Guest column | Jerry Cowling

Fear of needles causes men to cower with anxiety

I am the worst person in the world about getting shots. My son is almost as bad as I am. We'd make terrible heroin addicts.

My wife and daughter are better. Why is it women are braver patients than men? Most women can give birth in the morning and plow the back 40 in the afternoon. One woman in Kevin Costner's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves had a caesarean section by Saracen sword one day and stormed the castle the next. Of course, that was a movie.

My wife says she wasn't good about getting shots when she was a child. One time the doctor came by the house to give her an injection, and she jumped around the bed to avoid the needle. He caught her mid-bounce in the buttocks. After that she calmed down. When my daughter got her first inoculation she looked at her arm and said, "Humph, that hurt."

My son, on the other hand, shuddered with tears welling in his eyes, pleading with the doctor not to stick him. And that was last week. Just kidding. He shuddered when he was 8. He takes it like a man now. He shudders on the inside, just like me.

Back in the 1950s, the schools gave polio shots regularly to elementary school students. You had no warning. There you were, sitting in the classroom just about ready to doze off, when the next thing you knew the teacher was herding you down the hall to your doom. The needles back then were huge and dull. I could swear that they had been using the same needles that they had used on soldiers in World War II, just to save money.

Of course, getting an inoculation is nothing like having blood drawn. From the time I first discovered the fact that doctors, on a regular basis, stuck needles in your veins to extract copious amount of blood, I lived in fear that one day I would have to undergo such torture. When it eventually happened, I had to be placed on a gurney, and my mother hovered over my face as the nurse drew the blood. And I'll never forget her kind words:

"You're being a big baby over this and embarrassing me to death."

Over the years I have not gotten much better. At least my wife has never told me I was a big baby or acted like she was embarrassed when I almost passed out on the clinic floor. By the way, women faint and men pass out.

Doctors actually have a name for the condition, and it is not cowardice. It's Latin, so I can't remember it. When your nervous system thinks it's losing volumes of its life-giving fluid, your blood pressure drops dramatically so the blood won't flow out so fast. Not surprisingly, mostly men have it.

Just last year at the hospital a male nurse couldn't find my vein. By the time he had thumped both arms several times and finally stuck in the needle, I was light-headed. They rushed me over to the emergency room because they thought I had a seizure. Nope. It was just manly nervous Nellie disease.

I have discovered if I keep babbling on about something inconsequential the attendant can draw the blood and get me out of the building before my blood pressure drops. Once I quoted "Twas the Night Before Christmas."

I'm memorizing the Gettysburg Address for next time.

Jerry Cowling is a Brooksville freelance writer and storyteller.

Fear of needles causes men to cower with anxiety 09/30/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 30, 2010 5:28pm]

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