Monday, October 5, 2009


I apologize for being behind in my blogging-I have been busy ARTING and that is all consuming…but to rediscover creativity after you have been away from it for awhile is like back sliding into addiction-art is seductive and also a demanding mistress.

I want to talk about an odd thing but one that will be valuable to many who bother to read this blog-hang with me-there is some great info coming especially if you haven’t got an angel for a doctor like I do…

I am incredibly needle phobic…I mean sweaty, fainting, nauseated, scared little boy phobic-or at least I WAS…

Being a conscientious citizen I always made sure I had an HIV test once in awhile when the epidemic started but it took an act of God, a really huge, kind, bear of a male nurse at a little clinic in Silver Lake and lots of VooDoo (not to mention a butterfly) to get that sample.

Nothing is ever an accident and I was led to my wonderful Doctor, Christine Szeto who is responsible for my changed attitude about needles and things medical and lots of other concepts as well.

Dr. Szeto is one of those amazing people in whom God has instilled healing as a gift-when you visit her you come out feeling better and just a little perkier even if you dragged yourself into the office in the first place…I do not exaggerate, all who know her share this opinion---

The gifts from above aside she is a wonderful person, solid in her faith and committed to her profession.

She is also committed to her patients and for that gift there are many of us who can never thank her enough-she has seen me through my first hospital stay, anxiety disorder, Rheumatoid disease and everyday complaints.

I have known her through the birth of her children, the evolution of a bright young girl into a successful mature doctor and when there has been time we have shared our spirituality, our love of music and even the gift of laughter…so much in so many years... patient, doctor, friends.

I met her because I was addicted to prescription drugs…another doctor who had sworn that addiction was not in his vocabulary let me become dependent and then abusive of Xanax and Doctor Szeto detoxed me and helped me move on with my life.

Another thing she did was get me past my fear of needles and if you have a great doctor who will listen they can also help you or someone you know get past the fear as well.


Write it down and carry it with you---being sick and hurting is bad enough-it always annoyed me and scared me that we had to hurt more to get better.

Diagnosis needs needles, flu shots, antibiotics, all of it comes with a shot, a hypo aimed at your sensitive and defenseless self-it’s not fun and not fair.

I had a couple of horrible pediatricians who were guaranteed to meet you at the door with a needle-from those experiences we become phobic adults-I thought a blood test was a stick in the finger-the first time I had to have a vein punctured I was about 12 and it took two doctors and several nurses to hold me down and get the blood---I still wonder today WHY it was so important for those doctors to WIN against a boy…I didn’t have a life threatening disease, they just wanted a blood test to rule out any possibilities.

Back to EMLA-there are two variations and it is now available as a generic-it is a white crème and is a double dose of topical anesthetics-specifically Lidocaine.

I apply it to the area to be stuck and slap a wide bandage over it 2 hours before I see the doctor and I feel NOTHING…not even pressure… when they take my blood.

WHY the use of EMLA is not standard practice is beyond me-there would be many less teary eyed, white faced, dizzy, fainting people in the world with a little EMLA spread around by medical professionals.

I’m not going to discuss the reasons why it has almost been pulled from the market several times and how it can be abused-let’s not put fodder for the naysayers on the internet.

If you have ANYONE who is truly afraid of needles they need to have EMLA and they need a doctor who understands that “It’s NOT just a little stick” for some of us.

I remember Dr. Szeto sitting next to me and holding my hand, calming talking and distracting me in the early days of recovering from the needle phobia, then I had to have “Marjorie” do the blood draws-I trusted her as a nurse and knew she could find the right spot-I went to the hospital with Pneumonia covered with EMLA patches and with a directive on my chart that there were to be no needle sticks without EMLA.

I have become an evangelist, a lobbyist, a fan of EMLA---I don’t ever want to see a child crying or an adult sweaty and scared, feeling embarrassed because they need a blood test and are frightened.

After seeing the doctor today and having my regular blood work I thought WHY don’t I blog on this information and get it out there to help others?

I take Methotrexate for my RA, it can make liver problems so I have to have blood drawn every two or three months-THANK GOD and Dr. Szeto (and whomever is responsible for discovering EMLA) I am able to have the sticks without days of dread and compulsive worry.

EMLA is prescription only and is not cheap-however used correctly one tube should get you through a year-I took Rhemicaid for awhile which is an infusion for RA and EMLA was my buddy through that experience as well.

There are good things in the world that aren’t widely known-there are simple things like taking away the fear and pain surrounding needle sticks that can make a person’s life a little better.

At the end of her life my Mother (who had never had a problem with needles) was just flat out of patience with the painful needle sticks for IVs that had to be started and restarted-she was one huge bruise and besides everything else she felt terrible, enough was enough…I had to play patents advocate and insist that there be no needle sticks without EMLA-so maybe it made the last days of her life a bit better-I hope so.

I wish I had known about it when my friends faced Chemo or the other miseries of Cancer and Aids-other diseases, so many needles over the years that could have been a bit more comfortable or gone unfelt…adding pain to pain just isn’t good medicine, it’s about haste and a disregard for the feelings of people, patients.

“It’s just a little stick.”

NO, it’s not…reverse the situation doctor and you would rather not feel that little stick right? So take the time and Rx the EMLA and get over your exasperation with people who are fearful, genuinely fearful of needles.

I never thought in my life I would be going to a woman doctor.

I always said I can’t explain MEN things to a woman and it’s very hard for a woman to explain a yeast infection to a man-plumbing differences make life experiences and sharing them on any level other than theoretic, IMPOSSIBLE.

I bless the day I asked Christine Szeto to take me on as a patient and I thank the powers that be that she is still there for me, taking care of me and caring for me all these years later.

Her biggest gift to me may be the understanding that doctors are people who we work WITH in the cause of our health and to that end we as patients have the right to make requests and even reasonable demands that we are cared for in a professional and compassionate manner.

I have the tools now to see a specialist and know that my rights include using a product to make my experience more comfortable and less painful or frightening.

I hope this post has empowered you to takethese tools and incorporate them for use by yourself or for a loved one.

One CAVEAT, in an emergency there isn't going to be time for EMLA-but hopefully if there ever is such an emergency the needle phobia will be in a realm where it isn't the all powerful monster that has haunted some of us.

EMLA a simple thing but a powerful one when used correctly.

Dr. Szeto…irreplaceable.


  1. You are so correct about EMLA, Rick. You're not going to believe this but I have RA, OA, Fibro, Ankylosing Sponylitis and DDD. They have to apothecary my intravenus meds that I endure 4 times a year for my treatment. And I had to pull myself off Hydrocodone and Lexapro because my old doctor would not. Anyway, I used baby orajel for years before my new doc allowed emla. If all doctors would just use it like they do alcohol, things would be lots better for everyone. xoxo, Aimeslee

  2. Tell that to ANYONE who will listen and insist that you recv what you need for your comfort-My doctor would never deny me something as simple as EMLA without very good reason-and if I waasn't bleeding to death in the interim she would take time to explain her reasons.


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