Oh, Jenbee, don’t be a clot…

The needle slips into the vein in the crook of my right arm, a pinching sensation, then there’s nothing until, when flicked accidentally, the pain is like the needle: small, slim, silver, sharp. I had a blood test on Wednesday and now I am waiting for the results. This is not a new phenomenon for me but this time, I thought, that I would write about it. I thought that maybe someone might find it useful if they’re going through something similar.* Besides, I love a good pun and ‘clot’ is thick with possibilities, platelets, and plasma.

I hate having the blood, or any other fluid, taken out of me physically or verbally. And, since 2011, after my Branwen was stillborn**, I’ve had quite a bit of blood – not gallons here, obviously, but certainly millilitres – taken and tested. Then taken and tested some more. Then, after a document was somehow lost in the ether between two hospitals less than 10 miles apart, taken and tested again. I’ve had cardiolipin tests, lupus tests, various other tests in the key of the thyroid. I was initially diagnosed with antiphospholipid syndrome, but this was later retracted by one doctor who did so because she wasn’t sure, another doctor – about a year later – more or less stated that I was a hypochondriac*** and perhaps I’d be better off on antidepressants.

Back to last Wednesday: the pastel blue consulting room, Charlotte the nurse, the mini bloodletting, and Charlotte’s conversation/diversion tactic with tales of rescued kittens. Three vials of type O+ sat in the tray, each stoppered with a different coloured top – yellow and white – to be packaged up, sent to the lab, and scrutinised. With a typed note on what to look for: tests on thyroid function complete with a load of acronyms and numbers that floated into then out of my brain (TSH, TT4 I think) plus seeking out whether there’s any urea in my blood (mmm yummy, possibly checking kidney function). I make a weak joke about sending some of it to Porton Down to check my red stuff for any biohazard.

I have so many unanswered questions as to why I get cold easily, why I put on weight just by looking at chocolate bars, why I’m often tired (although this could be a B12 deficiency), why my hair and skin are dry – I’m prone to eczema – and brittle as autumn leaves, why my blood pressure is low and why my heart rate is more of a laid-back hippie than I am. On WhatsApp, I tell my mate Michelle about adventures with weird sporadic mini mood swings and that, once again, I’ve had a rummage around some online advice.

At the risk of sounding like your mum, is Googling symptoms a good idea? You don’t want to fall down some gloomy rabbit hole. 

No, I reassure her, honest I promise. I am using a combination of ThyroidUK, WebMD (with shovel of salt), having a re-read of the NHS blurb, and having a peek at some of the science papers via university login. Michelle gave me a good idea, though, I thought: ‘why not, let’s see what happens when you type the following into Google, for a Gloomgle list’. This is what appeared when I began a sentence with ‘what happens when your thyroid”:

  • is high
  • is low
  • is removed
  • dies
  • is overactive
  • stops working
  • is too high
  • levels are too low
  • shuts off
  • is off

What a list! Like poetry isn’t it?! So far, so nearly William Carlos Williams good. In a rush of macabre curiosity, I went there with the “dies” search. *Shudder* In conclusion, Gloomgling is a bad idea, kids, don’t do it. Back away from that gloomy rabbit hole and the digital lagomorph of information doom.

Anyway, I have tried to compartmentalise all this for a long time now (SEVEN YEARS!!); I’m trying to finish my corrections in the midst of some heavy global political shenanigans, a dollop of the usual self-doubt, and slight, occasionally moderate family turmoil. Any possible superhero superclotting ability will, at least, require some mental reckoning with and I’m trying to ready myself for some sort of result yielding either some answers or, more likely, yet another round of questions. (On the plus side, ‘antiphospholipid’ would be a corker of a word to get on the board in Scrabble.)


* I’m not a health blogger and this is not a health blog. I am not a thyroid nor phlebotomy specialist. I am not a venipuncture expert although ‘venipuncture’ is a great word. Normal caveats apply – if you’re concerned about having similar symptoms, or are undergoing treatment and things are not going well, please contact your local, trusted health professional.

** Click this hyperlink to elsewhere on the WildWrites site for some explanation and links to good advice and support.

*** Nope, sorry lad but you were wrong: I love universal healthcare but don’t love going to the doctor’s and sitting in the waiting room and feeling all the feelings for those there who are sicker than I am and staring at a dog-eared, five-year-old Women’s Weekly and feeling like sometimes I have to justify my visit; I hate pain; I’m crap at taking and remembering to take pills; I’m not a massive fan of hospitals – big fan of the care and kindness that is given to others, many members of staff work tirelessly and, honestly, the food isn’t too bad in some of them (eating a la carte a la ward in Stepping Hill Hospital? Well then, madam, do try the vegetable soup), but would rather avoid, thanks.