Shelby Dyer

© Copyright 2018 by Shelby Dyer

Photo of a girl with nosebleed.

For as long as I can remember, I have always been terrified of nosebleeds. They have always been regular occurrences throughout my lifetime and the bloody inconveniences affect everyone in my family, especially during the dry seasons. The fluctuating Colorado weather that surrounded me was not cooperative to these reappearances, either. But it wasn’t until I was around eight years of age did I develop an unnecessarily dramatic horror to even the smallest scarlet droplets seeping down anyone’s face.

During one particular winter break in my elementary school days, my family went to my aunt Jean's house to visit her for the holidays. It was Christmas Eve and the living museum she called home blended in with the surrounding crystalline white powder that had been floating down from the sky for days. The paint on the wood boards was cracked and peeling and the window panes were thick and coated with a film of fog, but it had a familiar comfort to it. That house had always been my favorite, the dainty two-story townhouse, decades old, with a picket fence around the porch that opened up from the second story. The inside had the most recognizable musty smell of an old house lingering about and the floorboard chirped and creaked with every step. The entire backyard was sheltered by large vegetation and trees and we had our own tire swing underneath one of the biggest oaks. The ancient house even came with a cement bomb shelter underground in the back that my siblings and I teased and taunted each other to go into alone on our summer breaks.

Aunt Jean was technically my second aunt, being my father's mom's sister. But to an eight-year-old, aunt was more comprehensible. She was quiet and too old to have any energy to create a close relationship with us younger kids as long as I knew her, but living nearby made visiting easy and my siblings and I were over there regularly when my parents needed someone to babysit. We raked the leaves in the yard during the fall and planted flowers in the spring. Aunt Jean let us do just about whatever we wanted so long as we didn't bother her and cleaned up any mess we made.

But on this particular afternoon, with the whole family trudging into her living room, shaking off the snow from our shoulders and boots, I created a bigger mess than my small self could even handle. Knowing she wasn't going to be able to leave her house for the holidays, we wanted to give her some company before we visited the rest of the family. My mother, father, sister and I sat with her on her two maroon chaise lounges that wrapped along the walls of the living room. We made brief conversation while our teeth and our legs shook and shivered from the cold we had just escaped. But my body had bigger plans. Giving me no time to adjust to the warmth, blood started streaming down my nose, getting everywhere. Being familiar with nosebleeds, my parents rushed up to get me tissues and we expected it to go away in no time. But in less than a minute, I was in need of more tissues already. I remember my mother getting up many times to get me handfuls and handfuls of paper towels (because tissues, now, were not absorbent enough), while my father rubbed my back and my sister watched with Aunt Jean. An hour later, my body was still refused to create any blockage to the blood flow.

Being an eight-year-old and at the size I was, the amount of blood loss at that point became concerning to the adults. I still had disregarded any sense of danger and my sister didn't seem to understand what was happening, either. But my mother, who had been pacing from the kitchen to the living room with more paper towel every time was deciding it was time to call 911 and seek medical advice. It felt like an eternity in that house, sitting on my dad's lap with my head tilted back and switching out paper towels like clockwork. When the fire department came with an ambulance behind them, the neighborhood became a crime scene in my imagination. At eight, I had not once encountered any fireman, policeman, or paramedics in uniform besides seeing them in the news or movies. And only ever in those situations is it very serious. Instantly realizing this made the scenario in my head feel catastrophic. I began to wonder if this was it, the end of my very short lifetime. If I closed my eyes, I was never going to wake up and my lifeless body would be left here of my father's lap in front of my family and these servicemen and women all because of a nosebleed.

We moved to the front porch to avoid any other messes, my nose still an uncontrollable stream of red iron juice and me becoming a restless and scared child. My neighbor and longtime best friend's father was a firefighter in town at the time and was on the porch that day with all of us providing the most comfort I could have gotten in that situation. Him and a couple other firemen, a team of paramedics, Aunt Jean, my mother, my sister, and I on my father's lap, sat in the sunroom porch on Christmas Eve for hours, just waiting. I found humor in those small, square patches of cloth that the paramedics continually handed me, exactly like those that nurses put on your arm to stop the bleeding after you get a shot. They were unfortunately small and thin and did nothing to stop the bleeding. But they were handing to me every few seconds knowing that's all they really could do, meanwhile, the trashcan was filling up rapidly and there was no sign of changes.

Several hours since we had arrived and my nosebleed had begun, we were antsy for it to stop. The firefighters and paramedics had decided there was nothing more for them to do, and advised that I be taken to the emergency room for more medical attention. Thoughtfully aware of how expensive an ambulance trip across town would be and simply how terrifying it would be for an eight-year-old little girl, my parents mutually agreed we would just wait and go in if it got any worse. And luckily for me, around half an hour after they left, it stopped and my heart rate subsided.

That afternoon in the small townhouse I had only ever associated pure and virtuous childhood memories in became a place of straight melodramatic trauma. From then on, any nosebleed I have gotten triggers immediate recollection to that day for a brief moment. A split-second of flashbacks is now followed by an amusing recollection of the naivete and innocence of thinking the worst in something so small like a nosebleed.

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