A Bloody Tale

It was an unusual Friday on April 29, 2005. For starters, my car was covered in a sheet of ice for me to chisel out that morning. Then it took me two hours and twelve minutes to travel the ~40-miles from my house to my job as the streets were icy, then snowy as the weather was very bad.

Since I was an hour late to work, I had already planned to stay an hour late that evening to make it up. So at 18:20 as I was working on a severity-1 problem complete with a bridge call, I felt the unmistakable tickle of liquid fall down the inside the right nostril of my nose. I managed to grab some napkins as blood began to trickle out of my nose. After a couple of minutes, it became clear to me that this wasn’t going to stop right away, so I turned over the Sev-1 problem to a co-worker and left for the bathroom.

I had the right nostril packed with tissue and when I got to the sink, blood began pouring out the left nostril from overflow. That had me concerned since the last time this happened was in 1995 and I had to go to the hospital. However, I felt that I had to try to get the bleeding stopped, so I continued to keep pressure and tissue in my nose.

After 30-minutes, the bleeding seemed to be getting worse since I now had lots of blood going down the back of my throat. I decided that I needed medical attention, so I packed both of my nostrils with tissue and made my way back to the command center where I worked. My co-workers called security and summoned an ambulance.

Security arrived and gave me some gauze to help catch the blood. The paramedics AND fire department arrived shortly after and in a short time, I found myself on one of those wheeled stretchers being wheeled out into the cold, snowy evening. I’ve never been on one of these before and had visions of the legs collapsing as they placed me into the ambulance. It didn’t happen.

The ride to the hospital was interesting. I could see out the back windows of the ambulance as cars approached and those inside appeared to be attempting to see what was going on with me. Meanwhile, the paramedic had some new gauze to catch the blood and did other things to attempt to slow the bleeding. Every time he opened a new package of something, I could hear a cash register ring up in my mind.

We got to the hospital and blood was still going down the back of my throat, though not as bad as before. As they began pulling me out, the legs of the stretcher dropped at my feet and the wheels hit the ground. I wondered how painful would it be if the legs of the stretcher at my head failed to extend and that part of me just dropped unceremoniously to the ground. Fortunately, the legs extended and I was wheeled into the hospital ER.

I didn’t have far to go as the Ear, Nose, and Throat room was right around the corner from where I entered. I was lowered, un-strapped, and allowed to walk to an exam chair. While the paramedics briefed the hospital staff, others began gathering my information and gave me a plastic container to bleed into and forced to take my shirt off and wear a gown. I had dried blood on my face and lips by this time and thought about how great I must have looked.

It took fifteen minutes or so before the ER doctor came in to see me. I was glad that I wasn’t bleeding to death. I informed her of all that had happened and she produced some additional gauze and a nose clip to apply pressure to my nose before leaving. Had the chair been more comfortable, I would have attempted to take a nap since I felt tired. However, that was not the case.

I’m not sure how long it was, but eventually the doctor came back and the bleeding had stopped. Yay! However, she was concerned that the bleeding might start again and felt that packing my right nostril might be helpful. I agreed so work began to prepare my nose for packing. I’d been packed in 1995 so I felt prepared for what was to come. Sadly, I was not prepared.

Packing had apparently changed in the 10-years since I was last packed. The doctor produced this thin, 2-inch long, half-inch wide (maybe a little less) thing to be inserted into my nose. Since she had lined the inside of my nose with a substance to kill the pain, I wasn’t too concerned. Then she inserted the thing into my nose.

At first, it wasn’t too bad, but she kept pushing it deeper and that hurt and caught me by surprise. Instinctively, I grabbed her wrist to stop her from ramming it in any further. I apologized for my actions and cautiously let her wrist go.

“That’s OK,” she replied. “I can only imagine how it must feel.’

“Ever seen the movie Total Recall?” I asked.

“I don’t watch TV.”

Well that was a bummer. It was a perfect reference to what I was experiencing.

“Take a really deep breath because we have to get it all the way inside your nose,” the doctor informed me. So she brought the pain and rammed this thing up to my skull. It felt like plastic, but in reality, it was a type of sponge that expanded as it became moist. I was not looking forward to having my nostril packed the entire weekend, but better that than to bleed again.

