18 June 2008

Until they take it away . . .

A few years ago, which is old fart talk for ten or twelve, my wife got an assignment in New York for ten weeks. Unfortunately they didn't see the need to send me too, so I was left here to feed the cats. One Saturday after about four weeks I decided the apartment needed a really good cleaning. The plan was to clean everything, take a shower and reward myself with a really good lunch/dinner.

Since it was just me and the cats I worked in my boxers. (Please don't try to picture that.) It took a couple hours, but I got the bathroom gleaming like a showroom. Then I moved on to the living room. Dusting only took a few minutes, and then it was time to vacuum the carpet. At that time we had a cannister vacuum with a long hose, and the hose had cracked in a couple places. My wife, being the frugal person she is, had simply wrapped some duct tape around it rather than replace it or the vacuum. I mentioned getting a new hose/vacuum a couple of times, but since her repair seemed to work fairly well I didn't push the matter. That day, however, the vacuum just wasn't picking anything up.

After a few minutes investigation I could see that a clump of hair and stuff was sticking to the tape and blocking the hose. I needed to get the tape off, but I didn't want to use one of my good kitchen knives. My solution was to use a folding knife the company had given me as part of some anniversary gift. One thing led to another, and it ended up with the blade folding back and making a very deep slice up the outside of my thumb almost to the joint.

I jumped back into the bathroom, grabbed a paper towel and wrapped it around my thumb as tightly as I could while I looked for more suitable bandages. It quickly soaked through and I was dripping all over the place. While I was putting a fresh paper towel around it I saw that the knife had made a triangular flap that started at the end of my thumb and went down to the first joint. It looked like the blade had slid down the side of the bone.

I found some gauze and tape and put a proper bandage on, but it was soon soaked through. By the time I got some walking shorts and a t-shirt on it had to be replaced. For a few seconds I thought about changing my shorts and shirt because they had gotten pretty splattered when I put them on, but realized that could become a very vicious circle.

Grabbing my keys and wallet, and slipping on some loafers, I went down to the car. My car had a manual transmission, and it was my right hand that was injured. Luckily I had a towel in the car I could drip on, and squeezing my thumb in my fist as hard as I could, I drove to the emergency room.

On the way to the hospital it dawned on me that this was one of the few times in my life I had gone to the ER with an easily recognized injury. Over the course of my life I have been to the ER several hundred times, but most of the time it was for an internal hemorrhage and did not involve large amounts of visible blood and gore. This time I was bleeding the way everyone always imagines a hemophiliac bleeds.

Since at that time I didn't self infuse, and hemorrhages always start without an appointment, I got to know the ER nurses fairly well. In the five years we had lived in Arizona I had been to this ER about twenty times, and the routine was always the same. I'd go up to the triage desk and tell the nurse I had hemophilia b and was bleeding in my hip or knee or kidney or whatever; and they would take me right back to a treatment room. I never really looked like anything was wrong.

I got to the ER and walked up to the triage desk. The nurse looked up, and said "Ooo, I bet you're going to need some stitches." I said "Yeah, and the really fun part is: I have hemophilia b." She said something like, "Wow, it just gets better and better," and took my blood pressure and temperature. I told her the names of my primary physician and hematologist, insurance company, and other vital statistics, and then she said, "Well, take a seat in the waiting room, and they'll call you in a few minutes."

I was stunned. When I went in looking like a mid-level management type late for an appointment I would be taken right in. This time, when I looked like a minor character in some slasher movie, I had to wait.

I took my seat in the waiting room about midway between the television blaring some kid's show and the television blaring something in Spanish, and let my thumb drip into a waste basket for forty-five minutes.

Eventually I got some stitches, and a dose of factor. By the time I got home it was almost 9:00pm. I was starving, had a huge headache, and my thumb was waking up from the Novocain. I had a sandwich, took a pain pill and went to bed.

When I got up the next morning my thumb hurt like hell, and the only room I had managed to actually clean now looked like an abattoir. I cleaned the bathroom again. By the time I was done I was in a fairly sour mood.

The vacuum was still in the living room. I still needed to vacuum the place, but I was damned if I would use that thing. I grabbed it and the hose, took them out and threw them in the dumpster. Then I went to Sears.

I actually had to wait a few minutes for Sears to open. It was, after all, Sunday. As soon as the doors were unlocked I went straight to the aisle with vacuum cleaners. As I stomped up and down the aisle looking at the various models a young woman approached me.

"Um, Sir? Is there something I can help you with?"

"Yeah. How much is this one?"

She told me the price, and I noticed she seemed extremely nervous.

"I'll take it."

We went over to a counter and I paid for the vacuum; and I realized that she had been very careful to always keep a counter, or something else very large, between us. I wondered what was wrong with her, and then went to product pick-up area to get my vacuum.

When I got home I had to go to the bathroom. As I was washing my hand I looked in the mirror. For some reason I had grabbed the same shirt and shorts from the day before. I looked like I had been butchering livestock barehanded. No wonder the clerk was a little skittish. Good thing I hadn't asked for a wet-vac.

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