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A 'needling' worry

chandigarh Updated: Mar 22, 2014 18:29 IST
Aditi Ahuja
Aditi Ahuja
Hindustan Times
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He strapped a tourniquet, the colour of which I do not remember, around my arm and fastened it with a strip of Velcro. My breathing became more laboured, and I felt a desperate need to escape, but was held captive in my seat. He picked up a needle. It glinted coldly. I wanted to run. As he prepared the syringe, I wanted to scream. He brought it closer, and I could see the needle in fine detail, but there was no way to escape.

Yes, I was getting a blood test done, and in spite of being a grown-up working in a newspaper, which usually makes people regard me with awe, I was scared of a mere needle. So scared, that it still haunts me, almost a week later.

A quick search on the Internet throws up six terms related to fear of aichmophobia (intense or morbid fear of sharp or pointed objects), algophobia(intense or morbid fear of pain), belonephobia (abnormal fear of sharp, pointed objects, especially needles), enetophobia (fear of pins), trypanophobia (fear of injections) and vaccinophobia (fear of vaccines and vaccinations). Nice to know, but it does not really help.

One of the earliest things I remember from my childhood is cowering under a quilt or hiding behind my nani whenever our otherwise much-loved family doctor visited us with a vaccination prepared especially for me.

I don't remember what it looked like or if it hurt, but I can never forget the abject terror I felt at the mere mention of a vaccination.

Then there were those hepatitis-B vaccinations in school, and the countless blood samples I had to give whenever I had to submit a medical certificate or fell ill - which was quite frequently.

I have lost count of the lab technicians I have scared over the years. There was once this sweet but slightly careless girl, who kept moving the needle around while taking a sample. Once, when her long nails clicked against the needle, I yelled at her for breaking the needle inside me. I hope she cut her nails after that.

There were others who understood my fear and would happily joke with me or distract me with small talk. Others would talk me through the whole process, telling me about how the syringe worked and how the results are prepared.

Somehow, understanding how things worked made it easier, but nothing made the fear really go away. My heart still hammers away when I have to get a vaccination or blood test done, and I still cannot watch a certain scene in the film 'Table No 21' without cringing, much to the amusement of my friends. When I volunteered to donate blood at a camp in college, I had to call a friend to distract me from the needles I could see all around me. That was when I knew that I would have to get over my fear.

While I am yet to succeed in my attempt, I take solace in the statistics which show that more than 10% of the population is in the same boat as me. We have Sleeping Beauty's example, after all.