By the time they released me, it was around 21:30 at night. I called my job and had someone come to pick me up and take me back to work so I could then drive home. Fortunately my co-workers had already talked with management and they were expecting me not to be in the next day.

Sleeping that night was not an easy thing as one might expect with one nostril packed. I got up and as I went about to figure out what I wanted for breakfast, I sneezed. Within moments, blood began pouring out my left nostril and down my throat. I was not happy and began applying pressure to my nose as instructed in my discharge papers. Thirty minutes later, I knew it wasn’t going to stop and so I located an ER close to my house and drove there.

Unlike the night before, the ER doctor saw me immediately and began work on my nose. He was not happy that so much blood had apparently gone into my stomach as that could make me sick, especially considering how much blood I’d consumed the night before. He removed the packing and the evidence showed him that my bleeding was in the main part of my nose and not very deep. The hospital was a new one and they didn’t have a supply of nose clips, so one of the nurses became the nose clip by keeping pressure on my nose after the doctor did some stuff to stop the bleeding. After a while, they got the bleeding stopped and the doctor cauterized my nostril. He repacked it, but he used the old packing material that wasn’t painful to be inserted into my nose.

As I waited for one final visit from the doctor, a drunken patient began giving the hospital staff a lot of trouble. He was loud, began singing, and doing all sorts of things that drunks do. Why he was in the hospital, I don’t know but it seemed like there was nothing wrong with him beyond being drunk.

Finally, the doctor came back in to see me and said I was good to go. He gave me a prescription for an antibiotic to make sure I didn’t get a sinus infection and after about three hours, I was allowed to leave. Even as I walked out into the parking lot, there was a little bit of leakage from my nose. Initially I thought of turning around and coming back, but I decided that I wanted to go home and maybe get something to eat.

So I stopped by a Safeway to get my prescription filled and then went around gathering a few items (including Gatorade) from the store while I waited. It felt like a spaghetti kind of afternoon and considering how much blood I’d already lost, it seemed that this would be a perfect meal to prepare. However, I was concerned that I continued to have leakage not only from the packed nostril, but also out of the left nostril.

I got my prescription and finally made it home. I managed to make a call to my preacher to let him know what had been going on before I sneezed again and my nose began bleeding again. Needless to say, I was not happy about this. I was tired from lack of sleep and loss of blood and didn’t feel like having to return to the ER. I tried the pressure technique again but my nose wouldn’t stop bleeding. So 30-minutes later, I gave up and drove back to the ER.

The security guard greeting me with concern since she had seen me leave less than 2-hours earlier. I was rushed back to an E.N.T. room and a doctor came to see me. He removed the other packing and then went back to the stuff the doctor from Friday used. However, he took TWO and inserted them three-quarters of the way into my nostril, then repeated for the left nostril. As I sat in the exam chair, he wanted me to keep pressure on my nose to try to get the bleeding to stop. I had a lot of blood pouring down the back of my throat and while they tried to get me to spit it out, since it wasn’t coming into my mouth, that wasn’t happening.

A male nurse came in whom I had seen in my earlier visit. He joked with me trying to put me at ease as he prepared to draw blood. I was exhausted by this point and wanted to lay down. As he began to draw blood, suddenly my world began to collapse. I really felt sick and was sweating like crazy. At the same time, cold began to spread over my body and I was out of breath.

“Just relax,” the nurse said.

“I don’t feel good,” I complained. “Something’s wrong. I’m getting cold and I’m out of breath for some reason.”

“Try to control your breathing,” he replied. Yeah, easy for him to say. I felt like I’d been running stairs.

“That’s it!” I declared. “I don’t have any more strength and I can’t pinch my nose any longer.”

“Just do what you can,” the nurse replied.

I suddenly found myself someplace else – dream world. I normally dream in color, but it was unusually bright in my dream. I don’t remember much, but it was a pleasant dream and I was talking with people about something.

I was violently pulled from dream world to see lots of hospital staff around me saying my name. A penlight was in my eyes and they continued to talk.

