I woke up in a pool of my own blood this morning. Okay, maybe not a pool, but at least a dignified puddle or a dampened semi-circle. Regardless, this morning there was blood and me and a bed. My stomach had been hurting the night before, but I wasn’t too concerned, so I took a shower and went to bed and woke up to what could have been a crime scene. It was like my own little Halloween week nightmare, and I ran through all the horror movie plots that could have happened to me in the six hours since I had fallen asleep: first and foremost I checked for a horse head. Not The Godfather. Maybe Jason had come or Freddy Krueger. Most scary of all, I thought for a moment that it was the plot of Carrie… the menstruation scene or the post-pig blood scene… either one, really. And then it hit me. I checked my belly button, and bam; I found the source. I was bleeding out of my belly button. It was happening… again.
Two years ago, I was sitting in the student center of my college listening to all the rules and regulations of being a third year resident assistant. By the time you’re a third year RA, you understand all the ins and out of what RA training week means. You talk about rules and how to hold a fire extinguisher and what weed smells like. On the heavier days, you learn about sexual assault and emergent situations and what to do if someone tries to kill themselves, which we were promised rarely ever happens. (In my three years, I had three… so that’s a big lie). My favorite part was when the dean of students told us how important we are because I like validation, but at the end of the day, third year RAs just hoped that whatever room they were in had enough signal that you could get on Facebook on your phone.
We were on day 4 of 6, so at that point the veterans had all but given up. I was particularly exhausted after watching a video of a man getting hit by a car and no one doing anything about it. I thought maybe that’s why I was feeling light headed, but I put my hands down in my lap, and I felt something wet. I opened up my jacket and the bottom of my shirt and the top of my pants were covered in blood. I’m still not entirely sure how you accumulate that much blood on your clothes without knowing it, but sometimes blood happens and you’re not really concerned with the details.
After zipping my jacket back up, I walked up to my boss before our next session and said, “Ben, I think I need to leave.” He quickly responded, “I told you, you’re not going to leave. Go sit down,” and I said, “No, I really think I need to go,” I opened up my jacket and stood there like a nonchalant horror film victim. Apparently, if you make it appear that you’ve been stabbed, you get what you want. On the way out, I ran into my friend who drove me to the hospital. I called my mom and said,
“So, I don’t want to worry you, but I think I’ve started bleeding out of my belly button, and it’s not stopping.”
“You think you’re bleeding out of your belly button?”
“Okay, I’m definitely bleeding out of my belly button. I’m going to Blount Memorial.”
Considering the general blood flow coming out of my navel, in addition to the morbidity/mortality rates of Blount Memorial Hospital, my chances of living until the end of the day was about 43%. I waited in the dank waiting area attached to the emergency room filling out papers, which was extremely easy considering that I don’t have health insurance. Eventually, my friend had to leave me, and I laid on the hard plastic table lined with butcher paper. I was hoping that if I laid on my back that the blood would just kind of drain itself back in. That, unfortunately, did not work. My mom busted in and held my hand, watching me essentially die on the table, and her absolute panic made me think… Is this how I’m going out? Am I going to die via uncontrollable bleeding from the belly button? It was kind of devastating and hilarious at the same time.
After nine hours at the hospital, a CAT scan, an x-ray, and at least 492 q-tips driven into my belly button, the doctors had come to a conclusion: they didn’t know. By this time the bleeding had stopped because even my body’s will to kill me had become exhausted. No one knew what was happening, so I took antibiotics for two days, forgot to take the rest, and then I thought it was over.
That is, until I woke up covered in blood this morning. I called my mom to let her know that the whole scenario was happening again, but in the course of two years, I wasn’t so much concerned with dying as much as I was upset about having to wash my sheets when I get home at 11pm tonight. There was much more blood than before, and I have white carpet. I had woken up to give myself twenty-five minutes to get ready. Cleaning up a mess like this was going to take at least fifteen. I had been down the bleeding-out-of-your-belly-button-and-can’t-get-it-to-stop-road before. There was no way I was going to the hospital. Quite the opposite: I took a Kleenex, folded it twice, taped it to my stomach and went to work. If waking up bloody wasn’t enough of an indication that it was going to be a tough Monday, on the way to work I also hit two squirrels playing in the street. RIP Carl and Demetrius.
Most of the morning, I was lightheaded–not sure if that was about Carl and Demetrius or the lack of blood. Regardless, I was going down. After toying with the idea of seeing if I was going to actually bleed out, I decided that I should probably just go to the doctor. I still don’t have insurance, I still don’t know what caused me to start bleeding out, and I still am taking antibiotics that I will probably forget to take after about two days.
In short, life is a horror story, y’all, but as you get older, the scary parts change. Once you’ve nearly bled to death out of your stomach twice, the thrill of dying is kind of shot. Real horror begins to set in when you think of how pissed your roommates will be if you leave a stomach blood stain on the eggshell carpet or how ironic it is that you need health insurance when you’ve been trying to log on to healthcare.gov to sign up for health insurance for the past four days. Worrying about whether or not my purple gingham shirt is going to get bloodstained throughout the day gave me an all too real insight into what it must feel like to be a teenage girl. And that’s one thing that never changes–no one ever wants to hear, “They’re all going to laugh at you! They’re all going to laugh at you!”