By Dawn DeBraal

When Tonya met Todd, she knew she had a good one. Todd was funny, respectful, polite, and attentive. They had been dating for almost a year. Tonya felt he might be Mr. Right. Whenever she started to question her decision, Todd showed up to reinforce his good qualities. How could she doubt him? Todd was everything and more she wanted in a husband. Secretly Tonya hoped he was going to pop the question. If Todd didn’t do it soon, she was ready to pop the question to him. She was tired of waiting and wanted this relationship to move in the right direction. When that day finally happened for them, it occurred in the most unexpected way.

They were at a party of a mutual friend. Someone asked how each couple met and how they got engaged.  Everyone took turns telling their story. Jenny and Max met on the subway, getting off at the same stop they struck up a conversation that eventually led to an engagement, on the subway, of course. Tim and Jeffrey met at an artist retreat. They took the same classes and a mutual love of many other interests, moving in together. They shared their story of how they got engaged. Tim was the one who waited outside of Jeff’s job and then proposed when he came out of the building, on his way home. One by one, each couple told their story. Then it was Todd and Tonya’s turn. 

Tonya told the story of how Todd picked her up for their date. They were going skateboarding on the walking trail at Kinnekalbric Park. They had been dating for almost a year. Todd gave Tonya the skateboard along with everything she needed to take off and skate. She told him that she had done quite a bit of boarding in her younger years. It didn’t take long to get all of that back. 

Todd was a pretty good skateboarder. Tonya found she could keep up with him. In helmets, knee and elbow pads, on their boards, they flew along the trail coming to the skateboard park. The park was set up to allow kickflip tricks, grinds, Caballerial turns. 

Todd winked at her, calling her to follow him. Todd completed a 360 loop, Tonya followed. Todd did a flip onto a platform, Tonya followed. Todd did a grind sliding along the pipe eighteen inches from the ground, suddenly falling off the pipe, he lay sprawled out on the concrete below him. 

The brow above his eye was cut open. Todd’s hand looked as if he dislocated a couple of fingers, as they twisted in odd angles. He stared in disbelief at his rumpled appendages before he felt the full force of pain envelope him. He lay down, holding his hand to his chest, he rolled back and forth on the ground. 

Tonya thought she would faint. It’s something she didn’t share about herself, her phobia to illness, and surgical procedures, blood. She couldn’t approach Todd, who lay writhing on the ground.  Every time she tried to get near him, she would dry heave. She tried to think of other things, not the fact that her boyfriend was holding his miss shaped hand to his chest with his fingers going off in unthinkable directions. Tonya tried to approach him, to comfort him but found herself paralyzed with fear. How could she help him when she was unable to get closer due to the immobilizing fear she held in her body. 

 “Todd, are you okay?” Todd rolled around on the concrete. Tonya pulled out her phone, punching in  9 1 1. She correctly identified the park and where they were. The ambulance would be there shortly. She pocketed her phone. After dry heaving in the weeds, she approached Todd from the back. She couldn’t bring herself to sit next to him directly. Her fear of blood kept her at a distance. 

“Todd, are you okay?” Todd rolled around on the concrete holding his hand to his chest.  

“No,” he writhed in pain, “I think I broke a couple of fingers, and I can’t see. He flipped over, exposing his face to her. It was covered in blood. Tonya turned and heaved her lunch. She couldn’t help him. Why couldn’t she give him comfort to take off her jacket and cover the gushing wound on his face? But she was frozen to the spot, unable to move. 

“I’m going to flag down the ambulance,” was all she could say before she ran back to the trail, waiting for the paramedics. 

