All the gory details

Melissa Stagnaro

I’m a pansy, I’ll admit it. I would never cut it in the health care profession, or as an emergency responder. I grow faint at the sight of anyone’s blood but my own (and for obvious reasons I’m not really a fan of that). I come close to passing out just being in the vicinity of a hospital. The sight of stitches poking out of flesh triggers my gag reflex. Cuts, abrasions, scabs, sores – ick. All of the above is cause for me to break out in a cold sweat.

I haven’t always been this way. I was once made of sterner stuff. As an R.A. in college I was the go-to girl when ever there was an incident on campus which required an unlucky someone to go to the hospital. It was such a frequent occurrence, that I knew which emergency room within a 20 minute or so radius of Manhattan College would have the shortest wait at any given time of day. The local ambulance crews and I were all on a first name basis.

I spent a lot of time in those emergency waiting rooms, during which I saw more than I would have liked: gun shot wounds, attempted suicides, broken bones, skin ailments, burns, weeping sores. You name it, I saw it – and, proudly, I didn’t lose my lunch.

I’m not sure what happened to turn me into a “panty-waist” as one of my friends would call it, but I can pinpoint the first time that I lost my mettle.

It happened when Melissa, a college friend of mine and one of my roomies when I lived in Arlington, sliced open her hand. She did it on one of those cans of tuna – you know, the ones with the pull top? The super-sharp metal lid cut across three of her fingers, laying them open right to the bone.

I was at work when it happened, and I’ll never forget the phone call. “Mel,” she said, “how deep does a cut need to be before you need stitches?” Even without any medical training, I figured if you could see bone, it was a bad thing.

By the time I raced home, the bleeding had mostly stopped and Melissa had sought a second opinion about whether or not she did in fact need to take a trip to the ER. She’d asked the contractor who was working on our basement, who thought it would heal just fine on its own.

Given, however, that said contractor was missing a couple of his own digits, I felt compelled to discount his advice and, thankfully, managed to convince Melissa that it was better to be safe than end up losing a finger or any portion there of.

We made the trip to the hospital without incident, and once triaged, we were expedited into an exam room where a female doctor was waiting to stitch Mel back together again. The kindly doc offered me a chair, but I declined.
I stood watching, and was fine. Right up until she gave my dear friend a shot of Novocain by shoving a needle directly into the gaping wound.

Until that moment, I hadn’t realize it was possible to feel the color drain out of your own face.

Suddenly there were pretty black splotches dotting my vision, and I probably would have passed out completely if the (now incredibly irritated) doctor hadn’t slid a chair underneath me.

I sat with my head between my knees while she finished the procedure, but while I was able to regain my composure, I was never the same again. (I couldn’t even look at those stitches which, if I recall correctly, were bright blue. Basically, I avoided looking at her completely until she actually removed them herself one day. Which skeeved me out even more.)

All that happened at least a decade ago, and if I thought that perhaps over time my ability to stomach such sights would come back at some point, I was sadly mistaken. Even the fake injuries applied during the SADD mock-crash last Spring were enough to make me start to gag.

I’d like to say that my friends and family are supportive of me and what has become something of a disability. But, they’re not. They prefer to point, laugh and embellish their tales with plenty of gory details just to see me squirm.

Take this morning for example, when my friend Rachel felt compelled to describe an unfortunate incident which led to part of her big toe getting washed down her drain. Literally. I will not relay the details of this incident because, quite frankly, the thought is still making me a bit sick. Suffice it to say that I did not take her up on her repeated offers to look at (what remains of) her toe, nor our friend Audrey’s offer to show me a picture of the downsized appendage.

I will, however, make the same recommendation to Rachel that I made to Melissa all those years ago: Go have a doctor look at it, for God’s sake.