« Fired Before Christmas | Main | Expensive Gift + Wife = Sex »

December 18, 2006

The Blood Man

by Harley

Two weeks ago, I took some routine blood tests. I flunked one. I took it again—it’s called a PTT—and flunked again. “I’d like you to see a hematologist,” my doctor said. “A blood man.”

A blood man!

My Aunt Marie, back in Wilkes-Barre (Pennsylvania), had a guy come to her house every Monday to draw her blood. He’d show up at 5:30 a.m., walk upstairs to Aunt Marie’s bedroom, get the blood, then show himself out. This never bothered Aunt Olga and Aunt Therese, who lived with Aunt Marie, because they’d all just turn off their hearing aids. But if you were sleeping over on Sunday, the Aunts would say, “When you hear someone stumbling around in the dark, don’t worry—it’s just the Blood Man.” I guess he had his own key.

So now I have my own Blood Man, in Tarzana (California). I drove over, we chatted about coagulation, poison, murder, Rasputin and the Russian Revolution, I gave some blood, he told some jokes. He said to call in a week.

But four days later, his nurse calls. “The doctor wants to see you. He needs to go over something he can’t do on the phone.” Great. I have 730 holiday cards to mail and 96 gluten-free gingerbread men to make, but the Blood Man calleth, so to Tarzana I goeth.

This time, I notice the sign on Dr. Blood’s office: Hematology/Oncology.

Oncology? I always confuse oncology with ontology, which means Dr. Blood is either into metaphyics or cancer. I get a chill up my spine.

In the waiting room, I look at the other people. Frankly, they do not look well. Or happy. One senior citizen has his shirt off. I wonder how at home I’d have to feel in a crowded waiting room to sit there topless.

After forty minutes, Dr. Blood escorts me to his office. He closes the door. Not a good sign. On his desk is a half-eaten submarine sandwich, with visible teeth-marks. The doctor has a seat, not behind the desk, but next to me. Also not a good sign. He wants to be nearby, I think, to catch me in case I faint at what he’s about to say.

I stare at his desk. “Ham sandwich,” I think. “The last thing I see before learning the party’s over.” I remember Dan, my best friend from high school, who, in a similar situation, just blurted out, “How long have I got?” (As it turned out, Dan had eight months.)

“Want some sandwich?” the doctor asks.

“I’m a vegetarian,” I whisper.

He answers the phone. I study his face. A craggy face, wrinkled from delivering bad news. He hangs up the phone.

I blurt out, “How long have I got?”


“Am I dying?”

“No,” he says. “You have Factor 12 Deficiency Syndrome.”

“What’s that mean?”

“It means you’ll always have abnormal PTT tests.”

“That’s it?” I ask.


He whips out a yellow legal pad, draws the kind of diagrams that always put me to sleep in high school chemistry, explains how blood works, then gives me a letter (available upon request) saying that despite being a Factor 12 deficient, I have thick blood. Well, thick enough. Thicker than water, anyway. (Congratulations on your Coagulation!)

My husband still doesn’t understand why I had to drive to Tarzana to find out I’m fine, but the truth is, I’d walk to Wilkes-Barre to hear that, barring some freak accident and even if there are no gingerbread men in my life this year . . .

[cue music: I WILL SURVIVE by Gloria Gaynor]

Happy Monday!


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Blood Man:


Yea! Thank goodness for Factor 12 deficiency and a letter to get you our of jail free!

Really Harley...this entry was a cliff hanger!

Perhaps modern doctors make simple things extra dramatic as we learn more about the human genome.

What is maddening is how contradictory medical research is revealed by the modern media. The "Today Show" talks about the obesity epidemic in America while Italy takes up legislature to ban skinny models.

I miss the old days when one only saw the doctor if you felt sick, not for yearly scientific research that tries to answer the question;

"What if?"

Glad you're okay, Harley. And that bit about the guy coming early in the morning, sneaking past the aunts with their hearing aids turned off, to draw blood--if that doesn't appear in some future mystery novel, I'll be very sad.

