I have no spleen
I had a friend in high school, Martin Smith, who used to call me 'anti-spleen'. I'd be strolling down the locker-lined hallways and hear the unmistakable call. "Hey, Anti-Spleen." I acted as if I hated it, always rolling my eyes in feigned contempt. Honestly, I couldn't have cared less. I have acquaintances who still know me by that nickname, as well as one penned by another friend - 'the spleenless wonder'.
In truth, there is little to wonder about. As much fun as the actual word 'spleen' is (I rank it up there with 'wench
' and 'chicken
' as one of the most amusing in the English language), spleens are basically useless for anything other than fighting infections. Thus, aside from bottles of antibiotics
on hand in case of fever, being spleenless is quite low on the spectrum of life-challenging misfortunes.
This attitude, however, could easily be a function of my own almost nonexistent worry reflex, which remains unfazed even in the direst of circumstances. My coping abilities, having always rested comfortably in the groove of nonchalance, sometimes veer on the edge of robotic. The reason my spleen went missing in the first place was because of a potentially lethal illness.
My father, being a doctor, has the privelege of giving prescriptions and ordering blood tests for family members (which really saves on medical bills). He had decided to get a general test on my blood one Friday afternoon because of numerous purple bruises that had begun to pop up all over my legs and arms. I wasn't thinking much of these small maladies. I was too busy living the book-swamped life of a high school junior in three advanced placement
courses, with routines and regular weekends. My mind was focused on surviving schoolwork, keeping in touch with a few friends, and rigorously practicing Tetris
so that I could retain the high score on every computer in the student lounge.
I believe I was intensely involved in this very activity the Friday night following the test, when my dad marched solemnly into my room, followed by my mum wiping at her eyes. I reluctantly paused my game. Crying was no rare occurence for mum, but my dad looked more serious than usual. My first thought was Okay, who died?
My father proceeded to explain to me that the results of my blood test were not good, specifically in the matter of platelet count. A healthy person was supposed to have around 400,000 platelets
, give or take a few. I had 4,000. I had to stop what I was doing and head directly to the nearest emergency room for a blood transfusion
This was the last thing I wanted to be bothered with. For gods' sake, I had an entire lazy night planned out, and my Tetris game wasn't even finished. Oh, the humanity! Interfering with such a meticulously scheduled nothing. My platelets sure had shitty timing.
I treated the ride to the hospital as the most petty kind of nuisance. My condition was irrelevant. There were more important things to worry about - like music and books and movies and computers.
After wasting roughly two hours reading boring magazines while shifting uncomfortably in a plastic chair, I was finally called back to a small room, where I rattled off answers to people in white coats with a bored expression.
"No, but I'm bleeding and it's not the right time of month."
My mother looked at me in horror. I tried to suppress a yawn.
It didn't even occur to me that my behavior was subdued. Everything was so distant and unimportant. As the nurses drew my blood again, I meditated on the possibility of missing the Helmet
concert on Sunday. Helmet were an indie hardcore band - one of my favorites - who had never been to the city before. Deadly disease? Favorite band in concert? As far as I was concerned, my priorities were in top shape.
I was told to lie down on an ER bed with blue curtains around it after untangling one of those annoying hospital gowns and attempting to tie it so my underwear wouldn't show. I was excessively bored. This was not how I had planned to spend my evening. My mum was sitting in a plastic chair by the bed, still dabbing at her eyes.
The nurse who had drawn my blood pulled the curtain aside and sat on the edge of the bed. "Now, what you probably have is something called idiopathic thrombocytopenic perpura
, or ITP
," she explained, very slowly, looking me directly in the eye. It made me quite uncomfortable. Everyone was taking this so seriously. I wanted to put on a Groucho Marx
glasses-nose-moustache ensemble just to make these people crack a smile. "However," the nurse continued, "there are other diseases also associated with a low platelet count, such as leukemia
"Okay," I repeated endlessly, not sure what else I was expected to say. I was methodically going through specific scenarios of what my parents would have to do for me if I was going to die. Lots of movies, lots of pasta, lots of pampering.
Needless to say, by the weekend's end, I was sick to death of every somber, beady-eyed stare and hushed voice directed towards me. I was an ill individual, not an ancient diety. I had ITP. I would have to pop a prednizone
pill every morning and get my blood drawn on Mondays. There was nothing particularly traumatic about it. The only traumas were those I overreacted to on purpose, mostly out of boredom with the whole situation.
Dr. Lukens, my blood specialist, sat me down in the examination room one day after the fateful weekend of diagnosis. "You'll have to avoid any physical activity," the doctor said, with the same grave eyes and quiet voice as everyone else. "That includes contact sports..."
Contact sports? Oh no... he couldn't mean... "No MOSHING?" I cried. "You can't be serious!"
My dear doctor had never heard the term before, so I had to explain very carefully the contact sport played in the pit at rock concerts. Sadly, I had been correct - moshing was out of the question. If I had failed to visit the ER that weekend, one night in the mosh might have killed me.
Six months later, my life had still not changed significantly. But the prednizone side effects were unpleasant, and the doctors had a sneaking suspicion that my evil spleen was to blame for all this rot. My laproscopic splenectomy
was scheduled for the very beginning of spring break. Lucky me. I was officially the Anti-Spleen when I returned to school, after a beautiful vacation week of abdominal pain, hypoglycemia
, intestinal dysfunction, fainting, pain pills, and pills to counter the side effects of the pain pills.
And all this because of a spleen. I even missed a Helmet concert. A month afterward, they broke up. Damn diseases.