21 August 2008

First thing I remember . . .

I was born in 1946 in Hailey, Idaho. My memories of the event are fuzzy at best, but my parents told me it was in a clinic/hospital on the second floor of the Fox Building which also had the town's dry goods/general store. I believe Bruce Willis owns it now, but that has absolutely nothing to do with my story. The house my parents lived in at the time was a natural foods boutique when we were there in 1981, but that also has no bearing on anything unless, of course, you are in the market for some organic legumes.

Hailey is not a town you hear of often, if at all, and seems content to sit at the base of the mountain and let Ketchum a little further up the hill, and Sun Valley at the top garner all the publicity. Its most famous native son is Ezra Pound; and while I think his political stance was not all that different from the town's, they don't seem to know what to do about the accusations of treason and mental illness and as a result were not quite sure if they should be playing him up or sweeping him under the carpet. The usual tactic was to divert attention to Hemingway who had lived/died up in Ketchum, and to the time Sun Valley hosted the Winter Olympics.

Because my grandfather had hemophilia my mother gave the doctor strict instructions that if she had a boy he was not to be circumcised until they had determined whether or not he/me also had it. Like many doctors of the time he didn't really believe there was such a thing as hemophilia; and, according to my mother, he felt she was just being a hysterical, over protective mother who didn't want to see her darling baby 'mutilated.' There were also some indications he wanted to go hunting and didn't want to wait around performing some probably meaningless tests. So, on the third day of my initial orientation to the world I was circumcised.

I bled for three weeks.

The way my mother tells it the doctor came to her that afternoon and asked if she knew of any way to stop my bleeding. Here the story gets vague for a bit, but what I've been able to piece together is this: She asked some rather pointed questions. He made some slightly less than direct replies. She then discussed his intelligence, ancestry, and the possibility of inbreeding. Then they got to work on me.

Now, for most of my life actual cuts have not been as big a problem as people expect. The usual melodramatic depiction is of a young boy receiving a small wound, perhaps with a pocket knife, and then bleeding to death in a matter of minutes as small children and animals are washed out to sea by the torrent. There were even doctors who were afraid to give us injections because they were convinced we would bleed uncontrolled from the site. It just doesn't work that way.

For things like injection sites there is usually enough tension in the skin to close it up and prevent bleeding. At the very worst a good bandage would do the job. For slightly larger cuts the treatment was basically the same as it would be for you. Using a good bandage would stop the bleeding mechanically. Usually. The big danger, and problem was internal bleeding. There was no way to apply pressure, and small injuries that might not even cause a bruise on most people would turn into a badly swollen, very painful, crippling joint hemorrhage.

Back to the problem at hand, so to speak.

Because of the location of the incision putting a pressure bandage on just didn't work. Everything they tried just slipped off. Finally they came to the realization that they were going to have to apply pressure manually. For the next three weeks my mother, a nurse or two, and occasionally the doctor and my father took turns applying pressure to the end of my penis until the bleeding stopped and things healed up.

My wife says it explains a lot.

My parents were not litigious people, and it never occurred to them that they might have sued the doctor, but they did refuse to pay the bills from him and the clinic. Once or twice a lawyer representing the doctor contacted them and made threatening noises about taking them to court over the unpaid bills; but they just said, "Go ahead. We look forward to explaining to the court why we didn't pay. That was the last they ever heard from them.

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