Anyone who has any degree of PTSD will tell you this: you tell people you have it and at least half of the time they don’t take you seriously. The same goes for phobias.
When I was 17, I got a twist in my intestines. It sent me into a high fever (around 105), dehydrated me, and generally made me very ill. I was somewhat delerious. When they sent me to the ER, the ER nurse couldn’t get a line in. He blew the vein on the back of my left hand so badly that the entire back of my hand was bruised, and the bruising showed through to my palm. Then he tried to get one in my right thumb, and couldn’t find it, so he was sawing around and ripping up the back of my thumb trying to find it. He gave up and when someone else came to try to put an IV in, I was curled up on the corner of the gurney screaming “no more”, with my fist cocked back to hit someone if they tried. (They did a lot of things that night that honestly register as torturing me, like putting in a catheter and filling my bladder painfully, then doing an ultrasound on my very tender belly.)
Thursday night, we went into the ER because I had horrific abdominal pain. As usual, they had trouble getting an IV into me, so they ended up putting the smaller size one into my hands after 3 failed attempts to put bigger ones in other places.
They wanted to do a CT of my abdomen with contrast, which requires the regular size IV because they flood the contrast into your body pretty fast. After another several failed attempts (we were up to 7 at this point). I told them that I was going to lose my shit and start freaking out if they tried to stick me again – I had done as much being poked as I was capable of without freaking out. I asked them to sedate me before they tried again.
They said oh, we’ll do the next one guided by ultrasound. It will be fast and easy.
I did, indeed, lose it. Screaming and sobbing and shaking uncontrollably while they keep poking me and trying to get the IV in. The guy doing the IV kept asking me if it hurt or if I was scared, and the answer was both, damn it! I was freaking out badly enough that it was making everything hurt worse.
Eventually they did sedate me, and once it kicked in, we were able to get an IV in and I was able to stop freaking out so badly.
What I want to know is this: why the hell couldn’t we have STARTED with that before the ultrasound-guided IV? I told them I needed it. If they had sedated me, it would have been a nothing-doing procedure that wouldn’t have triggered me.
Instead, I’ve now been triggered badly enough that they’re going to have to sedate me to get a FIRST stab at me next time. It took me a decade to get to the point where I could accept IVs without getting worked up, and now…now I feel like I’m back to square one.