Ah, Bloody Hell! (Said in appropriate British Accent)

I shook in terror even before the needle touched my skin.
I cried when the needle numbed the first abscess and again for the remaining two.
I kicked a tray table involuntarily. And I tried to remember: deep breaths.
Those yoga breaths didn’t work.
So I cried and cried through it. Large, grabbing sobs. I wiped my shirt on my hospital gown and silently berated myself for being such a wimp.

Still, I couldn't help it. So the tears and sobs escaped me. Until all three hard, nasty abscesses, located right above my armpit, were sliced and drained. The surgeon applied pressure after her scalpel work was done, and she pushed her hands against my arm so hard that I gasped.

There was a lot of gauze and blood on the floor, and I looked to remember, as I always do. I remember the most jarring of medical experiences; my tenth birthday was spent on a surgeon’s table with my face cut open for the same kind of infection. I cried then too, but I was only a child.

The surgeon apologized afterwards for being “vicious” but she had to get everything. She had to get all the MRSA, the infection that has caused so many problems this year. The infection that lives inside my body.

I choked out “It’s okay.” It's not her fault.

I rarely cry. I have an extremely high pain tolerance. I mock people who faint when they get their blood drawn, even though that’s mean. I am trying to get better at realizing that pain is relative (BULL!), but I don’t even feel it when I go for my monthly blood test.

I failed at being strong this time and I failed last time, too. And it pissed me off.

I signed discharge papers and heard a 30 year old woman WAILING because her blood was being drawn. I listened to a girl my age gripe about going for a chest X-ray. 

"Piece of cake", I said, once I reached the hallway. She just ignored me. But I couldn't ignore her and her bronchitis. It seemed simple. Pretty-faced, clean clothes, no hospital gown soaked with snot and blood and tears.

The nurse helped me put on my sweatshirt and I put on my headphones and ducked outside. Inwardly, I wailed just like the grown woman inside, afraid of needles.

I left the emergency room into a New York City storm that soaked me until my mother pulled up with her car. Hail pelted the car as we drove down the turnpike.

And I cried.

I feel split open,
and I suppose today I was.
For the second time in a month,
I was split open.


  1. West Coast reader here...honestly that sounds horrific. you deserve the right to cry. hang in there.

  2. Dude, your writing gets me everytime.
    Keep going.

  3. i have a microbiology exam on skin infections this morning so i am all too familiar with this image. i won't be forgetting S. aureus--> abscess now. keep up the great writing!

  4. Yeah! That's like the tenth one I've had this year...the past 2 have been on the upper "pit" though. Usually I get them underneath my eye. The pit ones are huge, like golf balls. Good times.

    Good luck on your exam, Dr. W!

  5. I hate that you're in pain all the time! Hang in there.

  6. oh kelly, you didn't fail at being strong. you succeeded at being human. you're still and always will be the strongest person i know, even in your weak moments. if we were never weak, we wouldn't know how to be strong. even at 22 i still look up to you in so, so many ways. you are the perfect sister for me.

  7. I loved you when you were ten and I love you now. Always thinking about you.

  8. I love this in the way that one loves beautiful and brave words.

  9. Oh I am so sorry.. my son had MRSA and it was just horrific. Thank you for writing about your experience; he's non-verbal, so I could only imagine his pain.
    I hope you have some easier days ahead.

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