The fear of needles and blood is at best embarassing; but wait, they could have disastrous consequences as well!

There was a loud crash behind me; the kind of sound that you might expect to hear at Apocalypse.

I jumped up. Reflex having kicked in, carefully summoned restraint went out. I tried to swivel around to see what had happened, and I might have succeeded but for the chap in front of me. As it was, I could only turn my head, putting my face approximately where the back of my head had just been. My burly friend was lying sprawled, mouth open, eyes rolling up his forehead, tongue sticking out. Ok, his tongue was not sticking out, but the situation warrants it, surely.

Naturally enough, my mouth fell open. Considering how less than a minute ago, that burly, prone figure was standing like a rock behind me, feet firm on ground, head held high in the air. The chap standing in front of me and holding my arm in a vise grip, sighed once, and then again. Then he coughed. “Madam, turn, don’t. Please?” he said as he focused on drawing blood from my arm.

“But, but…” I spluttered. “He needs more attention now. Help, help!” I was apoplectic by now. The young lab assistant said sternly, “Stay! I’ll draw your blood first,” his grip strengthening. “Your friend, he is? Fine, he will be,” he said Yoda-like. Whether it was his grip, his voice, his calmness, or the way he constructed his phrases like the Grand Master of the Jedi Council, it had a soothing effect on me. Watching prone friend from the corner of my eye right through, we got our work done.

And then, miraculously, my friend roused himself, moving still body parts in spurts.

Perplexed at his position on the floor he looked around, and a shade of pink stole over his cheeks as he realised what had happened. Pulling himself together, mentally and physically, he looked at me, “I fainted? Please, don’t tell anyone. Please.”

I didn’t. Until now, of course.

If you haven’t figured this out by now, my friend has a combo phobia: he’s scared stiff of needles AND of the sight of blood. If we want to sound important about it, he had aichmophobia/tryanophobia and haemophobia.

He’s not the only of the type I had the pleasure of knowing, though. A good friend’s sister too did the fainting act at the sight of coursing human blood. Her family learned to anticipate it, and prepare for the fall, trying to make the descent softer, especially when she was pregnant. She took it too far though, when she began to feel faint even looking at pictures of syringes.

At best, these phobias are embarrassing. At its worst, they could be even fatal, apparently.

Going by statistics available on the web, about 10 per cent of all Americans have some form of the fear of needles. Not all of them have an episode of vasovagal syncope, or fainting, but then, the danger about this is the tendency of the individual to avoid health care treatments, deterred by their fear.

Vasovagal syncope can, by itself, also be dangerous. It’s not quite what it sounds, but it indicates a drastic loss in blood pressure, and heart rate which could be accompanied by loss of pallor and sweating. Vasovagal syncope occurs when the body over reacts to some triggers: here, the sight of a syringe or blood. When blood pressure and heart rate fall, there is not enough blood supply to the brain, and a temporary loss of consciousness occurs.

Mostly, people pick themselves up once the episode is over, and if they don’t have any injuries sustained during the fall, they’ll be happy until the next encounter with the needle-kind. But if the blood pressure plummets really low, there must be worry on the doctor’s brow. Vasovagal syncope could be indicative of other serious conditions, including heart disorders.

My burly friend’s heart was quite sturdy, though, and it steadfastly survived the passage of a string of girl friends in, and then, predictably, out of his life. But he’s gotten better really over the years. He hates injections still, but tries not to make a full length feature film of it.

No one writes self help books on surviving needle pricks, most doctors are happy to look at you with disdain, friends laugh, and the family heaves with disgust. The tricks, however, are available online, like most things in the world today. Like they say, “It’s all mental.” Prepping oneself for a medical procedure includes anticipating it, and staying calm, taking long breaths, meditation etc, but really, anything that helps you.

Getting one over the phobia, or hanging in there, is infinitely preferable to allowing that rascal to keep you from seeking treatment for health conditions. That’s a bit like cutting your nose to spite your face.

Though you won’t have much of a nose, or a face left, if you keep falling often. My friend, I’m convinced, used to have a decent nose.