Vampirism is not all it’s choked up to be. In fact, vampirism really sucks.
Of all the resolutions I was planning for 2016, the vow never, ever to become a vampire had not made it to the list.
It’s not something I’d ever fancied, really. Vampire movies terrified me as a child, and I have a bit of a phobia about people with bad teeth. So, two pointed, dripping red oral talons descending upon my neck in the middle of the night was never going to hold much appeal.
But over the festive period, I drank a lot of blood. And I mean a lot. I could have saved entire hospital wards with the profusion of platelets, clots and rivers of bloodiness pouring from my nose.
I remember only once having a nosebleed when I was about seven, and it didn’t last very long. So, 50 years later, it was pretty scary to suddenly find myself in Sainsbury’s in Paddington Station, dripping onto my discount mince pies and feeling helpless as terrified passengers all but ran screaming from the exorcism that appeared to be taking place before their eyes.
The staff were very nice and offered me a chair, but I was rushing for a train, as I had arranged to look after my mum in Bristol, where she was due to have an operation the following day. The nosebleed did not stop en route. In fact, it got so bad, they had to call for a doctor on board. He arrived quickly, courtesy of the lovely steward Dean Jones on First Great Western Railway. And gosh, was he a hot doctor - straight out of Central Casting. A gorgeous Scot called Douglas. In the brief moment when he managed to stop the bleeding, I managed a quick selfie with him. A wheelchair was waiting for me at Bristol Parkway and I made it to my mother’s house without flooding the taxi.
No sooner had I made it through her door than it started again. And I mean really started. When the NHS helpline gave up with advice about bags of frozen peas on my neck and pinching my nose, and there was a trail of blood through every room of my mother’s house, they told me to call an ambulance and get to a hospital asap.
The ambulance took two hours to arrive. It was four hours before I saw a doctor in the hospital. I could not fault the staff, who work unbelievable hours for very little money and in not very salubrious conditions. But the time it takes to get anything done is horrendous. It’s not the staff’s fault; they are stretched to the extreme, and I have nothing but admiration for anyone who would put up with these conditions - not to mention the difficult patients.
I happened to be a rather good one. I’ve never spent a night in hospital in my life, and I was happy to surrender to those who know better than I do in medical matters. I’d had the foresight to take my laptop in with me, as I had a ton load of work to do, and my only offence was to keep Googling my condition in the many spare hours I had, and checking with staff that they had tested me for every possible ailment ever recorded in the history of mankind.
There are many causes for nosebleeds, and the overall consensus was that mine had been caused by high blood pressure due to extreme stress; I had literally burst a blood vessel. I won’t fill you in on the gory details of what had to be done to stop the flow, but it took 36 hours and involved bowls, nose blowing, inflated tubes up my nostrils, and no sleep as I couldn’t lie down (that last one was a blessing when the gorgeous Polish nurse came to take my blood pressure at midnight; I’d really hit the jackpot with hot male medics that week).
But back to the vampirism. Because your nose is connected to your throat (finally, I learnt what an Ear Nose and Throat specialist is for), you end up swallowing a lot of blood when you have a nose bleed. Then, because your stomach doesn’t like blood and is begging you to explain where the spaghetti Bolognese it usually enjoys has gone, it throws it back up. By the bucketload. The taste is vile. Metallic. It feels as if it’s filling every orifice in your head. The lettuce leaf you just about managed to consume at lunch (no hot foods or liquids for me) returns like a piece of seaweed caught in the tide of the Red Sea.
All of this was no good for my blood pressure, which was going up and up. So was my heart rate. I had two lots of blood tests and two ECGs. They said they were going to keep me in with the balloon up my nose for at least a couple of days. I started to worry that I hadn’t made a will. Meanwhile, my poor mum was on her way to a different hospital, and her poor little Bichon Frise was about to be abandoned for the day while I tried to arrange cover. The good news is, the operation went well, and I managed to cook for them both over Christmas. Alas, I couldn’t touch a thing. All I could see when I looked at the turkey was blood. I’m not a big meat eater anyway, but my foray into vampirism might well have turned me vegetarian for good.
And so begins the real hard task - trying to keep my blood pressure at safe levels so that I am not put on medication. There are plenty of things one can do to bring it down naturally - meditation, diet, exercise - but without removing the main source of stress, it’s not going to come down fast.
So, unless you are going to buy my Cardiff house, please don’t offer any advice. There is nothing I haven’t read on the subject. Heck, I’m almost a doctor now.
And don’t send me any Get Well reading such as Bram Stoker, who wrote the Gothic novel, Dracula: “The blood is life . . . It shall be mine!”
A bottle of red wine will do very nicely, though.