It was a regular Friday night. Friday nights when you’re in your 40s are not what they used to be. Where once the weekends meant dates or parties, now they are just more time to get something done...unless...oh, yes, if you get really lucky, then you can nap. Ah, sweet slumber. Priceless.
It was not nap time, however, on this Friday night, and I was tackling some dishes that had been in my sink so long I should’ve charged them rent. Like fish and visitors, right? Yes, they stink in a couple days.
I was going into this chore with gusto. I picked up a pint glass that had some crusty, dried orange juice in the bottom. Oh, no, Mr. OJ, you won’t get the best of me! So concentrated was I….get it? OJ? Concentrated? I kill me! Sorry. I couldn’t resist. Anyway, so concentrated was I on the matter at hand, that I didn’t notice the huge, quarter-size chip out of the top of the glass. Yeah...you see where this is going, right? With all the vigor of ninth-inning pinch hitter, I plunged my right hand into the glass held in my left. Instantly, I drew back in pain. I had managed to slice the knuckle of my right hand.
Now those who know me well, know that I’m a real weenie about blood. I cannot explain it. Farm stuff is cool; manure doesn’t bother me. I’ve pulled calves. Cow blood doesn’t bother me. It’s something about human blood.
I recall the day well. The boys were all little and at the barn helping with feeding. The middle boy, probably four years old at the time, fell and hit his head on a rock. You know how scalp wounds bleed. I tried so hard to man-up. I’m the mom! And I’m tough because I’m a farm girl! Nope. I had to do what I do in most emergency situations: Call Heather.
I despise weakness in myself that I would not in others. I guess we are all that way to a point, right? But it frustrates the dickens out of me! It’s happened several other times, too. I see blood, mine or someone else’s, and the next thing you know, I feel hot and cold at the same time. Everything starts to go black….and if I don’t lie down and avoid the blood, I’m laid plumb out.
When my kids have been injured, I have consciously fought this. Mind over matter! Take care of your kid, dang it, says the voice in my head. Can’t help it. Does no good. Weenie, right here. Wimp, party of one. So why the heck is this?
A quick Google tells me that, sure enough, it’s a thing. A propensity for fainting at the sight of blood is known as the vasovagal response. That’s fancy people talk for losing your crap. Just kidding. It means passing out.
Turns out, most scientists think it is a primitive reflex buried in our brains from olden times that evidently most people have outgrown, but I’ve always been a slow learner. Tell me more.
According to the interwebnetdotcom, we all have this to some degree. No one should enjoy guts, whether it’s the thought, sight, or smell, but some of us are repulsed more than others. This is probably an evolutionary adaptation; after all, if Caveman Stan’s bowels are laying everywhere, I should probably retreat, lest whatever got him, gets me, right? Poor fella. He never had a chance. Is it me, or is it hot in here?
Fainting might also be an involuntary way of playing dead. If I’m already dead, maybe Caveman Stan’s arch nemesis will leave me alone. Those darn saber tooths...they’re just getting out of hand.
There’s some evidence to this effect. Have you seen those goats that faint? Or how about ‘possums that...you know...play possum? While everything I read says that actually passing out is fairly rare, my eldest brother is the same way. It’s not a matter of being prissy. We are quite used to nasty things on a dairy farm. It’s a physiological reaction. Ain’t no stopping it. So is it hereditary? I couldn’t find anything to substantiate that. Hormones? Weather? Empty stomach? All these gonna make a bad thing worse, no doubt. Turns out the whole thing is attributable to a quick drop in blood pressure. Kinda like when you mildly black out from standing up too quickly? Come on. I know I’m not the only one. The fainting is controlled, involuntarily, by a cranial nerve, the likes of which also control other involuntary functions like breathing and heartbeat. SEE? I can’t help it! How validating!
Back to last Friday night. My hand was gushing blood. And all this gore just in time for Halloween! I didn’t even try to fight it. I know what’s coming. I grabbed a towel and applied pressure. I grabbed my phone and headed to the couch and called the resident EMT in the family, and her husband my brother. Their response time was impressive! They were on the scene lickety-split, with first aid and plenty of sympathy. My brother even finished doing the dishes. I did need stitches, but did not go to the ER. That’s a whole ‘nother column about insurance, Lawd!
I’ll make the story short. Well, too late, but my point is also about how down right crippling it was to not have use of my right hand for several days. What the heck! Have you ever had to clean yourself with your non-dominant hand? I struggled to eat, brush my teeth, and even pull up my pants. Washing your hair with your left hand, while you hold the other in the air to keep it dry felt a bit like simulating an awkward, drowning bull rider. Eight seconds! Shaving the legs with the left hand was out of the question. Put the razor down, kid, we’ve had enough cuts this week, haven’t we? Forget typing or writing. I tried my left and did what I could. Interestingly enough, it didn’t take more than a couple of days before I could truly tell an improvement in my left-handed dexterity. Crazy how quickly we adapt, isn’t it?
It’s been a week, and the finger is much better! I’m thankful to be able to type this here little column to you. The bad news is, I don’t think my brother will do my dishes again. He’s going to stop answering my calls.
A teacher and mother, Meagan Morehead Bradshaw lives on a farm in Bland County; contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.