“Mom.” she says. A statement of fact. We are at the Children’s Hospital and she is receiving a blood transfusion.
Or more precisely, as understood amongst certain medical circles, she is receiving a red cell infusion.
I am sitting next to her on her bed. I turn my head, and there is a stream of blood flowing down the surface of her left arm, not into her vein like it is supposed to be doing. Her right fingertips are bloody. Her rainbow “princess dress,” the dress she wore for her 5th birthday party just a few weeks ago, is smeared with blood.
I grab paper towels from the in-room dispenser. “Hold this to your arm,” I instruct. She hesitates, not wanting to touch her arm.
“Mom.” She says again. “Its bleeding.”
She’s only 5, after all.
“Hold this to your ARM,” I command. “I need to get the nurses.” I grab and press her unwilling right hand down on the paper towels, pressing the mass of them to the leaking IV.
I slide open the glass door to our transfusion room.
“Blood is leaking out of our IV,” I say. Our nurse jumps up from the nurses station and into our room. Shuts off the transfusion pump. And luckily, after examining it, we realize the problem is not the IV. It is securely entering the skin, and there is no blood around the insertion site. The blood is flowing out from a part of the tubing that was not twisted tightly enough shut, just near where the sticker holds the IV in place.
We don’t need to re-stick her. The remaining hour of her infusion can go forward.
Adahlia’s lips are a deeper pink than I’ve seen in years. The blood vessels of her eyes are even red.
After wiping the trail of blood from Adahlia’s arm, the nurse leaves.
I gather more wet paper towels and carefully clean the blood from the palm of her hand, from her fingernails.
I am wiping someone else’s blood from my child’s hands. How odd.
Whose blood is already dried underneath her fingernails? A man’s? A woman’s?
Whose blood is now flowing through her body? Whose red cells will spend the remainder of their days being pumped by her heart? Picking up oxygen in her lungs, and carrying to her tissues? Eventually to be cleared from her blood stream and dismantled by her spleen?
Everything about this is surreal.
I blot the blood from the rainbow panels and layers of her dress.
I remember our friend’s “Dead Princess” Halloween party last year. Little girls in party dresses smeared with blood.
Except this is real.
Someone else’s blood. A stranger’s blood smeared and speckled across the front of my child’s dress. Turning wet paper towels pink. Sticking to my hands in the unique way blood does.
Does that make it better or worse? Am I more, or less, nauseated?
Sometimes, I don’t think I feel things quite properly anymore. But perhaps, I never did. I’ve always been good at the 3rd party observer way of handling unplesantries. It’s quite useful, actually.
There are so many things I could say about what’s been going on the past few months, but I find it difficult to voice any of them.
The good, the bad… the hope, the progress, the setbacks.
The next steps. A big step, looming close. Will we take it?
I am not keen to speak any of it. Even through my fingers.
Instead, I will tell you another story.
Another true story.
A few months ago, I decided to do something of a soul retrieval. Please understand I am not a trained shaman of any sort. I would never profess to be and have never performed — nor even received — what folks call a “soul retrieval.” I just know that they exist, that certain healers offer them.
But I decided, one night, lying next to her in the dark, that I would try to call in any parts of her that perhaps got lost while in the womb, or in a spiritual realm, or in another life… because well, I know what I don’t know, and I know that that’s a lot… and because, just in case, such were the reasons why she is not making her own blood, since, by all accounts and even modern scientific understandings, she should be able to. She just…. isn’t.
In my mind, without speaking a word aloud, I began doing something. In this something, I called for all of her to return to her, and to collect all of her across all space and time.
I went deeper and further and broader, calling for all of her to return.
Meanwhile, laying next to me, she lay breathing softly, asleep.
Suddenly, she spoke aloud:
“Arms, Legs. Hands, Feet.”
Damn near scared the death out of me.
In the past, she had certainly spoken aloud a few times in her sleep, but never intelligibly.
These words were not only clear, but also surprisingly reflective of what I was doing. She was assembling herself, just as I was calling for all of her to return unto herself.
I decided it was encouraging.
So I continued to do what I was doing (which I fully admit I have not been very specific about).
Then, in her sleep, she turned her head towards me. Moved nearer, as if about to confide in me. All while asleep.
“Stop,” she whispered.
I stopped, waiting for her to say more.
“Don’t do it,” she continued, “He’ll find me.”
Which of course, begs the questions: Who is he? And, is DBA some sort of spiritual witness protection program?
Make of it what you will.
And for my part, I will try to make my next update a little less strange.
No promises, though. It’s not really something I can control. I am just telling the story of what happened. And there is nothing about this situation that is not strange.