In December 2016, I was diagnosed with PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome. It’s a hormonal disorder that affects the female reproductive organs. It can lead to things such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, and death if not properly treated.
I hadn’t had my period in six months and had gone to see my OBGYN. I was used to going months without a period and then making it up for however many weeks. That’s just how my body seemed to work, but half a year was really pushing it. My doctor came to the diagnosis after a few blood tests and prescribed medication to try to get my menstrual cycle back on track. Knowing this period would most likely be a doozy, I prolonged taking the pills until after I had finished all of my final exams for the semester. It turned out that I had made the right decision.
Almost a day after starting the pills, my menstrual cycle was back and this time, it came at full force. I knew I was losing a lot of blood, but I wasn’t worried. I had many heavy periods before and for a much longer span of time. With each passing day, I lost more and more blood. It wasn’t until I was forced to buy two boxes of Ultra tampons, which I had never used before, and Super Plus pads in order to keep up with my body’s demand that I started getting concerned.
I remember the Sunday leading up to my time spent in the hospital. By then I was reduced to pairing the Ultra tampons with Super pads. They allowed me to spend more time away from the bathroom, but even still I could barely spend more than thirty minutes out of it. I spent the entirety of that church service bleeding out in the bathroom because I was too light-headed to make the constant trek up and down the stairs.
Despite my growing concerns, I decided to stay as calm as I could. I could handle it. I had dealt with bad periods since I started puberty. I just had to take it one day at a time. Besides, my parents were leaving on an overnight trip for their anniversary. They barely got to spend alone time together and I had to babysit my younger siblings. I tried to convince myself that I could hold it together until they returned the next day. I wanted them to have fun and not worry about us. They deserved time for each other.
I watched my mother pack, letting the door frame support what parts of my body I no longer had the strength to, and tried to focus on the instructions she gave me. I was getting impatient. It’s not like I hadn’t babysat my brother and sister before; I did it frequently. I wanted my parents to hurry up and leave so that I could lay down. I wasn’t feeling well in the slightest sense of the word. When they finally departed, I got the chance to adhere to my wish.
I felt well enough to make something to eat after a few hours of laying down. I made a pasta dish from scratch and I remember being so proud of myself because it looked and tasted so delicious that I had to take a picture. My siblings loved it too. About twenty minutes later, I was hunched over the sink staring down at the same dish my body violently launched out of my stomach. My reflection was pallid and haggard. I didn’t think it was possible for me to feel any worse, but I did.
I texted my mom and told her I had thrown up, but when I saw her text asking whether I wanted them to come back home I couldn’t bring myself to type ‘yes’. I couldn’t do that to them. They needed this time for each other, so I reassured her that I was fine and that they should have fun. I gathered all the strength I could and slowly proceeded to crawl up the two flights of stairs to my room.
Tears were in my eyes by the time I made it. I was exhausted just getting to my bed. My stomach hurt and I was so lightheaded I could barely stand, but I was going to starve out the pain.
It hadn’t even been a minute before my sister barged in, demanding for me to tuck her in. Having someone tuck her in was just her ploy to prolong having to go to bed. I couldn’t do it tonight. I could barely move, so I told her as such. She was seven and it hadn’t quite hit her yet that her needs and wants weren’t the only ones that mattered. I tried to explain to her that I wouldn’t be able to because I wasn’t feeling well and that she should have more empathy. From her persistence and the rising shrill tone of her voice despite my rejections, I knew it had gone over her head. I physically and mentally could not deal with her anymore and exploded at her to go to bed, tears running down my face.
Upon realizing that I had left a trail of blood, I did my best to stumble into the bathroom. The blood had soaked through the tampon, through the pad, through my underwear, and through my sweatpants all the way to the floor. It had been at most fifteen minutes since I had last changed.
I stripped down and decided to spend the rest of the night on the toilet. I didn’t have the energy to go to the bathroom every ten minutes and there were worse things than sleeping in it.
I remember wondering how I got on the floor, before concluding that I must have fallen in my sleep, so I tried again.
I woke up on the floor. The way I had positioned myself I knew I couldn’t have just fallen so this time I decided to stay awake. I had my phone, so I replied to messages and texted my best friend.
I was on the floor again. I knew I hadn’t fallen asleep because I was in the middle of typing.
I finally figured out that I had passed out and I had been passing out since I got in the bathroom. For some reason, most likely lack of blood, I thought that I could use my sheer willpower to keep myself from uncontrollably slamming onto the cold linoleum.
I was scared. I didn’t want to pass out again, but I was still losing a lot of blood. I was sure that I would bleed out, but I still didn’t want to ruin my parents’ night out and I didn’t want to deprive any relatives of their sleep. So, I decided that if this was going to be my last night, that I might as well make it count. All I could think about was letting my best friend know that he was very important to me and that I loved him. I had this innate drive to tell him the depth of my feelings. It was vital to me that he knew before I kicked the bucket. So for god knows how long, I went through a cycle of texting him and passing out until I had finally finished writing my heart out.
I conclusively decided to sleep in the tub. I couldn’t sleep on the toilet and I didn’t want to sleep on the floor. The tub has, so far, been the most uncomfortable place that I have had the displeasure of sleeping.
By this point, I was shaking. My body was directing what little blood I had left away from my extremities and I could hardly feel my hands or feet anymore. I needed warmth, but I wasn’t sure how quickly I would be able to retrieve a blanket and pillow from my room before passing out again.