Have you read The Blood Doctor by Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell? Good book.

Good for you, but do you wonder why doctors get sued?

When my wife was pregnant with our first child, the doctor's office breathlessly left me a voicemail to tell me that "there was a problem with my Tay-Sachs test" and that I should call back immediately. Of course, I couldn't get a real person, so I had to leave a voicemail. When they got around to calling me back after a very unproductive half day at work for me, the news? Since my wife and I have differnt last names, they couldn't figure out which baby my test results went with--despite our writing my wife's last name on the top of my test form. The test results? Negative. Assholes. If something had gone wrong, that experience alone would had made us more likely to sue than if they had used some common sense.

Upshot? For that reason and other similar ones, my wife switched practices in mid-stream and my son is a normal, sullen, good-for-nothing, bum-of-a-16-year-old.

There's no reason in the world that the doctor could not have told you on the phone that your results were negative, but that you would have odd results.

There's nothing like a good false health alarm to out life in perspective. Now you can truly enjoy the holidays!

Oops -- that's "put."

Yeah, I'm having a real "don't sweat the small stuff" week. Josh, congratulations on that normal, sullen, good-for-nothing, bum-of-a-16-year old son. He sounds perfect for my 6-year old daughter. Is he available for play dates?

Hey hey hey--no fair! I've got TWO g-f-n, 16 year old bums. If anybody needs to unload a kid, it's me. Or maybe Josh and I should start a service: Rent A Bum.

On second thought, that sounds like something out of Margie.

Very funny, Harley. God, you're an awesome writer.

Okay, this is what I want to know. Surely, doctors must realize that when they call patients down to the office, people are panicking (I would have been, way more than you clearly were). Closing the door. Sitting next to you. These are all cruel.

What I want is a doctor who calls up and says it right away, before you even have a chance to think - "You've-got-maui-maui-disease and-approximately-a-year-to-live, but-there-are-some-treatments-to-ease-pain/prolong-life-call-me." Click.

Am I wrong?

Maybe the doctor just wanted to sit next to Harley.

Aha! I think you hit the nail on the head, Michele!

Holy crap - I almost needed a Xanax myself by the end of this one.

Not all doctors are jackasses, but this guy is a major ass.

Josh and Ramona - can bums be successfully directed to shred documents? I just found out what it costs to have a Bonded Service do it (we are advised to either directly supervise the doc destruction or to have it certified). I'm guessing the bums would be too lazy to actually try to read anything, hence no concerns with breaching confidentiality.

Kathy, I can only speak for my two, but outside the home, the bumitude disappears, esp. if there is a paycheck involved. So, yes, they could shred successful, but alas, they'd definitely read the dirt.

Wow, Harley - we are *so* separated at birth.

I just went through something similar - 6 months of biweekly visits to the hematologist to find out I have weird blood.

Yeah, it was an oncologist's office, too - very depressing.

Glad you're okay!

Kathy, I'll shred documents for you. I love my paper shredder. Something very satisfying about it.

My daughter's first grade teacher had to call about something last week and her opening words were, "everything's fine. Your child is fine." She always starts her conversations that way.

Maria, in what way is your blood weird? Is it . . . pink?

Wow, Harley -- that was intense! In his defense, I will say that this poor doc sounds like he was trying to be a nice guy; he was just totally clueless about how to do it. Which, unfortunately, doesn't seem to be an unusual circumstance.

I'm glad your blood clots. Enjoy your cookies and cards!

Who would think that clotted blood is so desirable. I'll never look at clotted cream the same way, though. Although I don't think I've ever looked at clotted cream. What is it, exactly?

It's gross, that's what it is.

That's great, Harley!

I have to say to all those who said "why did he call you down there for that" that a lot of that is probably because they figure if they don't ask *everyone* to come in, people who do have to come in will automatically assume the worst. I've certainly had that experience when I've taken HIV tests in the past. They've always been negative, but no doctor has ever allowed me to call in for the results.

