, Derry, New Hampshire

February 7, 2013

Column: Real men often buckle at the sight of blood

John Edmondson
Derry News

---- — Real men often buckle at the sight of blood

I love well-crafted action flicks. Sylvester Stallone was at the top of his game as John Rambo, the troubled Vietnam War vet in “First Blood.” Armed with only his wits and a scary-looking hunting knife, Rambo holds off a local police department and an entire battalion of national guardsmen.

I remember sitting in that dark theater, loving every second as Stallone survives a free-fall through a patch of pine trees by whipping out a needle and thread—concealed in the butt of his knife—and sewing up a ghastly wound on his bulging bicep.

Just writing about it makes me queasy. But watching it on the big screen brought on that fuzzy feeling, the one that says the lights are going out, and fast. Only a quick gulp of popcorn helped prevent me from becoming just another piece of refuse on the sticky theater floor.

Come to think of it, I felt the same way years before when I watched Al Pacino get shot in the face in “Serpico.” And then not long after that, I made the mistake of watching a nurse draw my blood during a routine physical exam. The next thing I knew, I was on a gurney, looking up at the smiling face of that same nurse, wiping my brow with a damp cloth, telling one of her colleagues, “It’s always the guys.”

I played high school football and a little rugby in college, so I’ve been slammed into the turf on a few occasions. I’ve dislocated both shoulders — talk about pain — but remained conscious both times as emergency room personnel popped the ball back into its socket.

But even the prospect of a little blood makes my knees wobble.

I had cataract surgery last week, and I had no problem imagining what was involved to clear up my smoky vision. I knew what the problem would be.

I turned my head as a nurse inserted an IV, and I was out of the OR in what seemed like no time, enjoying a cup of coffee and a graham cracker in a comfortable recliner in the recovery room, clearing the cobwebs from my still slightly anesthetized mind.

Then the nurse told me she was ready to remove the IV line.

It was as if Mike Tyson had connected with a vicious uppercut to my jaw. I remember telling the nurse, “I think I’m going out.”

Then it seemed I’d just woken up from a dream. There were several nurses standing in front of me, and I once again felt a damp cloth on my forehead. One of them brought my wife, Betty, back into the room.

Betty left when I went out for the count because she thought I was having a seizure, my arms and legs flailing — you get the unpleasant picture.

But I was fine. My heart rate and blood pressure quickly returned to normal. The color returned to my cheeks. I was told that men pass out more than women.

I was grateful the nurses were nice about it. The next day, during my follow-up appointment, my doctor said he has the same problem. He can carve up an eyeball but quakes at the sight of blood? He said that big, strong cops come in with scratched corneas and nearly fall out of the examination chair.

There’s a reason women have babies. A lot of men just don’t have the stomach for it.


John Edmondson is a teacher in Hampstead.