I learned fairly early on in my career as a paramedic that I was okay with blood.
One of my first few calls involved enough blood-letting in a kitchen it could have been fodder for skits performed by Dan Ackroyd as The French Chef on SNL. There was blood sprayed everywhere as the victim panicked after slicing off a good chunk of his thumb with a cleaver. He had eventually collapsed on the floor after searching the entire kitchen, in vain, for the telephone. One of his friends had dropped by for a visit and walked in on the horrific scene. Believing his friend to have been attacked we got the call as a possible shooting. The patient survived but we never did find his thumb.
I was good with the blood. Despite my partner slipping, sliding and falling into a crimson puddle I somehow managed to emerge from the call with only the same stain from lunch on my uniform shirt.
I’m still good with blood as long as it’s not mine. Any time my blood decides that it’s time to leave my body I’m less than stellar. For years I would only allow one person, Rony Czuzoj, to stick me for blood draws lest I’d go to ground. When I get a decent cut – an occasional side-effect of life in the country – it’s my almost-14-year-old daughter Sophie who matter-of-factly deals with the application of a bandage. The shortest line between me and syncope usually involves a splash of my own blood.
As it turns out, I’m not alone.
A number of years ago, a close friend of mine who is also a paramedic – and I were hauling a ski boat back down the road from Mont Tremblant to Montreal. My friend, who will go unnamed, was driving and we had the windows open on a fine autumn day. Suddenly, my friend said “Ouch” and reached his left hand back behind his ear where an insect had apparently impaled itself into his head. When he brought his hand back in front of his face there was blood on his fingers.
He looked at the blood and then he passed out at the wheel. We were moving at about 110 km/h [70 mph] headed down a long hill on Autoroute 15 with a large skiboat on a trailer behind the stationwagon. My friend was down for the count. He was unresponsive to my shouting to try and bring him back to the land of the conscious. He was oblivious to me trying to shake him back to the other side of DFO [Done Fell Out].
I got his foot off the accelerator, grabbed the wheel and guided that big old stationwagon and its trailer on to the shoulder. I was worried about getting hit by another vehicle or having the skiboat come up to the front to say hello during our sudden deceleration. However, the only casualty was the car’s transmission which protested wildly after I broke PJ O’Rourke’s Rule of Rental Cars and shifted the family wagon into park while still moving forward at a relatively slow speed.
A few minutes later, my friend regained consciousness. “Wow. What happened? Last thing I remember I felt something behind my ear and then, hey, who parked the car by the side of the road?”
All these years later, we still laugh about that incident. And we’re both just fine with blood so long as it isn’t our own.
Be well. Practice big medicine.