Chiropractors with Needles
There are some aspects of chiropractic college that I didn’t see coming. Thirty human cadavers in one room is a bit shocking at first. Underground passages between academic buildings are pretty cool. Learning pretty much every structure in the human body over the course of a year sounds pretty impressive. But I can say with certainty that I did not expect to learn venipuncture- the art of doing a blood draw.
One of our fifth-trimester classes is Clinical Laboratory Diagnosis. The lecture introduces us to an array of biological testing, how it works, and how to interpret lab test results. Many of the test results reveal additional details about disease signs that chiropractors may discover in patient histories or diagnostic images like x-rays. Infections, cancers, and organ dysfunctions all cause unique changes in body chemistry which we may detect on these test. Overall, very cool- and important- material. And here in New York, blood draw for these tests is part of the chiropractic scope of practice.
The lab, then, introduces us to the actual procedures for such tests. Blood tests. Like for anemia. Which affects blood cells. Which apparently means that we need to make blood available to do the test.
Now, I think that some of my classmates would agree that if we enjoyed blood, we would have studied emergency medicine. And nobody I know really likes needles. So you could say there was some apprehension as we went through the procedure of blood draw, first verbally, then on a rubber arm model (complete with rubber veins of varying sizes).
Finally, the day of the real blood draw came. We pulled numbers from a beaker for whose procedure would be observed first, and I managed to pull number three. In my head I began frantically rehearsing the steps of a blood draw, not wanting to traumatize my hapless partner too much. Meanwhile, she stifled years of aversion to needles, keeping a saintly composure.
I’ll spare you the details of the process, but most of my brain was briefly dedicated to the possibility that I would not get any blood, and have to retry. Then I was in, out, and done. Tube of blood gathered, mixed with anti-coagulant and ready. Partner intact. Whew.
Over the past three weeks, we have collected blood to test for four important indicators:
- The iron-containing protein in red blood cells that allows for oxygen delivery from lungs to the body, hemoglobin. A drop of blood in an attractive cerulean vial sinks right to the bottom if its iron/hemoglobin content is normal.
- The ratio of red blood cells to total blood volume, hematocrit. In males, it should be 39-49% RBCs, and in females 35-45%. This is higher in endurance athletes, and lower in those who lose blood for any reason.
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), an indicator of systemic inflammation in the body. Blood cells are left in narrow, measured vials for an hour to observe how much the cells settle down. More settling indicates more inflammation, and inflammation is created by anything from diet to disease to emotional stress.
- Blood type. The four main types are A, B, AB, and O, and these determine who your blood can be donated to, and who you can receive transfusions from. My lab partner and I are type O, the universal donor. You’re welcome.
Getting to learn a few more tidbits about how my own body works is generally good incentive for me to withstand pain, if my four undergraduate years in the Exercise Science lab are any indicator, and that was still true here. The class also finally puts to use sections of our biochemistry, physiology, and pathology classes which seemed trivial before. So all in all tolerating being stuck a few times was pretty interesting.
I’ll still understand if you don’t like needles.
***In honor of Valentine’s Day, have some heart- make the time to donate blood! Visit the American Red Cross website to find a blood drive near you! (You will get to learn your own blood type, too.)***