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Q and A with Shannon Martini

by:  JIM CLARK, Phlebotomist Shannon Martini makes her living drawing blood – but she admits to fainting sometimes when on the other end of the needle.

Shannon Martini has this love-hate relationship with needles. She loves her work at Good Samaritan Hospital and Medical Center drawing blood from people. She hates being on the other end of the needle.

In fact, Martini admits when it comes time for her to give blood, she's just as likely to give way - and end up on the floor. And her field, by the way, is called phlebotomy. Which makes Martini a phlebotomist. But you knew that already, right?

The Northeast Portland resident worked as an ambulance medical tech in Las Vegas before moving here two years ago. But she insists she did not train for her current work by playing, um, poker.

Portland Tribune: So why did you become a phlebotomist?

Shannon Martini: I just kind of stumbled on it.

Tribune: Didn't your mother warn you about running with sharp objects? Did you hurt yourself?

Martini: I've come out unscathed. My partner was a pediatric IV nurse, and I saw her get an IV in a 3-day-old baby and I was completely inspired to be good at it.

Tribune: What makes a good phlebotomist?

Martini: I have a knack with the tougher patients, the ones where the veins are really small or if they're very dehydrated. I've gotten to the point where I have little old ladies telling me, 'Oh my gosh, I can't believe you got me in one poke.'

When I go in, people always have to poke me more than once. It's a lot about empathy and compassion. If you can throw a little humor in the mix and find clever ways to distract them, they tend to have more compliments.

Tribune: So give me one of your best lines.

Martini: I tell them I can always punch them in the nose if they're a tough stick, meaning, I can punch them in the nose to collect the blood.

Tribune: So what's the weirdest thing you've heard people talk about while they got poked?

Martini: Today another phlebotomist was taking blood from a man, and he said, 'It hurts.' And she said, 'Do you want me to stop?' And he said, 'No, I'll just think of some naked ladies.'

Tribune: Other weird lab stuff?

Martini: A man once left his stool sample in his underwear and brought it in to us rather than in a container as it was supposed to be.

Tribune: Some of your patients get pretty nervous, don't they?

Martini: People faint all the time.

Tribune: Can you tell a fainter right when they walk in?

Martini: Yes, generally. I happen to be a fainter, so for me it's all about touch. I can feel them getting clammy, and then the color just drains from their face and they turn a perfect shade of green like sea foam. Sometimes the eyes will do a little fluttering thing.

Tribune: And what do you do?

Martini: Withdraw the needle and try as hard as we can to hold pressure on the wound site and make sure they don't hit the ground.

Tribune: How can you be a fainter?

Martini: It's completely mental. I have 22 tattoos and so many piercings, but I can't do the blood part. It's weird.

Tribune: It's not the sight of blood?

Martini: Not at all. It's more about the way the needle feels when it's being inserted. If somebody is not very confident usually they'll insert the needle very slowly, and that's agony.

Tribune: Ever make a mistake?

Martini: We draw a lot of blood from patients who take a blood thinner. If they don't hold proper pressure after we remove the needle they will bleed.

One guy, I finished the draining and I applied the tourniquet and put pressure on there, and I asked if he was on any medications. I pick up the cotton and put some tape on it. He stands up, puts his coat on and he doesn't walk three steps and I notice blood dripping out of his clothes like somebody cut his arm off.

Tribune: Didn't he know he was on blood thinner?

Martini: He just didn't tell me. And when I said, 'Come here, let me fix you up,' he said, 'Oh, honey, it happens all the time. Don't worry about it.'

Tribune: So what would you be doing if you weren't drawing blood?

Martini: I would love to be a tattoo artist, actually. It's needle- related. I like to draw and I like to get tattoos myself, and my medical and artistic sides could merge.

- Peter Korn