Thank God for Boy Scout First Aid

By Bob Howard In Personal Matters

I sprang a leak last week.

Not in a rowboat or a car tire.  In a big toe.  And it wasn't air leaking from my circulatory system.

I was alone in the shower at the local exercise center, following an hour of ritual isometrics, lifts, and cardios.  I watched with curiosity at first, as a crimson line wended its way four, six, eight feet from me.  From me!  I looked for a red crayon melting in the hot water.  No Crayola in sight!

The big toe on my right foot was spraying blood four feet and more onto the floor.

A vessel that had been lingering near the surface for years had taken that moment, without any provocation, to burst. The quarter-inch-in-diameter black spot opened and spouted forth.  A podiatrist two years ago noticed that spot and asked me "What's that?" "You're asking me?" I replied with more than a little incredulity.  Many mornings passed since then, and, while putting on socks and shoes, I have noted on most of them that black spot and wondered.

Now the wondering was over. I hobbled over to the bench in the dressing room, looking for someone to go get help. I waited there for ten to fifteen minutes.  No one appeared.  BSA first aid told me to press the spot where the blood was spouting.  I did just that for the duration of the wait.  My bath towel was soaked.  The floor looked like the scene of a murder by blunt instrument.  

Finally an exerciser appeared...and was appalled.  EMT's arrived.  A compress bandage was applied.  We rushed off to the ER of Hartford Hospital, from which we (Barbara and I) emerged five and a half hours later. Five doctors got a peak at my pique. When they removed the EMT bandage, the spout resumed.  Xarelto complicated the coagulation. Gel didn't work.  A plug compound that swells and hardens with blood was the remedy.  I walked out of the hospital.

Soon I'll be meeting with a vein specialist.  My internist wants to make sure there are no other malicious spots lurking close beneath the skin.

It wasn't until three evenings later that anyone in the medical profession commented on my having had the knowledge to press the spot and stanch the bleeding. Credit Boy Scout First Class first aid.  Otherwise I might now be recovering from hypovolemic shock. Baden Powell urged us to "Be Prepared."  I was.

Another take-away from this unsolicited adventure was the size and complexity of an ER in a major urban center. Thirty five doctors work with hundreds more, each wearing a uniform of color to identify his function, occupying several thousands of square feet in the basement floor.

My friend from Grace Church, Dick Keidel, now resident in a hospital in Arizona, reported to me years ago following a heart incident that while the EMTs were carrying him to the van he wondered, "So this is the way it ends?"  Happily it didn't.  I thought of Dick and his question as we rushed through city streets to the ER. Happily, it didn't end for me either.

Not just for the usual reasons: I had a wedding to perform on Long Island three days hence.  I didn't want to disappoint a junior high of yore, Jeanine Columbo, with the news the old pastor wasn't up to it anymore.  You can read about the wedding as soon as I corral enough photos for a report.



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