Coumadin Blood Test Nightmare
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
My husband, Greg, takes Coumadin to help prevent blood clots. He's paralyzed from the chest down so he is unable to move to help prevent clots on his own. Plus he had two clots about 1 1/2 years ago, which increases his chances of getting more. Up until now visiting nurses have performed the blood test, but because Greg's health has greatly improved he no longer requires the frequent nurse visits (I am so happy about this). Medicare will no longer pay for a visiting nurse visit to just check Coumadin blood levels so a company was started to provide the testing equipment and supplies for the patient or caregiver to do the test. A visiting nurse came out with the equipment and testing supplies and showed us how to perform the weekly test.
To perform the test I must insert a test strip into the machine, be sure the machine and test strip have the same code number; take a lancet, push in a tab, twist and then remove the tab. The lancet is now ready to poke Greg's finger, but first make sure the correct end is against the finger - otherwise the needle will shoot out across the room (or into someone). Once poked the finger must be "milked" to get a drop of blood about the size of a ladybug. Then I must take a tube and gather the blood up to a marked line. Next I place the blood sample on an indicated circle on the test strip. The machine then draws the blood up inside and after several seconds gives the blood level. I was sure that between Greg and I we would be able to perform the test without a problem.
We were right - the first week. I was so proud of us and when the nurse called later in the day to see how things went I was happy to report it went very well. Yeah for us!
Then came week #2. The first test placed a big blood bubble on the test strip and the machine did not like that. Okay - we took a deep breath and went for test strip #2 (plus another lancet and tube). This time the blood wasn't so easy coming out - I THOUGHT there was a "ladybug" amount, but I was wrong and the test failed AGAIN. This shook me and Greg decided to help me out with poke #3.
Greg took the lancet, prepped it correctly and then placed the wrong end against his finger. This is when we discovered that the needle shoots out when used incorrectly. No one was hurt, but I did need to vacuum to make sure I didn't step on the dumb thing later. I then took lancet #4 and forgot to push in the tab and just removed it - so #4 was garbage. Lancet #5 was prepped and used correctly but by now both Greg and I were so stressed out and the blood simply wouldn't come out of Greg! Finally there was enough blood, but the tube sucked it up into it's bulb and when put into the machine it gave us an error code which meant we had to do it all over AGAIN! UGH!!!
Holy Cow!!! By now we were beyond stressed! What on earth??? Week #1 was perfect - what was wrong with us?
Finally we did everything correctly, but we had depleted our supplies. The results came out perfectly though. When the nurse called to see how week #2 went - I was near tears and she said she'd come out the next week.
Well, yesterday was week #3 and Nurse Debi was there to coach us through. Well, even with Nurse Debi there it was a repeat of week #2!!!! Even Nurse Debi was frustrated. Turns out Greg's blood is difficult to draw - for everyone! That's a problem. We are also questioning the machine - it may be defective. After several phone calls between Nurse Debi and the company it was decided that: #1 a new machine (plus supplies) will be sent; and #2 if the new machine doesn't "like" Greg's blood draw using the tube, he'll have to drop the blood directly onto the test strip rather than use the tube to collect the sample. This whole thing is so stressful, but at least we learned it wasn't us!!! UGH!!!