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I miss those needles

February 22nd, 2004 · No Comments

I do.

Today’s trip to the vet to care for a sick pup got me into conversations about animal handling and health: how blood is drawn from a dog, how kidney stones are removed, how pets are held during protocols.

I started thinking about my own experience handling animals while working with mice in a laboratory. I liked operating on mice. I liked using needles and scissors. Syringes too. Filling a syringe properly for an injection – especially with a limited amount of reagent – is an art. At first I had to work at it but soon I could fill a syringe easily, removing the air bubbles and delivering an exact dose.

Ariel Meadow Stalling’s post today Magnetic Aichmophobia described her experience with needles and her pet rat:

This issue is fresh in my mind because yesterday Dre and I had to take our rat, Jaamini, to the vet to get some antibiotics.


“Should I mix the antibiotics with juice?” I asked, wondering if that would make it easier to get Jaamini to take the medicine.

“That works,” the vet said. “Or you can try injecting the antibiotics into a raisin. Sometimes that masks the taste enough for the rat not to mind.”

So, twice a day I pull out my worst enemy: a needle. I turn the antibiotic test tube upside down, and poke the needle into the rubber membrane cap, drawing out the correct amount of medication. I fastidiously avoid air bubbles.

Then I pluck a raisin from a bag and gently slide the needle’s tip into its wrinkly vein. As I press the plunger, I shiver with horror and a disturbing satisfaction. The raisin bloats with fluid, its wrinkles pushed outward by the injected antibiotics.

Then I feed the raisin to the rat, who totally loves it. She grunts and wheezes contentedly as she eats it, clearly unbothered by the vile-tasting fluid filling the little dehydrated sweet-sack.

I have been afraid of needles since my appendectomy in 1986, and now I find myself getting a delirious rush from turning raisins into my own little purple intravenous drug users. I can only wonder if this will dull my aichmophobia the next time I’m faced with a shot (“I am the raisin, I am the raisin”). Or does this mark a new heightened level of terror, in which I am a delegator of my own horror?

Watch out for evil nurse Ariel, victimizing innocent dried fruit — who’s next? Nurse Ariel offers this thought: stroking a phobia feels just like the elation immediately after a sneeze.

I’m not thrilled about getting injections myself but I don’t feel any aichmophobia when I’m using a needle for a rodent – so it’s interesting to read “Nurse Ariel”‘s perspective. Wish I could inject those raisins for her: sounds fun! Then again this protocol seems to be helping her maybe as much as it is helping her pet.

Tags: journal