After crawling to the bathroom door, I heaved myself up and walked as quickly as I could to and from my room in order to get a blanket. Once back in the bathroom, I asked my brother to bring me a pillow. After he did, I quickly snapped a picture of my blood running down the bathtub drain for evidence. With my past medical experiences, I knew that I either wouldn’t be taken seriously or even believed at all.
Sleep was something that eluded me, but the cold’s meaty arms cradled me in a snowstorm and there was nothing my thin blanket could do to protect me.
At around seven in the morning of December 20th, I heard a knock at the door. My mother walked in, horrified at what she saw. I knew that it looked bad, but from the expression on her face, it was clearly worse than I had thought. I hadn’t anticipated them to come home so soon. They weren’t supposed to be back until at least the evening. I wanted to clean the bathroom before their arrival.
My mom started yelling. She was scared too.
The bathroom looked like a gruesome murder scene: deep pools of crimson blood on the floor, soaking into the bathmats and my clothes; bloody hand and fingerprints on the once clean surfaces. The toilet seat and the tub were almost completely saturated with my blood.
She started cleaning.
I felt terrible. I didn’t want to make her feel the way she did. I had ruined their trip and worse of all I had made them worry about me.
She turned the shower on and told me to clean myself up. I stood there watching the blood drain down and wash away to reveal the white of the tub. A big blood clot was slowly making its way to the drain. It was going to get clogged.
I woke up in my mom’s arms. She was screaming for my dad to call the ambulance.
I woke up again on the floor. My mom was putting clothes on me. The ambulance was on its way. She was frantic.
I wanted to comfort her but my feeble protests of, “I’m okay,” fell on deaf ears and did nothing to soothe her. She wanted to drive me herself because the ambulance was taking too long, but my dad convinced her to give it more time.
By the time the EMTs finally arrived there was hardly, if any, blood in the bathroom. My mom had done a thorough job of cleaning. She explained that I had lost a lot of blood and was still losing blood because of my period. The EMTs seemed to be more interested in whether or not I was a drug addict than listening to what my mom had to say. She almost kicked them out.
They did their “assessment”, which consisted mostly of sticking a flashlight near my eyes and saying ‘ma’am’, and then carried me to the ambulance. On the drive there I could hear them talking to each other about how they thought I was faking or being overly dramatic at most and that I probably just had a weak stomach when it came to seeing a little blood.
The more they went on, the madder I got because they weren’t taking me or my illness seriously. I had lost a lot of blood and I almost wished my mom had called the ambulance right away instead of cleaning it up. I thought that maybe if they had seen even an inkling of the amount of blood I had lost that night, they would take my condition seriously. They were placing their own prejudices on me without listening to my story.
I wanted to defend myself but I couldn’t bring my mouth to move. I couldn’t move my body for that matter. I was an icicle.
When we arrived at the hospital, I was placed in a room and given the usual set up. The first blood test came back to 7 g/dL. The amount of blood I had in my body on December 9th, approximately five days before I started taking the pills was 13.2 g/dL. I had lost over 40% of all the blood in my body in less than a week.
The ER doctor confirmed my stomach bug and also stated that there was nothing he could do about my bleeding because my hemoglobin levels weren’t in the 6 g/dL range. He was going to send me home.
I could see my nurse out in the hall talking with one of the EMT’s who had brought me in. He looked my way and quickly turned back, embarrassed. ‘Good,’ I thought. He should be. Just because I was catatonic, doesn’t mean my ears stopped working.
My heart was pounding, 120 bpm just laying down. I tried to reposition my body, but my heartbeat shot up to 168 bpm at the slightest movement and I decided it wasn’t worth it.
My nurse, who was very kind, came in and tried to prepare me for departure. With the help of my mother, they pulled me up to see if I could stand and walk. I almost passed out as soon as I was vertical, so she had another blood test done because it had been a few hours since the first test and I was still heavily losing blood.
The results came back with my hemoglobin levels at 5.4 g/dL. The ER doctor then decided that my condition was serious enough to warrant blood transfusions.
He briefed two new EMTs about my status and pretty soon I was making my way with an oxygen tank to a hospital that would be able to provide me with the transfusions I desperately needed.
In all the times I have been in an ambulance, this trip was by far the best, miles better than the one earlier that day. They were kind, funny, sincere, and they took me seriously. I was very grateful to them and almost wished that the ride could have lasted longer. They were the best part of that awful day. After delivering me to my room, the EMTs bid me farewell and good luck.
Once there, I was given another blood test to determine my hemoglobin levels. They had dropped to 4.9 g/dL, a stark contrast to the 13.2 g/dL I had boasted earlier during the month. I was really glad that I had delayed taking the pills until after my exams. There was no way I could have lost that much blood and still power through finals.
I was very aware of how anemic I had become. At this point, I had lost almost 70% of all the blood in my body. I was class four hemorrhaging. My heart was beating frantically, struggling to pump what little blood I had left. It was straining. I wanted to cheer it on, but I didn’t have the energy anymore. I thought I would go into cardiac arrest before the first transfusion. I was bleeding out too fast and the hospital was moving too slow. It was a race my heart was going to lose.
They upped my oxygen intake but it was all for naught. I couldn’t even lift my hand to greet the relatives who had come to see me. I had already given up. I was sorry my family had to see me like this. I was going to die in front of them.
Death calmly strolled in, his presence enveloping the room. He made his way to me and gently started preserving me in my own special cocoon. He took his time, layer by delicate layer. My senses were fading. The cries of my siblings dwindled to background noise. This was it, it was time.