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James R. Stout

Noseworthy Reflections

            My brother-in-law is sick. No, that’s not meant to say he’s demented or warped. He’s got some kind of crud. You know what I mean? His tenor voice is now a bass, his sinuses are completely out of whack, and his throat feels like a badly skinned knee. So, I’m not going anywhere near him or their house for the foreseeable future. No thank you! But while contemplating his condition, I remembered a couple of things from my childhood. Well, to be exact, three things. One of them has absolutely nothing to do with the other two, but there was a bird seed trail between them that I couldn’t seem to shake.

            Let’s talk about being noseworthy. When I was a child and I would get a stuffy nose (when my son was little he would say, “My nose is stomped up.”) and it was perhaps one of my least favorite things in the world. But there was a remedy. Yes, a remedy that only Mom could administer because Mom was the keeper of the medicine cabinet. There was this little greenish-brown bottle of magical liquid that was on the very top shelf of the cabinet that I couldn’t reach if my life depended on it. The bottle held within its darkened glass the remedy. It was known as “Nose Drops”. Remember, this was before nasal spray. Speaking of which, I seriously believe that nasal spray has greatly increased the number of sinus infections. Yes, it will clear up your sinus passages (“All 8 of them” as an early advertisement bragged), but too much is too much.

             Back to nose drops. A typical example of how things transpired in those days went something like this. I would have a cold or stopped-up sinuses and I would beg Mom for the remedy. She wasn’t uncaring. Not hardly. But for some reason she wouldn’t just use those nose drops willy-nilly. She had a job to do and part of that job was to allocate the remedy appropriately. After much complaining on my part she would finally tell me to lay down on the couch. I dutifully laid down on the couch and anxiously awaited the bliss that I knew would be coming my way within 5 minutes. Mom would go into the only bathroom we had in our house and retrieve that bottle of nose drops from the top shelf. She would come back to her impatient patient and give me two drops per nostril. At first, there was a slight stinging in my nose. Now, I have never done any kind of illegal drugs. But I’m guessing it must have been like the little needle prick a heroin addict feels right before the drug takes effect. I was told to stay on the couch for a couple of minutes with my head reclined. You didn’t have to tell me twice. I knew what bliss was headed my way. A couple of minutes would go by and I would sniff lightly at first and then I would take a deep breath through my nose. Ahhhhhh. It was noseworthy to be sure.

            Second, and this is the bird seed trail element of the story, was Mercurochrome. We called it “Monkey Blood”. I have no idea why. It was a dark red antiseptic liquid that Mom would apply to scrapes and cuts to aid in the healing process. Well, that was the story we were told. In those days the stuff contained mercury. You can’t buy it with mercury anymore. They figured out that mercury isn’t the best thing in the world for humans. But good ole Mercurochrome was another of those remedies of my childhood years. That’s the correlation. Oh, I will say that when Mom applied that “Monkey Blood” on a scrape or cut I would walk away doing an impression of a chimpanzee. You know, maybe there was something to that mercury poisoning thing!

            Third, here’s the other noseworthy issue. I used to get a bloody nose spontaneously. Nothing caused it such as a hit in the nose or whatever. I would just be sitting there, and blood would come trickling down from my nose. When I was little, it scared me which didn’t help at all. Mom would get a wet washcloth and make me lay with my head back and that cloth pressed on my nose. Sometimes it would take 15 minutes or so for the bleeding to stop. They checked me out for hemophilia, and we were told if I did have it, then it was a very light case. The funny thing about that is 40 years later I needed some minor surgery on my leg. They ended up not doing it because they found that I had low platelets. Go figure. Now I’m in my 60’s and the platelets are still low, but I have made it this far with low platelets and I see no reason why I can’t keep-a-going. I do wonder about a few things from those long-ago days. Did Monkey Blood cause low platelets? Probably not. I mean, it’s not like I took long baths in the stuff. Did those nose drops cause me harm? Probably not. The Good Lord knows I still have my nose in all of its splendid glory. I did some research on those drops (where would we be without Wikipedia?) and it basically caused the blood vessels in your nose to thin out and thereby lessen your stuffy nose. But, that kind of makes me wonder if there might be a correlation between the thinned blood vessels and the nose bleeds.

            My brain is hurting now thinking about it. So, I am going to stop for now. Who am I kidding? Long after I say I’ve stopped thinking about it and I post this blog entry I’ll still be thinking about it. Hey, maybe all that ailed and ails me was because of when we lived in a house in the southeast part of Houston. It was near one of the chemical plants. We didn’t live there long though because my parents became concerned when the pollution that spewed out from that plant caused the paint on our house to turn black and start peeling. Mom figured if it did that to the house, then what was it doing to us? I think I’ll go outside and breathe in some fresh country air.

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