Friday, January 19, 2018

On "Ignorance is Bliss"

I suppose that at its core Bliss is the feeling of being completely and overwhelmingly protected. Being a baby in one’s mother’s arms comes to mind. Ten days ago (a week ago Tuesday) I had a massive nosebleed that sent us to the Emergency Room. Naturally. Such things always happen at 2 in the morning. My ignorance of nosebleeds had amounted to bliss before this event. Afterwards, I learned that nosebleeds are almost never fatal. This makes sense when you think about it. No large artery reaches the incredibly complicated tissue fields of the nose designed to pick up hundreds of different faint odors. But there are arteries, nonetheless, very fine ones. Three ER and four Ear-Nose-Throat doctor visits later, I also learned that if the cause of an ordinary nosebleed cannot be found, the cause must lie with those fine arteries in the upper nose. They come from all sides and then meet centrally to coordinate their collective work. Surgeons have discovered ways to introduce the tiniest wires into those arteries. At their tips are tiny cameras and other more active devices; the surgeons can see what’s going on—and do all that needs doing. But this admirable solution is only necessary if more straight-forward cauterization of the nose tissue, carried out through the vast great canyon we think of as the nostril, cannot be used.

Circumstances so conspired that it took eight days before the actual trouble became clear last Wednesday. Then about five minutes later, electrical cauterization had already fixed me. I was on my feet and walking, without a plastic waste-can under my chin, back into the snowy world in company of Monique—she who had spent two nights and several days guarding me while the otolaryngologist probed for the proper answer.

Under these conditions, I’m very much inclined to ignorance is bliss on many, many of the things that make up this octogenarian body.

Then today I have an e-mail from my oldest friend, Phil. He tells me that, after much thought, he had decided to forgo a scheduled “spinal fusion” in his neck. All I know is that pain had been involved, and what with the pain gone, why do anything at all? Right! Right! Do I want to know more? No! No! What if I had another nosebleed? And while spending torturous minutes pressing a bloody towel to my nose other thoughts, about spinal fusion (in full detail) would rise into my mind? That might cause a fatality nosebleeds are not supposed to cause…


  1. This reminds me of a story from another of your daughters, Dad. Michelle once told me that she was glad to have started her studies to become a midwife after having birthed her four children. As she said, "I'm so glad I didn't know all that could go wrong when I was pregnant."

    And sometimes the saying has truth in another way, a more positive way. I know we have all experienced things in our lives, very positive but difficult things that we accomplished because we plunged into them before knowing fulling what they entailed. In the satisfaction afterward of completing the task one is apt to say something along the lines of: I'm glad I didn't know how hard that was going to be or I may not have done it at all."

    Here's hoping the nosebleed knowledge gained will not be drawn on again...

    1. Thank you so very much, my dear, for being there when needed to chauffeur again and again, at all different hours of the day and night, your hemorrhaging patient to the emergency room, the doctor, the pharmacy, etc. And also for helpfully soothing the minds of both patient, and the one left behind at home awaiting several updates about the ongoing process. My eternal thanks for your extraordinarily dedicated care-taking skills, dearest M2!

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