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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Spontaneous Bleed

One day when I was about nine years old, I was dancing around the kitchen while my mother cooked supper. My feet slid on the newly waxed floor and before I knew it, plop I landed hard on my bottom. My mother was convinced that there would be a large bruise from the fall. A few days later no bruise at the point of impact and I had forgotten about the fall. My mother vowed never to wax the kitchen floor again and breathed a sigh of relief.

Later that same week I started noticing a rash in my arm pits. It prickled and burned a bit. A day after the rash appeared, the armpits seemed to be hot, puffy and sore. By the next day the swelling had increased to a point were I could not lower my arms and I was in excruciating pain. I looked like Frankenstein with my face contorted, my neck stiff and my arms outstretched. I knew what this meant, there was bleeding under my arms and I needed an infusion of factor to make it stop. I can still remember that during the car ride to the hospital, each bump in the road felt like a hot knife was cutting off my arms.

My unusual condition created some curiosity in the Emergency Room. Several doctors and nurses came to observe and wonder about the cause. It wasn’t until days later that I remembered the fall in the kitchen and how I had thrown both of my arms over my head and back trying to keep my balance.

This week a hematologist asked me, “Have you ever had a spontaneous bleed?”

Firmly I responded, “No, although sometimes it takes me a long time to identify the cause of a bleed.”

The doctor looked confused. Perhaps I just don’t understand what is meant by “spontaneous bleed,” I mused. Spontaneous combustion, I learned in the dictionary, is defined as, “the ignition of organic matter (e.g., hay or coal) without apparent cause, typically through heat generated internally by rapid oxidation.”

Is it too late to change my answer to that question, doctor?