That post title probably got you more excited than needs be. I’ve not branched out to literary fiction here, although I do have a penchant for the gothic (how pretentious did that sound?). But it is a story of gore and unlikely heroes. This is a post about an email I received a few weeks back. What that email contained very nearly forced me to catch the next flight home. I almost gave up with this living abroad malarkey. Snakes, cockroaches, dangerous roads, flooding and power cuts I can deal with. This email I could not. Although short, the content was of the worst type imaginable. I will, however, give you some context.
When I was five, I had pneumonia. I don’t remember much about the experience. I do remember the sharp stabbing pains throughout my body. I also remember having an intravenous catheter; worse, I remember after it was removed. The dressing fell off and I saw I had two holes in the top of my hand. This was the first time I ever felt a flood of dizziness and squeamishness.
Let me take you some years later to when I was nineteen. The year was 2007 and Anita Roddick had just died of a brain haemorrhage. Anita Roddick, the founder of the body shop, had suffered from hepatitis C for three decades before she found out after a routine blood-test. She believes she contracted it from a blood transfusion she had in the 1970s. Although a rare complication, the brain haemorrhage was probably caused by the hepatitis.
I too received a blood-transfusion before they started screening for hepatitis C. My mother, upon hearing of Anita Roddick’s death, pleaded that I get a blood test to see whether I may suffer the same fate.
Whilst getting the blood test, I was fine. I watched the blood fill the little phial and felt nothing untoward. I went down to the reception of the doctors’ surgery in order to book the follow up appointment. A little old lady arrived a fraction of a second later, so I let her go first. She left and I made my way to the desk.
“I’d like to book my follow up appointment,” I said. No sooner than had the words left my mouth, I lost consciousness and fell backwards, banging my head sharply on the slate floor.
Fortunately, I don’t have hepatitis C. However, I may still be a carrier of human variant CJD (although it is incredibly unlikely, but there is simply no way to tell until my brain turns to sponge).
Then, only a few years back I was getting my vaccinations done for a trip to Indonesia. The nurse was brilliant at making the injection as painless a procedure as possible. I was happily telling her about my impending trip when suddenly I felt dizzy.
“I think I’m going to faint,” I thought I said. Apparently, just a slur of words fell out of my mouth. Then, I promptly toppled from my chair.
As you can see, anything concerning intravenous or hypodermic punctures results in a distinct lack of consciousness. It also subsequently results in nausea and a temporary general disdain towards living (I can be a tad melodramatic). Therefore, I tend to avoid such topics.
In order to come here, there is, of course, a lot of paperwork. Some of these involve medical details, including blood types. Although they must be in my hospital records somewhere, I do not know it. I thought I could leave that part of the form blank and pretend it never happened (I’m a typical avoider).
Then I got the one hundred word horror story via an email. This is what it said.
It is important to have your blood group in case of an emergency.
My usual tactic of putting my head in the sand hadn’t worked. However, this horror story had only just begun.
Depending on the country people are in in Asia, blood transfusions are not safe so if a member needs emergency blood we look for people who have the same blood group in among the foreigners.
In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, they performed a number of blood transfusions. As the medical technique was still in its infancy at the time the book was written, they passed the blood directly from one person to another before it could coagulate. This is exactly how I imagined this last part of the email working out.
Can you arrange to get a blood test for this?
My immediate response was to attempt to arrange flights home rather than a blood test. Then, feeling that familiar wave of nausea and dizziness, I had to lie down for an hour. Yes, apparently, in moments such as these, I swoon. (Swoon is such a brilliant word. Swoon. Swoon swoon swoon. Swoon.)
I told my family about the possibility of having to get a blood test done. We discussed other options. My mum rifled through the paper work she received at my and my brother’s birth (that’s when I received a blood transfusion, so it may have had my blood type written somewhere). My twin brother, who has the same reaction to needles as I do, even offered to get it done on my behalf (he was concerned about the hygiene in the facilities). How brave and noble. I was tempted to take up his offer but why should he suffer on my behalf? Then we pursued applying for my medical records. This seemed, however, unnecessarily bureaucratic with forms to be signed and counter signed, then it had to be sent off with an administration fee and could take up to forty days to arrive. All this to find out one letter.
So, I have finally decided to take the plunge. I’m going to a medical clinic to get my blood test done. This is probably the scariest thing I’ve had to do so far while living here. Once I’m done, I’m going to buy myself a lollipop.