My patient the nun once asked if I might visit her mother, also my patient, at home when the older woman was near the end of her life. She asked if I would draw her mother’s blood during my house call.
I was a crackerjack phlebotomist back when I was an intern, but it had been years since I’d drawn blood and told her I might be rusty. That was OK, she said. She had faith in me.
I dusted off my black doctor’s bag, threw in a needle, some tubes, alcohol wipes and a tourniquet, and headed to my patient’s house. When the time came to draw the woman’s blood, I had trouble finding a vein.
“You can stick her again if you need to,” said the daughter kindly. I confessed that I’d brought only one needle.
“Then, doctor,” said the nun, “I will pray for you.”
I adjusted the needle slightly, and a flash of red appeared. I turned to the patient’s daughter, seeking her approval. But her eyes were not on me.
They were lifted to the sky.
Dr. Suzanne Koven is a primary care internist at Massachusetts General Hospital. Read her blog on Boston.com/Health.