The sight of blood

Jul 10th, 2012 | By | Category: Personal Columns

A bag of A Rhesus Positive. ‘That will do you a power of good’, I said, visiting a lady in hospital this evening, ‘and you’ll have to eat lots of greens’.

The bag was still half-filled with blood that was dripping  into a tube leading to the patient’s arm  – and I hadn’t fainted.

‘Seven years ago, I would be lying on the floor by now’.

‘Surely not? How do you cope with your work?’

‘If I was visiting intensive care, I used to pull up a stool and sit at the bedside; pretend I was trying to sit alongside the patient. All the time, I was tring to avoid ending up on the floor’.

Stories of strong weaknesses caused laughter. Saying ‘goodbye’ at the end of the visit, I joked, ‘If you hear a crash in the corridor, you’ll know it’s me fainting from a delayed reaction’.

Seven years ago, I really had fainted at a check up. It had costs €50 to see the GP and it had been almost good value, but had lost its merit in the last moment.

The lungs were listened to, the blood pressure was checked; the questions were answered about exercise and diet (mostly honestly). ‘I’m going to escape’, I had thought, ‘I’m going to escape’.

As I got up, he said, ‘One more thing, I see the cholesterol was 6.9 last time, much too high. I think you should come back for some blood tests next week’.

My heart had sunk.

I have always had a morbid fear of needles and blood and guts. I have problems with talks on drug addiction. I avoid medical documentaries so strongly that I will leave the room if there is one on television. I nearly fainted once at a lecture on medical ethics.

I had reported to the health centre at 9.00 expecting the worst. A 30 second procedure took twenty minutes – fifteen of them spent with me recovering.

I went to a meeting afterwards a pale shade of grey.

‘Are you a man or a mouse?’ asked a colleague.

‘A mouse’, I said, ‘definitely a mouse’.

The problems only arose when thinking about things.

A friend had been cycling his bicycle down our road one windy day when a wheelie bin blew across and knocked him from his bicycle. His face had been covered in blood as he pushed his bike in through our gate. I cleaned him up and applied antiseptic spray without the slightest feeling I was going to collapse. I just didn’t think about it.

The answer is not to think, something much easier for a mouse, although not as much a mouse as hitherto.


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  1. Ian, I seem to remember that you had a nasty accident on your bicycle when we were kids.

  2. Walking up Stembridge, Sarah was being pushed in the pushchair by my mum and I was pushing my bicycle. The handlebars slipped from my hands and I fell over onto the bike and the brake lever cut through my face. Pushing my tongue against the lower right hand side of the inside of my lip, I can still feel the scar!

  3. Thanks Ian, I knew it was quite a nasty accident .

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