863) and chunks of SC (1904, former contagious disease centre, Where the pain clinic is). I’m not surprised, since getting the old buildings up to modern standards would cost a fortune, and the part of me that cares about accessibility and ease of maintaining hygiene really likes wide corridors, short transfer pathways and double-glazing. I’m just a little wistful, since the hospital is kind of my second home, and a little worried, since moving services from buildings in the city centre, to either share facilities with other services or to take them out to a cheaper plot that’s further away from the transport hub could cause its own problems. I may start taking photographs of the buildings and wards as I go, to have a record of what healthcare actually looks like right now, as well as what the experience is like.

Though living in a flat in the top of that gorgeous Art-Deco inner ear suite would be bliss.

9 thoughts on “Nurse Karnstein has been doing this job for a very long time.

  1. Really? They’re flogging off the original bits of LGI?


    I liked those.

    The Sister trained at LGI and worked there for a few years, so I got to see chunks of it: nearly as good as Peacock Hall at the RVI in The Toon…

    • It’s still in the rumours and whispers stage, but it really looks likely. I’m going to miss them, anyway. The main entrance, with that grand stairway and the lovely walled garden, is priceless. No modern hospital has anything that devoted to fresh air about it. Likewise the balconies on the 40s wing – They look like a Golden Age cruise liner, like they should have been racing post ships across the Atlantic. And, apparently, they were set up so that patient could be wheeled out in their beds and take the air. Nowadays we’re lucky to be able to open a window!

      Ahh, Peacock Hall. I remember working at Academic Haem at the RVI, and being so disappointed when I realised it was in the modern bit.

      • I have mixed feelings about Peacock Hall: I loved the architecture, but it was the entrance I used when I did my general placement at RVI, so, as one of my colleagues put it, a miasma of depression would descend on us RMN students as we crossed Peacock Hall and headed up the stairs to our wards. We fucking hated the RVI. Best thing about it was drinkies in The World Famous Trent House or The Strawberry (before it was Fitzgeralded) after a shift.

  2. Did you know The Strawberry as the scruffy independent, with knackered bogs, a brilliant jukebox, a rather mixed clientele and a welcoming atmosphere?

    Or after the Sir John Fitzgerald group took it over (can’t remember exactly when, but it was before we left The Toon in ’95)? And made it over in the style of most of their other pubs? Not bad, but not what it was.

    A number of the pubs we most liked went: The Barley Mow is still sitting there empty…

    At least The Free Trade and The Crown Posada are still kinda like what they were.

    God I feel old!

    • Ah, I mostly just knew it as “That place I walked past on the way home from school, never went in but occassionally nattered to people outside or beged a tab”.

      After the death of Trillian’s, I assumed it had been closed down or bulldozed or something.

      • We must, of course, remember that I am old enough to be your dad, so many of my Tyneside memories and haunts will be different.

        Actually, it wasn’t Fitzgerald who took over The Strawberry but the mob who ran The County on Gosforth High Street – strange what you think about at 3 am when you have erratic sleep patterns, just after waking up from a dream about someone forcibly taking blood from me which must have been inspired by reading this lot…

      • [Puts down the vacuette, stops trying to steal your blood whilst you sleep]

        Yep, according to my reckoning, you moved away when I was nine or ten. My haunts in Newcastle were Trillians, Twist, Cuba, Legends, the Percy Arms (sadly no relation), or were in South Shields – The Criterion, the Old Ship, the Britannia. And the less said about Ku Club, the better.

        Well, now I’m nostalgic.

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