I am a bit of a fainter

Warning: does include mention of dentists, injections & blood tests.

A couple of weeks ago, I fainted in the dentist’s chair after watching a huge needle approach. I closed my eyes, felt it go into my gum, and started to feel weird. I signalled to the dentist to stop, and she put the chair up. I said, “No, I think I need my head to go down, not up”. And everything went dark.

“Hannah, Hannah, Hannah. Are you with us, Hannah?”.

I woke up to find a fan blowing on me and a few concerned faces peering down. Even the receptionist was in the room. I was offered a glass of sugared water and some sugar tablets and after a few minutes the procedure continued.

It was a hot and muggy day. I’d had a fairly light salad for lunch, and it was now late afternoon. I had my period. I might have been a bit dehydrated. And, it all felt strangely familiar. This was not my first time.

As a child, I had to have a tetanus injection when I got bitten by a mole. That’s a story for another time but I do remember hanging my head out of the car on the way home feeling decidedly unwell.

When I had my first ear pierced I felt sick and had to be taken outside for some fresh air before the second was pierced. I also have vague memories of fainting in a PE lesson and before a university exam (after which I was taken to the medical centre and was diagnosed with glandular fever. I took the rest of my exams in my pyjamas, and passed!).

In 2021, the ZOE app asked me to do a finger prick blood test to check for Covid 19 antibodies. I had to ask my husband to squeeze the blood out, as I couldn’t face it. He did so whilst I looked away then I got on the tiled floor and asked him for a cushion to put under my legs. He looked at me like I was mad but I knew that if I didn’t get my head below my heart, I would faint. I went very cold and sweaty and was huffing and puffing. My husband had never seen me like this and wasn’t really sure what was happening. Once recovered I think he may have laughed when he realised that this was all in response to a tiny prick in my finger and losing less than a teaspoon of blood. Thankfully the cushion did the job and I didn’t faint, but it was close.

I’ve learnt to look away if I have an injection or blood taken. I was absolutely fine having my three C19 vaccinations. So, going back to my latest experience at the dentist, why, oh why did I keep my eyes open to see the huge needle approaching my gum?!

I’ve had plenty of dentistry work before, and I’m not squeamish or nervous about the thought of pain or injections. Yet, something about needles tells my brain that I need to get my head below my heart. It’s not something I can control.

Rest assured, I will mention my most recent episode to a GP, but as I told the dentist, “I am a bit of a fainter”.

Read more blog posts and find out about my memoir, The Cactus Surgeon.

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