Monday, August 8, 2011

Fright Night

The itchy, burning sensation in my nose was a mystery, nagging me for most of the afternoon. I scratched at the itch, splashed water into my nose, blew it, rubbed at it and scratched some more. The uncomfortable sensation eventually faded and I forgot about it, concentrating on the work at hand.

Not much later and on the way home, there it was again. A slight tickle and a feeling of wanting to blow my nose. On a crowded train there wasn’t much to do other than rub, dab and snort. It would have to wait until I got home.

I blew my nose once more, washed my face and swabbed around in both nostrils with a Q-tip. Maybe it was an allergic reaction to the smoke bombs set off for the fire drill at work earlier in the day. The Q-tip did little good and there wasn’t much more in my arsenal of home remedies. Decided to ignore it and put my mind to the student papers stacked up in my email inbox.

Late in the evening, just before turning off the television and getting up to brush my teeth, I sneezed, and like always, a second time. Looking back to the television I reached up unthinkingly and wiped a finger across my nose. Out of the corner of my eye I caught the red streak on my finger. A drop of blood splashed on my T-shirt. Another drop and I was up scrambling for a towel.

Two red-stained towels, a bowl of ice turned pink and fifteen minutes later the bleeding stopped. Clueless about the itchy nose and with no experience of nosebleeds, a visit to the doctor in the morning sounded like the thing to do.

I couldn’t help recalling a movie seen recently where a man was working at his desk when suddenly, quietly, a drop of blood fell onto the paper he was reading. Unmoving he stared at the blood. Later he went to the doctor with a feeling of alarm. They ran tests and informed him he had only six months to live.

Sometime in the middle of the night I woke up, not sure why but remembering the bloody nose I put a hand to my face and knew instantly it was happening again. This time I could not stop it.

Exhausted and frightened, I sagged over the toilet while heavy plops of blood splashed into the water. There were two blood-soaked towels on the floor and my hands were painted red. I managed to dress with one hand, the other clamping a towel to my nose. Finding a taxi at 3:00 a.m. took time, but I knew the hospital wasn’t far. The driver dropped me at the rear entrance, the most likely looking ‘emergency’ entrance.

I stood leaning on a bell beside the door through which not a soul was in sight. By then I looked like Freddy Krueger after the chase down Elm Street. A nurse finally appeared and ignoring the bloody fright told me Kugayama Hospital did not take emergency cases, that I’d better go to Sasamoto Hospital about five minutes away.

Another taxi. The driver gave me a look of horror before springing out to help me into the back seat. Not really that bad off, still the kind gesture didn’t slip past me.

It was a short wait before a nurse led me back to an eye-ear-nose and throat specialist. The bleeding had stopped by then, but I was grateful to be under the emergency doctor’s gaping instruments. One quick look and he told me to relax, it was nothing serious and easily repaired. “No clue to the itchy nose and the burning,” he explained. “The nosebleed started with a ruptured blood vessel, likely the result of a scratching fingernail…made worse by the sneezes.”

With arcs of electricity arcing off the tip, Doctor Miwa touched a small buzzing cattle prod against the scratched blood vessel, cauterizing it and my mental faculties all in one second. Over in a flash of hellfire, it felt like an old treatment from Abu Ghraib. Pulling me off the ceiling, the genial doctor said I could go home. “You’ll feel much better after a shower and a change of clothes. Don’t worry, the nosebleed won’t come back.”

Home a little before 5:00, I took off my shoes, followed the doctor’s advice and got into the shower, clothes and all.


  1. Scary. Especially a bloody episode like this that takes place in the middle of the night. Would make a good short story: man covered in blood from a "simple" nose bleed stumbling around trying to get to the hospital, being refused a taxi and help from others for fear of some blood-borne disease. Yeah, yeah, a wonderful Stephen King like bedtime story.

  2. I remember when you related to me in an e-mail this horror story but you did not go into detail at that time. Today's post is really scary. Hope you haven't had a return to that nightmare again.


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America