The Razorblade Lady

Henry Lansing Woodward

© Copyright 2023 by Henry Lansing Woodward

Photo by Bartłomiej Balicki on Unsplash
Photo by Bartłomiej Balicki on Unsplash

This lady did things correctly.  She cut from one side of her wrists to the other and made very deep cuts.  Because of this, she successfully cut both arteries in both wrists.

We drove for about five minutes when the next call came in. We still hadn’t been able to change our uniforms or get something to eat.

It was a dispatch to a possible suicide at a private house in an upscale neighborhood about fifteen minutes from our present location. The husband had called it in.

After our lights and sirens response, we arrived at a grand house. Actually, it was more like an estate. A long, horseshoe-gated drive led to the front door with a tall portico. It was wide enough for three cars at a time to be parked under it, side by side, at the same time. We came to a stop at the double door, front door.

Standing outside, patiently waiting, was a man wearing a formal evening suit with a blue French cuff dress shirt and a gold silk tie. There was also a huge diamond solitaire on his right-hand index finger. It was impossible not to notice it. It was shooting out stars and ice-blue lightning bolts. These people had money.

Again, he was patiently waiting. It was like he was waiting for the arrival of a friend. There was no anxiety, no sense of urgency, and no waving us in. He was just standing there.

As we pulled to a stop, he calmly approached the passenger side of the ambulance, and we rolled down the window.

She’s inside, upstairs in the master bath,” he said calmly. “She’s threatened to do this many times over the years,” he continued, “and after rushing home many times, just to find her drunk, I finally stopped believing her. But today, when she called, something about her voice was different. This time, something told me I should probably come home and check on her.”

With that, we grabbed our “first-out” gear while the Firefighter first responders grabbed the gurney from the ambulance, and we all began to run into the house.

There’s no hurry,” he continued as he slowly followed, “I’m sure she’s gone, and what’s that smell?”

I turned around to look at him and said, “It’s been a rough shift.”

And it had,” I thought. “Two calls in an hour and a half, and both patients were dead.”

It will probably be the same for this one,” I thought while I followed the man with the gold silk tie with the Windsor knot.

After climbing the curving staircase, he pointed us to the bedroom and the master bath. There we found a naked lady lying in a bathtub filled to the rim with red water. I reached down and touched it, and it was warm. I remembered what he had said outside and silently agreed. She was probably “gone.”

There were long horizontal, linear lacerations on the inside surface of each wrist. Each was done perfectly and looked more like incisions a surgeon would make rather than self-inflected lacerations done to commit suicide. Each one extended the whole width of the wrist from the thumb to the baby finger. They were deep, wide open, and efficiently done.

There are two parallel arteries in the wrist just above the hands. One is on the thumb side, and the other is on the baby finger side. They travel in straight lines coming from the arm into the hand. That means they are as wide apart as the wrist is wide.

Most people attempting suicide by wrist cutting do it by cutting from the middle to one side. Also, they usually don’t cut deep enough. Mostly what I saw were cut veins, and veins bleed very slowly. That’s why we usually arrive in time for a suicide attempt by wrist cutting. But in this case, we did not. It appeared this lady knew what she was doing.

The few who succeed with these inefficient cuts have a long, drawn-out dying process. They only succeed in dying because they don’t call anyone to tell them what they have done. Or, they call too late. Instead, after hours have passed, they die alone and are found too late when someone comes home.

This lady did things correctly. She cut from one side of her wrists to the other and made very deep cuts. Because of this, she successfully cut both arteries in both wrists.

And think of it. The only way to do the deed was to cut one wrist at a time. Then, change the razor blade to the hand of the just-cut wrist with two arteries squirting blood and do the same to the other wrist. Can you imagine the grit and determination that must have taken? Or the rage?

Also, I believe she knew what she was doing because of the warm water. When we first walked into the bathroom, I touched the water in the tub. That’s how I knew it was warm. Immediately I thought she had been determined to die. From the outset, her purpose was to kill herself, and she did.

On the inside flat edge of the tub, where the side wall meets the rear wall and forms the corner with a flat space, there was an ashtray with the butts of two filtered cigarettes.

She had smoked them until there wasn’t anything left to smoke. Then she had forcefully crushed them. They were still bent in half and squashed flat. She had made sure they were out.

Her lighter and an almost full pack of cigarettes were next to the ashtray, and they both had blood on them. She must have smoked at least one cigarette after cutting one of her wrists. On the outside edge of the tub was a chimney glass. It still had ice and a few drops of yellow liquid at the bottom. There was also orange juice pulp clinging to the inside. Perhaps The Razorblade Lady was drinking a screwdriver cocktail and smoking cigarettes while making the cuts. The outside of the glass also had blood on it.

So, there she was, her feet toward the faucet and drain and her head resting on the back rim of the tub and the wall. The ashtray, cigarettes, and lighter were on the right side of her head in the corner, and the empty glass was on the other side, sitting on the flat rim of the tub.

After finishing her cocktail and smoking her cigarettes, she must have just laid there in her warm bath while she fell asleep to death. The warm water was so red it was doubtful any blood was left in her.

Well, at least she had a kosher death,” said one of the Firefighter first responders, who happened to be Jewish.
Please understand a lot of us who do this kind of work are members of an affected group. Not all, but a high percentage are. I certainly was.

Sometimes things are so horrible, gruesome, and ugly that we need to find a way to deal with it at that moment. If we let it affect us, we probably wouldn’t be much good for the patient at hand or the next one.

One of the ways we do this is to use humor. But it’s not “funny, Ha Ha” humor. What the Firefighter used was Sardonic humor. It is a type of humor that is dry, understated, and sort of mocking and it is known for clever remarks that sting because they are so accurate.

Our Firefighter did not mean to mock this patient or her suffering. We all knew that. Rather, he was trying to deflect the full impact of what he was experiencing. In our ways, we all were. My partner brought a white sheet from the ambulance and covered her in the tub.

We gathered our equipment while the Firefighters helped return the gurney to the ambulance. As we began to pull away, I radioed dispatch that we were back in service and available.

Before we had driven the length of the other leg of that long horseshoe driveway and out the other gate, dispatch contacted us again.

My partner and I looked at each other, and while I was turning on the lights and siren, I said, “I hope it’s not going to be one of those shifts.”

But my hope didn’t do any good. What lay ahead was to become the most tragic shift I had ever worked or would ever work again.

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