Friday, January 28, 2011

No Blood, No Problem

No blood, no problem. For years this was my motto. It may sound cold, it may sound neglectful but when you are one of 8 children and then have five of your own it only makes sense.

None of my siblings or I ever believed in minor tumbles or the sniffles. My mom did not wipe a boo-boo gently with antibiotic and then put on a cartoon Band-Aid and give us a kiss and walk away with it all better. When we hurt ourselves we went all out, no holds barred, in for a penny in for a pound… when we got hurt, we got hurt bad, blood-broken limb-missing teeth-concussion bad. When we got sick it was mass vomiting, raging fevers, near comas, hospitalizations, specialists, no-one-ever-had-this-before bad. We did ourselves proud.

My first experience with truly disgusting injury or illness came at a very early age. I awoke to my sister leaning over me shrieking “MOM’ while she held me at arms length with a truly frightened look on her face and blood all over… well,  everything. I felt fine, sort of, would have felt better if she had quit yelling in my immediate vicinity and didn’t look like a figure in my brothers’ comics, covered in gore, hair wild, arms akimbo. My parents rushed in and I was bundled up and whisked into the night in the vast silence of my terrified mother’s iron grip. At the ripe old age of 2 I had developed a bleeding ulcer and I had been doing just that, ulcerating and bleeding. I was put in a crib (infuriating) and my mother had to leave (terrifying). A week later I was back home, coddled, fussed over and allowed to drink as much milk a day as I wanted. It was heaven for a tot.

I continued my spate of self mutilation by using a packet of silica gel from the inside of a shoe box as sugar in my pretend tea cup. Stomach pumped that time. Shortly there after I fell while pretending to be a brave and mighty soldier and my father’s swagger stick went straight up one nostril and stopped just short of my brain. More blood, black eyes, x-rays. I was piling up quite an impressive group of injuries and though young probably could have pulled ahead of my siblings in time, but they picked up the slack and tried their hardest to maim themselves too.

One brother got hit in the mouth with a baseball bat, knocking out quite a few teeth and mangling his face, one sister took a hit in the mouth with a field hockey stick, more teeth gone, one sister, sliding on ice just fine, found herself in a terrible tumble when it abruptly changed back to pavement, throwing her on her face … more teeth. We pretty much put the tooth fairy on the brink of bankruptcy. Another brother, thinking he saw something in the OPEN back of a Slurpy machine, put his hand in and immediately lost the end of one finger. The store owner marched us to our house, yelling at my mother about how bad we were while my brother stood with his hand in the air, wrapped in blood soaked rags and tearfully apologized over and over to the man. I thought my mother was going to kill the store owner. I know she could have taken him out but she had to get my now permanently deformed (sisterly love word) brother to the emergency room so she left him alive

We had falls through second story windows, scurvy (yes, like old sailors), rattlesnake and horse bites, broken arms, broken legs, black eyes, cracked heads, and broken noses. We drank furniture polish, detergent, bleach and alcohol. If there was a flu, we caught it, a stomach bug, we incubated it. We fell off bikes, roofs, diving boards, horses, out of trees, off of jungle gyms, and into bee’s nests, holes, creeks, rivers and lakes. We went through the gamut of known echo viruses, measles, mumps, chicken pox, whooping cough, colic, appendicitis, mononucleosis and pneumonia. In short, if we could break it burn it, knock it out or scar it permanently we did. If you could catch it we volunteered and gladly shared the misery with our siblings. We were a lot of people with evidently poor coordination living in very close quarters and for that reason I thought (wrongly) that my trips to the emergency room were finished when I left home.

I was snapped back to reality when my first born caught a horrible virus, raging fevers, swelling of her joints, blood red eyes…. It turned out to be an echo virus, one of the few discovered after I had left home. This was quickly followed by a slip on our tile floor, cracking her head and leaving an egg the size of New Jersey on her perfect brow. Just when the now magenta topographical depiction of Mt. Everest started to go down she got her fat little baby fingers on half a peanut. What harm can half a peanut do you might ask? When inhaled into the lung, apparently, it can do a lot. She whistled like a tea kettle on every breath, but other than that she seemed to be fine. We rushed her to the emergency room (hi, yes, it IS me again, how are you?) just because babies are not generally meant to sound like boiling water under pressure and they sent her to x-ray forthwith. She was hospitalized, placed in a crib (infuriating) and we had to leave (terrifying) until the next morning. By the time I got to the hospital they had finished vacuuming out her little lungs and she was awake. While previously she whistled she was now hoarse. The anesthesia had settled in one foot, making it twice the size of the other, Her face was red, her eyes were bloodshot, she was hungry and she was PISSED OFF.

Her little brother quickly made his presence known at the ER as well. His head must have been terribly heavy because he fell on it every chance he got. He tried sucking his new baby sister up with a vacuum and instead had four fingers on both hands beat to hell by the rotating brush inside. Beautiful babies everywhere and mine had eight fingers in splints and stitches in his noodle. He stepped on a soldering iron in his bare feet, he caught pneumonia twice a year, he wrecked on his big-wheel, his trike, then his bike. When he got bigger he broke both ankles (at different times) skateboarding and tried to peel his chin off in one fell swoop all while trying to impress his friends or girls with how smooth he was. Even I, who thought my trips to the emergency room would always be for someone else in the future, woke up in an ER after a bad wreck while a stranger proclaimed my left breast too much bosom to handle and taped it tightly under my chin so he could insert a chest tube unencumbered by mammaries.

No blood, no problem is more than a motto, it is a mantra. I use it to ward off the terrible injuries, the life changing illnesses. I use it to stop myself from yelling WHAT DID YOU DO?, which is a natural reaction but hurtful to the one bleeding all over the place and on deaths door. I use it to reassure myself that this illness, crash, tumble, break, burn or cut won’t be the one that takes away someone I don’t know how to live without.