I was half asleep on a weeknight at around 10PM getting ready to go to sleep. My usual nightly ritual is tidying up and getting ready for the next work grind morning so I am not rushing like a chicken with my head cut off the next day. My garbage happened to be overflowing that night. I figured that I could bring it out the morning and so I put my hand right on top of the garbage to push as much of it down.
Suddenly, I felt something sharp slice and break through my skin. I let out a feeble yelp. The next thing I knew, bright red crimson blood was bubbling from my top right ring finger and spilling over on to the kitchen floor. It turned out the one of kitty cat can lids had sliced right through my finger. Immediately, I washed my hands with soap to try to disinfect and then grabbed paper towels and lifted my arm straight up like Lady Liberty to try to stop the blood flow. But the blood would not stop. Paper towels soaked through. Droplets of my blood had made a trail from the kitchen to the bathroom in my panicked attempt to stop the bleeding. Worst of all, I was all alone.
I kept muttering to myself as I tried to take deep breaths, “Do not freak out. You can stop the bleeding. It is just a small cut.”
I do not know if it was panic or being all alone with what was quickly looking like a crime scene or I really had cut myself too deep, but I started to break out in a cold sweat and feel extremely dizzy and nauseous like I was going to pass out. I could see the headlines now: “Woman passed out and bled herself to death from a kitty cat can lid.” I chuckled to myself at the thought! As the blood kept flowing, though, I knew I needed help. I never ask for help unless I truly and really need it.
I no longer go to my parents as my first source of an emergency or help. In fact, as I have gotten older and fiercer about my sense of independence, my parents have become my last resort or even no resort at all. Also, I reasoned, they lived 20 minutes away, and I needed someone right here and right now. I did not have time for 20 minutes. I started frantically calling all my neighbors. Finally, on the last call, one of my neighbors immediately said, “I’m coming over right now.”
My neighbor tried to distract me and calm me down with stories of her children while we struggled and then waited to try to stop the bleeding. She was convinced that I did not need to go to the emergency room and I probably bled so easily and so quickly because I was on immunosuppressant medications. It took at least ten minutes (but it felt so much longer) for the bleeding to stop. I had a restless sleep from my finger throbbing in pain. The next morning, my finger was experiencing such pulsing pain that I went to the emergency room all on my own. When I moved out almost ten years ago, my father said one of the most important places for me to live near was the hospital because of my health. He wasn't joking. My finger was cut deeply, but not deep enough that it needed stitches. It was not until I left the emergency room that I started to share with my parents and a couple others what had happened. For two days, my right hand was bandaged up and then it took almost a month for my finger to fully heal.
I always thrived and truly love living alone, but this incident suddenly put a thought and even worries and fear in my head that still stays and has made its own room and place in the back of my mind: What would have happened if my neighbor had not picked up or if I had fainted? Who would have found me? What would I do in the event of an emergency with me living all alone and my parents eventually gone? Who would I go to? Who would actually do the dirty work and be there for me to DO something when I really needed help?
One of my earliest life lessons I learned after my second kidney transplant was that people are there for you when it is fun and easy and when there are lots of laughs, but people rarely stick around when it is really hard and really tough with lots of tears. It is even rarer to find those who quietly and without complaining do the “dirty work” to actually DO something to really help rather than SAY something. It is easy to say anything just like it is easy to be there when it is easy, but it hard to do something just like it hard to be there when it is really hard. And, yes, life is hard and it gets even harder as we get older. People provide their sympathies and maybe even listen for a short time to your woes, but that is it—no offer to really help. In my life, with the exception of my parents, my circle has shrunk to the number of people I can really turn to for help and especially in an emergency. I find more and more people are less and less able to help. I think people genuinely do want to help, but people are increasingly limited and struggling/fighting with our own problems and issues. After all, how can we help others when we cannot help others? We are all limited in a limitless hurried and harried world. We can only do the very best that we can.
It is easy to be there when it is easy, but it is hard to be there when it is really hard. Who is there for you when you are down and out? Do you have someone or some people you can go to in the event of an emergency? Who will actually DO the “dirty work” for you and not just say or speak? Are you perhaps the one who does the “dirty work” more so for others than vice versa?
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,