On the other hand, when I had an irregular Pap test, my doctor saw fit to call me on the phone. When I asked what that meant, he casually told me that it could be nothing or it could be cancer. He'd see me in 3 months to see whether it had changed.

Wait...three MONTHS? To find out if I had cancer? I don't think so.

I made an appointment the next day with a new doctor who explained that Pap tests come in all varieties of irregular. He asked me whether my doctor had told me what level I was at...1-5. I said no, that he'd just called me on the phone and told me to come back in three months. He said "sue." He also took a new Pap test which came back completely normal. He said I didn't need to have another for 3 months, but if I was nervous, he'd happily do one a month until I got over the scare.

For two years, I had one every 4-6 months and they all came back normal. It was just a corruption of the test of some kind. But since then I have always appreciated doctors who call me in to talk about test results.

When I was trying to get pregnant, I got a call one day from a semi-agitated nurse saying I had toxiplasmosis, that thing you get if you hang out around kitty litter boxes. Huh?

Two days later she called back. Lab error. For 48 hours, a whole lotta women had toxiplasmosis.

Whew! So how long before you stopped shaking?

Well, I'm half Norwegian. They don't shake. It's too flamboyant.

I am sorry that you had to invest the emotional energy that goes into the what if? moments.

But, isn't it always great to know that you don't have something? You may have been the high point of his day, really how many uplifting moment's can there be in an oncologists day? I think that it is often so hard for the academic side of the professional to remember what the human in front of them really needs.

Congrats on your fabulous clotting ability.

When I was in 8th Grade, my eye doctor said to my Mom and me, "You are legally blind in your right eye."
Of course,
all Mom & I heard was -
"Legally Blind."

Dad had a few words with the doctor before the day was over.

I always think that relief is the most underrated sensation. I love relief. Honestly, the whole thing was worth it because I got to go home happy instead of grousing about the traffic conditions on the Ventura Freeway.

You may be on to something Harley, I think I am seeking more relief as a sensation. Just as long as you do not spell relief;
R O L A I D S !

Leave it to Harley to be extra special in *every* way - I am so glad that you're officially deficient! On a side note, I believe that Absolut Peppar is an excellent blood thinner if applied regularly enough.

Doctors suck no matter what the practice.

A few years ago I went in for the yearly boob squishing. They did the look at it before they tell you to get dressed thing, then told me things looked fine. Several days later I came home from work to a message on the answering machine - I needed to come in for a boob ultrasound because there was an "area of increased density" they needed to check. Of course it was after hours.

After a long night of fear and no sleep, I called back and they made an appointment for me.....three weeks later. For three weeks I lived on the edge, snapping at everyone, and being of no use at home or the office. I got into the clinic and as luck would have it, drew the same technician who was puzzled as hell. She was positive there was nothing there, so she pulled my mammogram and found what the doctor circled. I took off the bra and right betweeen Thelma and Louise was a large skin tag. She bb'd it, took another shot, shoved it in the radioligist's face, got an admission he was a hack, and I was sent home relieved.

I've been very partial to women named Myrtle since that day.

Thanks, Sue, for the reminder. Time for a mammogram. Sigh.

I got really nervous for you and your family as I started to read your post. Congratulations on having thicker than water blood! whew!
got your card today.. you were right.. it was brilliant! Thanks so much! Happy Holidays! Do some extra celebrating will ya!
peace, elizabeth

Harley - my blood's not quite pink, but it's close. I have low red count and high white counts - which, after all the tests, including DNA tests and a bone marrow biopsy, turns out to be ideopathic. Translation: we have no clue.

Having just got the lab bill, I am sooo glad I have health insurance.

This Is a very informative blog , I am really pleased to post my comment on this blog . It helped me with ocean of knowledge so I really belive you will do much better in the future . Good job web master .

The comments to this entry are closed.

The Breast Cancer Site