I remained still.
Then I realised the call was for me.
"Hello Helen, you look lovely. Are you going somewhere special? I love your outfit. If I wasn't going to jab you with a needle, I would have asked you out..."
And so it began. Our connection. Our kindredness. This phlebotomist - let's call her Janet, shared my kind of humour. My kind of openness. My kind of vulnerability. My kind of outlook on life. We sped through many topics, during the short time I was perched on the (seemingly high and oversized) phlebotomy chair.
Another jabber lady - "the needle whisperer" was called in to seek out my hard-to-find veins. Within minutes, my A positive blood was flowing down the tube. No sweat!
Janet continued with our latest conversation, explaining to me that her son had Down's Syndrome and that he also had a hole in his heart.
"Tetralogy of Fallot?" I asked.
Her eyes widened and watered in seconds. "Do you know about it?"
"Yes, my brother was born with it. The reason I ask you this is that I want to encourage you in your plight with your son. There are so many new, improved procedures nowadays, compared to when my brother was treated as a young boy. Success rates have greatly improved on all types of Tetralogy".
We then entered the bubble of heart speak (pun intended), where time stood still.
I told her how my mother, while breast feeding her youngest at that time (no 3), had to travel - per train, many times - to Leicester Children's Hospital with her other sick child (no 2) to be treated, operated and checked upon. How after his open heart surgery at five years old, he posed on stage showing off his huge scar - in front of numerous medical and heart surgeons (including Dr Christopher Barnard). How later in life, he had a valve installed between his two ventricles (my brother referred to this as his 'pig valve'). I told her of my fear to go into Intensive Care to see him after his operation. I told her how his head had swelled after surgery, and how confronting it was to see him like that. I told her how comforted I was, though, when he lifted his water filled head off the pillow, looked up at me and said "Hello, Doll", as I knew there and then, he was going to be ok. I told her of my brother's humour, wit and courage. And finally - I told her of his passing at age 66.
Tears all round!
Tissues all round!
Janet then told me of her husband, who had suffered an injury and couldn't go out to work. How she was the only earner in the family. How she coped with her son. How she laughed and loved with her son. How they were waiting for her son's 'big op'. How others told her how strong and courageous she was, and how she brushed those comments off with "we have to do what we have to do". She told me how grateful she was that she still had a warm home - and food....
"And talking of food.... I always, in my head, classify and compare people to food, Helen. You would be a juicy hamburger. You have it all. You are lovely on the inside and the outside. You would be a hamburger with the lot! The absolute lot! Whoever has you in their life, has gold. I'm glad I got you today. I needed this. Thankyou so much. You've inspired and encouraged me...."
"And you, me!" I responded.
More tears, more tissues!
I slid off the chair. "Come here, give me some sugar".
We hugged. We exchanged well-wishes. I went to leave the room, and as I was closing the door, I just had to share one of my (deceased) brother, Brian's well wishes with her.
"...And remember to keep your bowels open...."
I closed the door, and as I walked towards the stairs, all I could hear was Janet's hearty Belly Laugh....