5 Things You Learn When Your Body Can't Stop Bleeding
I have Von Willebrand disease, which is kind of like hemophilia. So thanks to a bunch of crazy royals in my distant ancestry role-playing Les Cousins Dangereux, I'm stuck with a genetic disease that could cause all that beautiful blue blood to leak out of me like a gore balloon at any time. It's like living in a horror movie -- sometimes being an impending blood explosion is wacky, sometimes it's terrifying, but it's rarely ever dull.
The Test For It Sounds Like Torture
To diagnose a disease like this, you'd think they could just scrape up some of the blood firing out of my body and look at it to see if it's doing anything weird ... like firing out of my body, for example. And sometimes that's how it goes down, but those were not the tests I was given. I was given what is called the bleeding time test, which involves the high-tech procedure of getting stabbed with a needle. Then they just wait to see how long it takes to stop. Hopefully sometime before you die.
"If she does die, we still learn something, so win-win!"
While the doctors are watching you squirm -- just barely suppressing the impulse to slur, "If it bleeds, we can kill it" -- they're also watching the clock. If you bleed between eight and 12 minutes, you're Type 1, which is the mild version. Well, as "mild" as you can call something that makes you bleed for an entire Godspeed You! Black Emperor song. Between 12 and 16 minutes means Type 2, which is moderate, and anything above 16 is considered severe. I bled for over 18 minutes before they remembered that most humans need blood to live and stopped the test.
Hell yes, I out-bled Science.
I was awarded the Nobel Prize in the field of "Oh, shit, we're going to need another bucket."
Bleeding And Bruising Happen At Any Time, And People Won't Understand
Under the right conditions, all of your orifices can explode like a Tarantino special-effects rig. For me, "the right conditions" are "existing." The biggest hassle for people who have Von Willebrand disease is the torrential nosebleeds that come out of nowhere. You're just walking along, minding your own business, and suddenly you're cosplaying Andrew W.K. When I don't have my medicine, it's taken up to an hour and a half to stop completely. If I do have my medicine, though, it only takes about 30 minutes. So that's good; I can just distract myself with a quick episode of Friends while my life force violently gushes out of me.
I can't laugh, though, or I snort blood all over the screen.
People tend to get weird about you spontaneously bleeding all over them -- I know, prudes, right? A particularly embarrassing incident occurred in fifth grade: I had a nosebleed in the middle of class, and we didn't have a school nurse, so I just had to sit behind a teacher with a trash bin in front of me. So I've got this garbage can half full of bloody paper towels, blood all over my clothes, and all my peers staring at me. They called my mother, and a kid in class raised his hand and asked my mother, "Is Alisha going to die?" It was a Catholic school, so after they heard that, half the kids started praying for me. I suppose I'm lucky the school exorcist was on vacation that week.
"Hey, you didn't die. So, technically, it worked."
Another symptom of Von Willebrand is the tendency to bruise easily, so I pretty much always look like I just lost a bar fight. As a result, my mother had CPS called on her three times, because I kept showing up to school with horrendous bruises. Luckily, she had the medical paperwork to back her up. Later, when I was with my boyfriend, people always thought it was him, and they weren't quite so easy to convince. People kept asking in concerned tones, "Is he beating you?" I'd have to explain, "No, I just run into walls." Of course, that's always what victims of domestic violence say, so the poor thing had people constantly looking at him like he was Chris Brown just for having a clumsy girlfriend with weirdo blood.
The Tiniest Things Could Kill You, And People Who Should Know That Often Don't
Did you know onions are blood thinners? Ginger too. If I go to the emergency room, the only pain medicine I can have is morphine, and I can't take cold medicine at all. The scariest thing is when medical professionals don't know these things. I've had to stop doctors from giving me Advil. I've had nurses who tried to tip my head back when I had a nosebleed. That doesn't work for me, because there's so much blood that it will congeal in the back of my throat and choke me. So I have to argue with a nurse and convince her, as a third-grader, to please not strangle me with my own blood.
Actually, just quit using that method on anyone, super-bleeder or not.
And that's just the dangers you can control and account for. There are many you can't do a damn thing about.
For example: I work at an amusement park, and one day a customer got angry with me and slammed my fingers in one of the rides. For anyone else, that would only result in a Band-Aid and some colorful language. For me, it meant a Bellagio fountain of human-juice and the dreaded clotting medicine.
Amusement park tip: Avoid the snow cones.
See, the problem with the medicine is that it can't be taken more than twice a week or twice within 24 hours, so it's up to you to choose when you bleed. Don't necessarily feel in control of that decision? Well, luckily you have some options: death, death, or super-hyper-death. I recommend super-hyper-death -- it's the same as regular death, but with all the DLC included.
However, if you can take your medicine, it's not as simple as just popping a pill and returning to your post manning the hurl-bucket at the Tilt-A-Whirl. Not only does it make you all loopy, but it also makes you desperately thirsty -- which is hilarious, because you can't drink water for at least 12 to 16 hours or you might have a seizure.
So, more like popping the wrong pill and boarding the Tilt-A-Whirl.
One more time: Life-giving water becomes seizure-inducing poison for over half a day.
All of that because some random asshole didn't have enough fun on the roller coaster.
Even Natural Bodily Functions Could Kill You
My doctors had to give me permission to have my first period. They had been talking about it since I was 9 years old, and they had this whole game plan set up for anything that might happen. When it all went down, I spent two weeks hemorrhaging, unable to get out of bed, and I haven't been allowed to have a period since then. Which is a shame; I hear it's lots of fun.
I'm told I'd binge on chocolate once a month, so I do that instead.
So I was put on the pill, which posed an awkward dilemma for my mother, who had to explain to people why her 12-year-old needed birth control. Eventually, it stopped working. Then they put me on the shot, then the patch, then a series of IUDs. The first two times I had the IUD inserted at 14, I needed to have surgery, because I was a virgin. When the IUD I have now stops working, I'm just going to ask them to give me a hysterectomy and be done with it.
I know it might seem strange to hear a young woman talk so casually about something so serious, but I've made my peace with the fact that biological children are not in my future. If the periods don't get me, there's always a not-insignificant chance that I would bleed to death during or after childbirth. It almost killed my mother, and she only has moderate Von Willebrand.
With full-blown, you need a transfusion just thinking about baby names.
That's another thing: In my family, every generation has been more and more severe, so if I'm a walking blood bomb, my children's lives would presumably look like the prop department for a Hellraiser sequel.
You Can't Let It Stop You From Living
I live my life knowing that basically anything can cause a fatal injury. And yet I still go rock-climbing and four-wheeling. As a child, I used to climb trees and play football in our driveway. Lots of people told me I couldn't get my belly button pierced, but it turns out I could. I have a doctor's note for the tattoo I want to get.
A doctor's note. For a tattoo.
"Alisha may receive one (1) tattoo. No fake tribal crap or poorly translated Asian characters."
Sure, I might die from any of those things. But I also might die if I trip on my shoelaces. I'd rather have the headline read "Local Girl Dies In Bloodsplosion While Getting Fire-Breathing Tiger Tattooed On Back" than "Local Girl Misjudges The Distance Of That Coffee Table." At least then I go out on my own terms, knowing that I took the risk and did everything the way I wanted.
For more insider perspectives, check out Amway: 5 Realities Of The Multi-Billion-Dollar Scam and 5 Things I Learned About Your Sex Life As A Porn Store Clerk.
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