I could have died.
I was always a clumsy child. I was always getting green leaves and thin branches knotted in my dark brown hair. I had at least one bruise on each part of my body from bumping into things. I always had dirt on my clothes and face. My favourite pair of sneakers were white with Velcro that had “Champs” written in pink on the sides. My shoes never stayed white. Every couple of months, my mother would have to buy me a new pair of those same shoes.
I guess that’s why my parents didn’t notice when bruises started covering my body. At first, I didn’t notice them, either.
On top of being a clumsy child, I was also a sick child. I never got ill, but I was always getting sick. Every once in a while, I would find myself at the doctor’s office, where the doctor would give my mom an antibiotic to give me and within a couple of days, I was better. It was kind of a routine.
One day, the routine changed.
When I was six years old, I was given an antibiotic for an ear infection. As usual, within a couple of days my ear infection was gone. But something else started happening.
It was the beginning of the school year, October to be exact. The leaves were falling, and all the other kids would gather around during recess and play in the pile of leaves we would collect. It was chilly and we all had jackets on. After recess, we headed back to our cubbies to put away our jackets and that’s when my teacher approached me.
“Gaby, did you hurt yourself outside?” she asked.
I said no and she went on with her day. The next day was the same. But, this time, she seemed more concerned when she asked me the same question.
“Gaby, did you hurt yourself outside?”
“No”, I said.
“Did any of the other kids hurt you?”
“No”, I said.
I remembered thinking that she didn’t believe me, and I didn’t understand why she kept asking me the same question. Little did I know, she saw what my parents and I did not. She saw my bruises spreading across my body.
Every day for a week she kept asking me if I was falling or bumping into things outside and every day, I would tell her no. That’s when she involved my school principal. My principal was one the most elegant women I have ever met. She had short curly blonde hair, wore different coloured blazers every day with high heels.
One day, my school principal pulled me out of class. She sat me down in her office and gave me mini chocolate chip cookies. She asked me questions about how I was getting my bruises. I didn’t know where or how I was getting them. I had a habit of doing summersaults on my bed and falling or hitting the walls of my room. That’s what I told her I thought the bruises were from. She didn’t believe me.
She started asking me about my parents and if they were nice to me. She asked me if my parents had ever been violent with me. I told her they hadn’t. She told me it was ok to admit if they had, and that I would be safe. But I repeated my answer: they did not hurt me.
But she didn’t believe me again. She sent me back to class and called my mother. One hour later, my mother was in the principal’s office. They called me back in and that’s when my confused mother lifted my shirt and saw the bruises littering my body.
I’ll never forget the look on her face. It was a look which quickly turned in to anger. She called my father to ask him why he hadn’t told her about my bruises when he would give me baths. But my father never thought anything bad was happening to me. Remember, I was a clumsy child. He believed my bruises were caused by bumping into something or to having played a little too rough with my sister.
That night, they took me to hospital. They took me right on time because a few minutes after we got there I collapsed. I woke up and a nurse was drawing blood from my left arm. I started crying and panicking from seeing the blood being pumped out of my arm and into a small syringe. I don’t know how I didn’t faint.
A few hours later, the doctors had my results. Turns out, a chemical used in the antibiotics I had taken for my ear infection had caused an allergic reaction. The platelets in my body were dropping at a dangerous rate. They put me on steroids right away. The doctors told my parents that if they had brought me in any later, my body would have started to bleed internally, and I would have died.
Thankfully, after six days on steroids, my bruises started to disappear. I was getting better. I had to take blood tests every day for two weeks. That turned in to every two days, then that turned in to every week. The time between blood tests became longer and longer, now I only take blood tests once a year.
That’s the scary thing about life. It’s fragile. You never know how close you are to death until you live through a near-death experience.