Sunday, April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday

The first words I heard this morning, from a sound sleep, were “Boppy, I need you to help me. I’ve opened a vein.” Her voice was coming from the bathroom. Moving as fast as a fat person with arthritis can move (not very), I made it down the hall and opened the door to see She holding on to her ankle with a very bloody cloth, and large puddles of blood all around her, soaking the bathmat, stretching across the tile floor. I tried to follow her orders and listen to what had happened at the same time, all the while blind without my glasses, in a state of shock, and desperately needing to pee.

“I was drying off and heard a noise; I thought it was a bug.” “No, I’ll keep pressure on it. Hand me a bandage from that box on the top shelf.” “It made a sound like a whine.” “No, that’s the tape. Open that package.” “I looked around and down and saw the blood.” “OK, now the tape.” “I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from until I saw it spurting like a broken hose from my foot.”

About this time, the heat, steam, blood and shock in the room started to hit me and I said, “I need some air. It’s so hot.” Black dots ran in front of my eyes and I knew my hair was soaked with sweat. “Dammit, you have to talk about the heat right now?” We have an ongoing battle about heat versus air. She was not grasping that soon I would lying in an unconscious heap in a pool of her blood. It vaguely crossed my mind that the police would have a time trying to figure this one out. I flung up the window and stuck my head out, handing her the scissors and some more pressure bandages. Blood had soaked through the first one. Then I managed to help her wind an Ace bandage around her ankle to keep everything together.

I wanted to call 911, but She wouldn’t let me. The blood did not appear to be soaking through the Ace. We need to think what to do, we agreed. By now, we realized that a varicose vein on her foot had formed near the surface of the skin and then burst. Because she is on blood thinners for her heart, the vein was pouring out blood in a brisk and unstoppable fashion.

Ultimately, we got to the ER up the street before it started getting crowded. People were either still asleep or getting ready to go to church on Palm Sunday. My own church was going to have a live donkey in the procession.

When the doctor removed our homemade bandage, the vein started arcing blood again. His calm and collected demeanor was reassuring, and he and She got to telling doctor/nurse stories while he ligated the vein and sutured her. We were all amused in a kind of relieved way and joked with him when he tripped over the “Wet Floor” sign at the door of the treatment room on his way out. Picture the yellow cones, with “Piso Mojado” in Spanish underneath “Wet Floor” in English.

When he came back in the room after the results on She’s pitifully thin blood were available, he said “You know, I tripped on that sign because it’s in Spanish and I don’t know Spanish.” “You need to learn some!” I encouraged, taking the bait. “I am NOT going to learn Spanish,” he replied. “I am an American. I live in America. The language here is English. If they want to come here, they need to speak English.”

“America is changing,” I said with what I thought was an amazing amount of empathy, patience and fairness. I was obviously still in shock over the morning’s incident, or I might have started a verbal bloodbath on the spot. “Unless you are planning to retire by say next year, you really should try to learn a little Spanish.”

“Well,” he said with what I thought was a comfortable arrogance, “I have no intention of it. They can’t change the language of America. They want to change the language. They want to change the Constitution.” “Who’s ‘they’?” challenged She from the gurney.

I wasn’t sure what the man was talking about. All I could think about was how Virginia had recently changed its Constitution, to exclude people like Dr. Powell’s current customers from civil marriage. Historically, the Federal Constitution has been amended for inclusion, rather than exclusion purposes, and I know there are people who would like to change that. But I digress. We were all still trying to smile and maintain a modicum of courtesy. We didn’t want a confrontation. We wanted to go home and make sure we were still alive. She was dressed and ready to go. “Hasta luego,” I nodded to Dr. Powell. “Oh, I know that one,” he said, as he turned to go to the next patient.


  1. God bless you and your gentle presence and dignity. Thank you.

  2. Dear gawd, I had to read this post in about four different sessions to avoid passing out on the floor. Only you would include a donkey and a lesson in language-based arrogance in a story about burst veins and ER's. Oy vey. Still a bit woozy.

    Nevertheless, please click on my name/link.

  3. Oh my goodness, Sharon. I'm just reading this after an mostly internet-free weekend (with visitors here). Like Wisetara, I got a little woozy there at the start. Had to take a few deep breaths myself. Good for you and She for remaining so calm in the face of difficult circumstances. I'm so glad that all came out well in the end. I do hope that both of you have completely recovered.

    And, by the way, let me just say from a writer's viewpoint, your description, with all the very vivid details, was perfect. I mean, reading it, I was there WITH you and She in that bathroom. You expressed so well just how completely discombobulated one would feel upon awakening to such an unexpected event.

  4. Oh no! My mister is on blood thinners and I never even considered the possibility of something like that happening! I hope she's feeling better.

    I think America is one of the few countries where citizens are proud they can only speak one language.

  5. Coumadin, which is the blood thinner Sheila takes, is prescribed to prevent blood clots, and usually for very good reason. However, the Coumadin level does need to be monitored closely by a physician (Sheila's is), and even then it can take unexpected ups and downs for several possible reasons. It's a good drug, but it does have its risks. On the other side, getting a blood clot is pretty darn risky, too. Nothing is foolproof, unfortunately. Also, Sheila has a foot full of varicose veins, and the ER doc told us that having one of them rupture is not uncommon. Now, Lynnie, post something on your blog! I've missed you!!

  6. Oh, my. So glad all is well now. And so glad you didn't scalp the man on the spot! I didn't think they thought that way anywhere but Tennessee! And yay for Vermont!

  7. Oh My God.

    I'm still feeling woozy.

    And I'm thinking of the famous ride in the ambulance, Chapala to Guadalajara, She spurting blood from the nose and the ambulance stopping for gas along the way.

    Excuse me, I have to go put my head between my knees. (As if I still could...)

    Love to you both