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I See Your True Colors

By Guy Boss | Published 04.12.2010

One day when I was in second or third grade, one of the girls got up for Show and Tell to show us her new skirt. It was dark blue and had enough pleats in it to make an accordion jealous. It turned out that was what she wanted to show and tell us about.

For reasons beyond us boys, she was very happy that she could hold both sides out like a fan and the front and back still covered her knobby little knees. We boys were fairly happy about that, too.

The girls were very impressed, but most of the guys were thinking about playing marbles or wondering if the playground was dry enough to play some softball during lunch. We were several years away from that age when a young lady showing us her legs was … interesting.  But then one of the guys behind me whispered, “Hey, Guy, show ‘em your knee.”

I was in the third or fourth week of a routine knee bleed. At that point, the bleeding was pretty much over and I was in that long, slow stage where the blood was being reabsorbed and the swelling was going down. I still couldn’t walk on it, but it didn’t hurt too much anymore. And it was these amazing colors.

I can hear someone out there going, “Third or fourth week? Why didn’t his parents get him some factor or something?” (I have amazing hearing for a man my age.) The short answer is: because they couldn’t. Factor wouldn’t be available for almost 20 years, and even cryoprecipitate was 10 years away. The wonder drug of the day was AHG (antihemophilic globulin), and the wonder was that it seemed to work, occasionally. We used to joke that a knee bleed lasted five to six weeks without treatment, and a mere five to six weeks with treatment. The other joke was that the only place a hemophiliac clotted was in the needle. AHG might have been a bit slapdash when it came to making our blood clot in our bodies, but it was amazingly efficient at plugging up the IV needle.

The fact is that routine, everyday joint bleeds just weren’t considered worthy of medical attention unless they persisted longer than usual. Even if Mom or Dad took me to the doctor, he would usually say, “Keep him quiet and the leg elevated.” If the bleed was stubborn and was still active after a week or so, I would be admitted to the hospital, where I would be given AHG every few hours. And, if you were wondering, if the pain got to be too much I would be given a couple aspirin. (I know, I know. You go back and tell them.) Somewhere around fifth grade, hospital staff started suggesting putting an ice bag on the joint.

I don’t remember my joints ever bruising or discoloring when they were actively bleeding, but when they started healing they would often become more colorful than Jerry Garcia’s dreams, and this one was exceptional.

My knee was still quite big—maybe a bit smaller than those little watermelons they have in the markets now, but not much—and I could just barely get my pant leg up over it. And it was every color of the rainbow plus a couple. There were swirls of purple, red and yellow and even a bit of bright green and a hint of blue. The next time colors like that were seen was on a Jimi Hendrix concert poster, but only if you had had the proper chemical, shall we say, enhancements.

The girls squealed and said things like “yuck” and “ick” a lot. The boys, meanwhile, were bandying about phrases like “wow” and “keen” and even “neat!” It was certainly more impressive than any old skirt, no matter how many accordions it could make.

Read more Guy Boss at the Missing Factor.