Saturday, June 27, 2009

Blood Phobia

I was out to lunch with my parents recently and somehow we got on the subject of my blood phobia. My mom started to talk about the sound I made when I injured my arm, the incident that started the little problem, and I had to ask to her to stop because I was getting dizzy. I think I've gotten better over the years, but when one of my kids has a bleeding injury, I go into panic overdrive. When Daisy was 2 years old and got a cut near her eye from falling out of her crib, she asked, "Mama, are you OK?" and I burst into tears. Nice bedside manner.

What happened was . . .  I was playing in my backyard when I was seven. I would get the tire swing going then somehow jump from the tire to a swing on a playset and back. It seems impossible now, but I spent a lot of time perfecting the maneuver. So anyway, as I was jumping from the tire to the swing, I missed the swing but fell against the chains holding the swing and my arm was ripped open by a very thick, exposed s-hook. I still remember the moment I realized I was hanging by the hook in my arm. I called for my dad. It seemed like there was complete silence, then he came and unhooked me.

It's funny that my mom works in the medical profession now because she didn't respond very calmly to the situation. She got a clean cloth diaper to hold against my arm but was sort of walking in circles. My next memory was lying next to my dad in the cab of his pickup truck. My dad commented on me not crying and wondered what my mom was doing now. She jumped into the cab next to me and we sped off to the medical clinic. When we were talking about this the other day, they had no idea where my middle brother was when they left, but they think my baby brother was alone in his playpen in the frontyard. This from two of the most safety-conscious grandparents there are . . . I think my dad might actually be a card-carrying member of the safety police.

We had to wait awhile to see the doctor but when we did, I was happy it was a female doctor. Maybe happy isn't the right term as I seemed to be observing the whole process from somewhere else. I didn't say much. Anyway, my arm was ripped open pretty good and I was lucky that I didn't sever a major artery or sustain muscle damage. The doctor lost count of the stitches after 100, but she was very personable and told me stories as she stitched up layer after layer.

I left the hospital with a big bandage on my arm and a new sense of fear. I still had my bandage walking home from school one day when a boy from my class followed me for a good part of the way, saying obnoxious things and half chasing me. I felt that in every step I was in danger of falling and hurting myself. My mom contacted the school and the boy had to go to the principal's office. I remember thinking that this was going to do wonders for my social life (not).

And that's really it except, I've had a phobia around injuries and blood ever since. I can handle a shoot-em-up mafia movie or something like that, but once while watching a movie on the Russian Revolution as a sophomore in high school, I fainted in class after the portrayal of the hemophiliac son falling down the stairs. So embarrassing, especially because I was one of the only younger students in a class filled with juniors and seniors.

I was escorted to the nurse's office and as rumors spread, various friends stopped by to get the scoop . . . Drugs? Disease? I owed the drug rumor to the teacher as she had said it was a possible drug overdose when calling the nurse for help. Great . . . thanks a lot. I told people I was just low blood sugar. Food was then promptly delivered (never underestimate the mass communication abilities of teenagers . . . this was even before cell phones). I couldn't bring myself to tell the truth: I went into shock because even the idea of someone bleeding to death freaked me out, and when I got up to ask to go to the bathroom, I was lightheaded and passed out right in the front of the classroom. Why faint at all unless you have everyone's full attention?

I've learned a few coping strategies since then, but the phobia comes up on occasion. It might be a movie or something a student writes (there are some twisted young minds out there) or I'll come across a scene in a book that I have to skim over. I guess I thought I would be cured after going through childbirth because . . . damn! But no, it's different.


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