Why I Will Never Be a Doctor
by Z. O., New City, NY
If there is such a phenomenon as reincarnation, I undoubtedly would have been a medic in some bloody war in a past life. Each day I would have encountered amputated limbs, innards strewn across the battleground and infected wounds. Otherwise, how can I explain my mortal fear of blood? Witnessing the horror of bloody pasts must have chemically altered my mind and body; today, when I hear people talking about blood, I faint.
My first fainting incident interrupted my cousin David's bar-mitzvah. As the ark was opening, my mom pointed to Uncle Jeff and whispered, "He's a doctor who works with hemophiliacs." "What's a hemophiliac?" I asked. "Someone who can't stop bleeding," she replied bluntly. Suddenly my stomach disappeared, my head felt like Hurricane Georges and I fell back into my seat. Three of my relatives jumped over rows of chairs to revive me. My relatives now come to family events with smelling salts, stretchers and ice packs, both as ridicule and precaution.
I used to think this was a petty fear. But after I fainted when reading a passage about arteries during the SSATs, I realized it's a full-blown phobia. When I returned home after the test, I told my father I didn't finish. He said, "Zach, don't worry. Lots of kids don't answer all the questions." And I replied, "No, Dad, I fainted in the middle and had to come home early." He laughed and asked, "You're kidding, right?" The embarrassment and shame I felt at that moment was somewhere between eating alone in the lunch room and getting your pants pulled down at recess.
It's not as if I am acquiescing to this phobia. I have seriously tried to eliminate it. One time, when the doctor was giving me a shot, I clutched my mom's hand and thought about Disneyland. If the warmth of a mother's hand, coupled with visions of Goofy can't repress fear, nothing can. But, as the doctor placed the needle in my arm, my face turned as white as the first tissue pulled from a box. When it comes to blood, I will always be a wimp.
Thankfully, I do not feel pressure to be the proverbial macho man. I have no qualms accepting help during one of my attacks. One time, during a gory part of a movie, my girlfriend left the theater to bring me soda because I felt faint. Now, she feels an instinctual urge to cover my eyes during every gory scene we watch.
Seven years of embarrassment, weakness and debilitating fear have strengthened me to the point where I can listen to a brief conversation about blood without feeling faint. I have calculated that at this rate I will stop fearing blood on the 40th birthday of my next lifetime. The party will be held at Disneyland. I'll be the guy clutching an older woman's hand.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.