It Is NOT Bright Red, It Is NOT Spurting, and YOU ARE NOT GOING TO DIE!

It Is NOT Bright Red, It Is NOT Spurting, and YOU ARE NOT GOING TO DIE!

WARNING: Do not read this story if you are squeamish about blood!

Copyright (c) 2009, Timothy A. Johns

Be careful what you tell your kids.

Not because they might hold it against you later, or they aren't ready for it yet, or you might warp them for life somehow, or all of the other obvious reasons to be careful what you tell your kids. Be careful what you tell your kids because they might remember it with the emphasis on the wrong details...

First, a confession of sorts, and I'll just put it right out there (and some of you won't believe me): I faint at the sight of blood.

Actually, that's not right. I faint at the sight of MY blood. Actually that's not right either. I faint at the THOUGHT of the sight of MY blood. (and as I write this I quite seriously don't feel so good all the sudden...)

I first discovered this little 'issue' at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, when my company First Sergeant declared that any of us that gave blood in the upcoming blood drive could have a weekend pass. No brainer, right? So just about the entirety of A Company, 86th Ordnance Battalion marched our rears down to Ireland Army Hospital to give blood, where we stood in formation while the medic gave us a briefing on what to do if you feel faint.

Unbeknownst to me, she was describing what to do if you feel faint - AFTER you give blood. I, on the other hand, was beginning to recognize the symptoms of 'feeling faint' right then and there, BEFORE I gave blood... First my hearing went out, then my vision started to fade ... next thing I knew I awoke a few seconds later to laughter. You don't know humiliation until you've been laughed at by an Army medic and an entire company of National Guard tank mechanics...

In rather extreme contrast, fairly grotesque injuries to my own body parts don't bother me -- both when I broke my ankle and when I dislocated my shoulder, they REALLY looked just WRONG (or as some guy in the ER put it to the triage nurse when I came in with a dislocated shoulder 'You better hurry! This guy looks really f***ed up!'). But I'm cool, and even laughing and cracking jokes with the ER staff. No prob. Just something about seeing my own red stuff really creeps me out in a bad way.

Getting back to today's incident, other people's blood really doesn't bother me, and I can remain quite calm in the face of a medical emergency. Which is good, because that's probably a requirement for being a Search and Rescue volunteer, and much more importantly, because I hold the full-time official title: Dad. When the kids skin the knees or worse, they need me to hold it together.

Which brings me back to being careful what you tell your kids. A few years ago, the family is hiking down to Meadowdale Beach Park, Amy was running, fell down, and skinned her knees pretty good. We didn't really have anything to clean her up, so I told her we'll just let it bleed to rinse it out a bit, and we'll fix her up when we get down to the park. She apparently (quite rationally, for a four year old) asked me if she could bleed to death if we don't put a band-aid on it.

I should have just said: "Nope.", and left it at that, but I had to be the big-shot smarty-pants and give her an object lesson. So I apparently explained to her that people don't generally die from this kind of bleeding, it's only when it's (here is the part got me in trouble!) bright red and spurting that you're ever likely to die. Ten seconds later I'm sure I'd completely forgotten that part of the conversation.

Until she reminded me of it this afternoon. Actually she reminded me of it by stating (and I quote)


And technically, she wasn't so much reminding me as freaking out big time and just screaming at the top of her lungs. And not only was she informing ME, but also everyone else standing around in the parking lot at the Granite Falls Chevron, and probably some of the people across the street at the fireworks stand as well...

So I turn around in my seat (I'm just getting back into the truck after fueling up) to look at her, and sure enough, out from the front of her left leg is streaming steadily (NOT spurting) a rather substantial stream of maroon (NOT bright red) blood. A LOT of blood, and I sure as heck better do something fast, but it's definitely not arterial.

Critical Thought Number One: Apply Direct Pressure

So I moved around to her door, reached in, clamped my hand down over her wound, lifted her leg up over the top of the driver's seat's headrest, and calmly asked her: "What happened?" Her response?


Critical Thought Number Two: I gotta calm her down if I'm gonna sort all this out.

So I told her: "You are NOT going to die. What happened?" Her response?

(emphatically, very loudly) "IT'S BRIGHT RED AND SPURTING AND NOW I'M GONNA DIE!"

Critical Thought Number Three: Poor kid clearly still thinks she's going to die from this. Got to calm her down.

"Even if it's bright red and spurting, you're not going to die."

At this point she instantly and totally switches from sheer panic to just plain pissed off.

"DAD! YOU were the one told me if it was bright red and spurting I was gonna die."

I _should_ have recognized that she had just realized she was going to be OK, but at this point I'm starting to get stressed out myself, what with all the bleeding and yelling and staring.... So I responded...

"AMY! It is NOT bright red, it is NOT spurting and " (Dear ol' Dad totally loses composure right here. At the top of MY lungs:) "YOU ARE NOT GOING TO DIE!"

Critical Thought Number Four: Oh geez there really are a lot of people staring now... Man that was kind of a dumb move... Wow this is embarrassing now...

During this time, Charlotte has done a remarkable job of keeping her composure while her sister is spewing blood all over her, and while her father and sister are shouting at each other about dying. She's calmly taken the keys out of the ignition, rolled down the back window with them, and is rummaging around in my pack in the back of the 4Runner, looking for my first-aid kit, all the while mumbling something about Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale. I look back and ask her for the most obvious piece of first aid gear I see - the bandanna she's wearing right on her head (oh sure it's funny NOW...).
So I prepare a pressure dressing with a Starbucks napkin (couldn't wait to see the look on their faces in the ER) and the bandana, lift my hand off the wound to put it on, and...

The bleeding, which appears to have come from about a 2mm hole in her leg, had already completely stopped. Score one for direct pressure (uh... and puncture wounds...).

Critical Thought Number Five: A puncture wound. Should have let the blood wash it out a bit before I stopped the bleeding. Oh... Wait... Nevermind... As much blood was coming out of there -- wow look at all of it all over the truck's upholstery -- certainly rinsed out whatever it was going to, and Amy just had a tetanus booster, too. She'll be alright.

Critical Thought Number Six: I wonder how you get blood out of automotive upholstery?

We get everything sorted out, everybody calmed down (including the folks at the Chevron...), and it's all going to be OK, so I ask her what happened again. She had jumped or scooted into the truck's seat, and somehow jabbed herself just right with a pen that was laying on the seat. It appears to have hit dead-on a large vein (which she thinks is funny, now - she can see it through her skin). She also carefully filled me in on the details I'd forgotten from our prior conversation regarding arterial bleeding...

So, be careful what you tell your kids. And perhaps almost as importantly, be careful how loudly you tell them in the Granite Falls Chevron parking lot.


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