Fifteen minutes later, the ambulance showed up, and the paramedics came with a medical suitcase and a backboard. She had them follow her along the trail a short distance. Tonya had taken them to Todd, pointing at him lying on the ground. The paramedics ran to him. Tonya could not get any closer. She could feel herself getting ill again. She had never conquered her fear of blood, hemophobia, doctors, iatrophobia, or fear of hospitals, nosocomphobia. It was something she had from her younger years as a sick child, when she had childhood leukemia and never got over the fear of prodding, poking, needles, blood work, courses of treatment, doctors and anything else medical. She hated hospitals after spending the better part of two years in one, receiving chemotherapy for leukemia. In the end, she did beat it, she was only six years old, and they told her she was in total remission. But anytime she had to go in for her annual check-up, she feared the worse, that her cancer had come back. The closest she felt to this was when she got near a hospital. The flashback was too real, too close. She remembered the smells, the pasted smiles, the treatments, the pain, the illness, losing her stomach to the side effect of chemo, and the fear of having to deal with everything that went with illness. 

“What hospital are you taking him to?” She called out.

“Mercy on Crestwood.” 

“Okay, I’ll meet you there. Todd, honey, stay strong.” Tonya ran down the path feeling guilty, leaving her boyfriend bleeding, but also thought it was better she get to the hospital and give them information. She got back to the car, throwing her and Todd’s skateboard, helmets, and pads into the trunk. Tonya did a quick search. Mercy was only five miles away. She pulled out of the parking lot. She could see the ambulance behind her. She pulled over so it could pass her. As she pulled out into traffic, the small VW hadn’t seen her, struck her in the rear, slamming her face against the steering wheel. She stopped and got out of her car. The rear fender was dented. The guy was apologetic. He asked her if she was alright. 

“My face hurts,” she barked back at him. Her hand went to her lip and came away with blood. That’s all it took. Tonya was down on the ground. 

The man who hit her called 9 1 1. The ambulance came back from the hospital. It had just dropped off Todd. When the paramedics got out, they used some smelling salts on her. Tonya woke up.

“Aren’t you the lady whose boyfriend just went to the hospital with the broken hand and cut face?” She nodded her head. The police filled out an accident report. She got back into the car, avoiding the rear-view mirror so she wouldn’t see her bleeding face. Tonya made it to Mercy Hospital. As she walked in, a nurse made her sit down and returned with a bag of ice.

“Put this on your lip, quick.” Tonya protested, “I’m here to see my boyfriend, the skateboard park victim.” 

“Oh yes, he is getting his face stitched right now. Let me see that lip.” Tonya pulled down the ice bag, seeing the blood she got woozy. 

“Woah, said the nurse, put that backup. I think you might need a couple of stitches yourself.” Tonya hastily shook her head no. 

“I need to see my boyfriend, please.” The nurse came back and said she could go into the room where Todd was getting stitches. As soon as she saw the needle go into his face, Tonya passed out again. When Tonya came too, she was lying on a hospital bed, when Todd came in, she felt the stitches in her lip. She looked at his bandaged face. 

“I’m sorry, I should have told you, I have this phobia of blood, and surgical procedures, I just couldn’t help you. Can you forgive me?” Todd looked at her lip instantly dry, heaving he turned around. 

“Todd, are you alright? Are you dizzy? Should I call someone?” Todd bent over, held his hand up behind him, letting her know he was okay, that he needed to pull himself together. 

“It’s called tomophobia. Many people, including me, suffer from it. The mere sight of blood makes me dry heave.”

“Me too! I have that too! So, you understand why I wasn’t able to help you on the trail?” Todd nodded and then laughed.

 “God help us if we ever get married and have kids; they will have to survive until the ambulance gets there.” 

“Did you say get married?” Tonya looked at her boyfriend. Todd pulled out the small black box from his pocket. Then he lifted the cover, exposing a beautiful engagement ring. He couldn’t look at Tonya. She had stitches in her lip. 

“Oh, Todd, yes. Yes!” They distanced hugged one another, not looking into each other’s face. 

“And that was how we became engaged.” Everyone roared. Theirs was the funniest engagement story of the party.

3 thoughts on “Phobia

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