Wiping the Blood Away

I was taking Kristi to the grocery store as I do from time to time.

For new readers, Kristi is blind and in a wheelchair and she suffers from some cognitive disabilities. Kristi is a friend from church who I visit at her assisted living facility, often talking her shopping when she needs something.

Usually, shopping with Kristi is fun and relaxing.

But this time things got stressful.

I'd just helped Kristi get out of the car and seated in her wheelchair. Kristi grabbed the car door and tried to shut it but pinched her finger in the door. She showed her finger to me and I saw her finger was bleeding pretty good.

I didn't have any tissues on me or in the car, so I pushed Kristi inside the grocery store to the bathroom. There I wet some paper towels to clean up the wound and stop the bleeding. By the time I got back to Kristi the blood was pretty significant, running in a rivulet down her hand and onto her pants.

I started to clean up the cut. I was relieved to find that it wasn't all that bad. A small cut, but it was a bleeder. I cleaned up the blood that had run and then took a dry paper towel and wrapped it around Kristi's finger. I took Kristi's other hand and had her wrap it around the paper towel, putting pressure on the cut to stop the bleeding. Given that the cut was small I figured Kristi could hold the paper towel on her finger while we quickly picked up the things she needed and then get the cut properly bandaged by the nurses back at her home.

But for some reason Kristi wouldn't keep pressure on her finger. I couldn't tell if this was because she was blind and couldn't see the blood or if it was a cognitive disability thing. Regardless, Kristi kept letting go of the cut, causing it to bleed again. I was pushing her through the store and she was getting blood all over her hands and clothes. I wasn't overly worried about the blood, as it wasn't much, but it was noticeable, but I worried how the bleeding finger would affect the other shoppers in the store. People don't like the sight of blood.

But I couldn't get Kristi to keep the wound covered and pressured. And so the blood flowed.

Finally we got checked out and I took Kristi back to the bathroom to clean her up again. Smeared blood was on both hands. I got some more wet paper towels and began to gently wipe each hand clean, one at a time.

As I was doing this I was struck by how intimate it all was. Wiping the blood of another human being. Holding and cleaning her hands.

I'm sure it's a feeling nurses know very, very well. But I had not done anything like this since I had done it for my children when they had been hurt and bleeding.

I felt honored to be that close, close enough as a friend to be a nurse. Close enough to hold her hands and wipe them clean.

And I wished, in that moment, that church could be more like this.

A place where we could love each other enough.

Enough to hold hands.

Enough to wipe the blood away when we are hurt.

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

7 thoughts on “Wiping the Blood Away”

  1. But why didn’t you just stay where you were, then apply gentle pressure to the wound until her bleeding stopped...?!

  2. I did. I'd see that she'd taken her hand off, stop, hold it back on, get her to put her hand back on, and then we'd move on. Only to have her take it off again. In retrospect I should have just stopped and held it for her until it stopped.

  3. "I'd see that she'd taken her hand off, stop, hold it back on her to put her hand back on, and then we'd move on. Only to have her take it off again."

    Exactly... you should never trust a patient!

  4. But isn't that the way it is when children of God care for one another's wounds? In our finite and imperfect existences we stop the bleeding of one as best as we can, then move on to another; and then come back when we are needed. Isn't that the way of love...we come back. Jesus was all over the place; so I guess we can expect to be bounced around a little.

  5. This is sort of the direction I was heading. Using this whole experience as a metaphor of trying to care for each other. But I think Cochinreader got that.

    And to be honest, my nursing skills aren't all that great. Broken emotions or self-esteem? As a psychologist I can be of help. Cut finger? Ummm. Not so much. ;-)

  6. HI Richard, thanks once again for a tender picture of love in action. It reminded me of a nursing student I met once. She was asked at one point (as we sometimes are in Bible studies), what would you have done if you had the risen Jesus standing in front of you with open wounds? Her response was unequivocal: she would tend to the wounds. I have always been struck by that image of discipleship and devotion. She wrote a very powerful reflection around the idea (which I have long since lost) describing the festering wounds, the sights and the smells. She wrote from her experience treating wounds and her account was compelling and disturbing. The picture she had of the risen Jesus was rooted in reality; blood, stink and all. A Christ who calls us come and touch his wounds.

Leave a Reply