“What’s going on?” I asked totally disoriented. I didn’t know where I was for a moment, then remembered that I had been bleeding. I didn’t know what happened to the container I’d been bleeding into. Someone explained to me that I had passed out. I tried saying something, but then found myself back in the pleasant, bright dream world.

Again, the hospital staff pulled me away from my comfortable place and I noticed the gurney there. Someone began explaining to me that they needed to take me to another room and that I needed to lie down on the bed.

“If I go to the bed, can I go to sleep?” I asked.

“Sure,” someone said.

“Well I can’t turn that deal down,” I weakly joked and with assistance moved to the gurney. I tried to make some other jokes as they wheeled me down the hall and into a room. There was some laughter, but I doubt it was because I had good jokes and more due to the fact that I was most likely talking nonsense.

After being placed into the room, I found that laying down had me feeling better though I could still feel blood going down the back of my throat. A new nurse came and elevated the top of the gurney so that my head was elevated. She somehow removed my soaked t-shirt and got me into a gown (I don’t remember much how that happened). She hooked me to an IV and offered to get me a blanket. While she was away, the Mexican nurse who’d been the human nose clip from my morning visit popped in to see me.

“You just wanted to see me again, didn’t you,” she joked.

“I did want to see you again, but not like this,” I replied with a weak smile. I could feel the dried blood crack on my lips and wondered what I must look like. I certainly wasn’t looking my best for these pretty nurses.

The blonde nurse returned with a warm blanket. She turned out the lights so I could sleep if I wanted. I did doze, but lets face it, you aren’t sleeping much in a gurney, especially with both nostrils double-packed.

The Mexican nurse returned with the doctor. He wanted pressure to be applied to my nose since I was still bleeding. Since they still had no nose clips, she managed to come up with a substitute and got it onto my nose. I wish I had a picture of it as other nurses came in to inspect it and were impressed.

I dozed off an on and my mouth became very dry. When the nurse hooked up a new pack to my IV, I asked for water which she was happy to provide. Even though I had a straw, getting that straw to my mouth proved most difficult due to the contraption on my nose. Not only that, but the act of swallowing when your nose if filled with bloody packing was not pleasant.

At some point, I noticed that blood was no longer going down the back of my throat. Certainly this was a good sign. The doctor wasn’t about to let me go and kept the IV packs coming. They also gave me some anti-nausea medicine because of all the blood that I’d consumed. That helped a lot.

After a few hours, I was desperate to use the bathroom. Being hooked up to an IV (and then I discovered I was also hooked up to other monitors as well) meant no trips to the bathroom, so I’d have to do my business in the room. I won’t go into the gory details, but those of you who’ve had to urinate in a hospital room have an idea of how it was. However, I found that I just didn’t care, even if one of those nurses walked in.

More time passed. Finally the doctor felt I’d had enough of the IV and that the contraption on my nose could be removed. He was not ready to release me until I’d taken a trip to the bathroom down the hall. This way, he would see if moving around caused me to bleed more. If so, I’d have to be admitted to the hospital and the treatment would become more severe.

The nurse unhooked me from everything and cleaned up my face. She asked if I’d like to brush my teeth. Since I had a lot of blood there, I said yes. I brushed my teeth and tongue which was SUCH a relief! I then did as best I could to get the dried blood off my lips. The bloody packing with its dark strings coming out my made me look pretty awful. Too bad I didn’t have a camera.

My walk to the bathroom did not cause me to bleed. The IV’s made me feel almost human again, though an exhausted one. The doctor finally allowed me to leave and I returned home. I prayed that the Lord wouldn’t allow me to sneeze again!

So what caused this? No one knows for sure, but it appears to be a combination of the dry air (the command center where I work is ultra-dry), a nasal steroid prescription I’d been using to help me breath at night, and chronic sinus problems.

Since then, my nose hasn’t bleed again. I’ve got a TON of doctor’s visits and when the medical bills start coming in, it is going to hurt like crazy. Still, I am thankful to all of the doctors, nurses, paramedics, and others who’ve been there for me during this time of difficulty in my life. Also, thanks for all of the prayers and offers of monetary help! I expect my medical bills to run several thousand dollars by the time all is said and done, and that’s after my insurance pays out the $1500 maximum benefit. Should you wish to help, you can make a donation via PayPal.

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