...Junkies make the best teachers for IVs....

"Hello, Sir. My name is Maddog and I'm going to start an IV line and get some blood samples." says I as I come into the room.

I'm on my first shift as an intern at the Emergency Room and the nurses are giving me all the IV line and blood draw orders.

"Yeah, ok. Ain't gonna be no worse than I done to myself." says the patient in Room 5. He's a well dressed, bathed male in his 40's. While I prepare my equipment, he tells me that he kicked his heroin habit 7 years ago and has since gotten involved in his nephew's life. He's become the assistant coach of his nephew's football team, helps him with his homework and spends a lot of time with him.

A few days earlier, he went out and got high. He thought it would be a one-time thing but it turned into a 5 day binge. Chest pains led him to call an ambulance and he has expressed his desire to clean up and "get back on track" once he's in the hosptial.

I've learned to not be judgemental in any way. I hate it when I see that in nurses and 'medics. My job is not to prostelyze, it's to provide the treatment. My patient in room 5 is in a confessional mood and his story pours forth as I get ready. His self-recrimination is occasionally punctuated by assertions that he's gotta get "back on track." We chat and get to know each other. He likes the ideas of new beginnings and my story of quitting my job and going back to school appeals to him. We get along pretty well.

He's got great veins and not all of them are scarred up. Nonetheless, I try and fail twice to start an IV.

"Well, my man." Says I, "I've tried twice and I don't want to hurt you any more than I have to. Time to call in an expert."

"No, man. You're a student. You need to learn. Go ahead as many times as you need. I've done worse to myself so go right ahead.

I try three more times and finally get it. Each time, he's giving me pointers on angle of the needle, how to keep a vein from rolling away and more. All told, we spend about 30 minutes together. At the end I've got a better understanding of veinipuncture and he's got a 20 gauge catheter in his left forearm.

Two hours later, when he gets transferred to another floor, I make sure to stop by and chat with him a bit more and thank him again for the "lesson."

"No. Thank you, man. You've done a lot for me. Good luck." He says.

"Good luck to you, too." Says I, and off he goes.


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