Ken Pollitz: Fainting at the sight of blood

By Ken Pollitz - Guest Column

The origins of the aversion cannot be precisely confirmed. The certainty of its existence cannot be more obvious. Some describe it as merely a “weak stomach,” while others classify it as an outright phobia.

About 20 were seated around a conference table in the basement of the church recently. Instructions were to state your name, tell where you’re from, indicate if you’ve been before and, finally, confess why it is that you’re going there.

Those gathered were the makings of a medical mission team discussing details of a fall trip to Tanzania. Doctors and nurses were in attendance, along with a physician assistant, nurse practitioner, dentist, audiologist and a pharmacist. The group was rounded out with a few pastors and a handful of support personnel.

One by one, introductions were made. When my “number” was called, I gladly offered, “Hello, my name is Ken. I’m a pastor from Ottawa, Ohio. This is my second trip.” And then with as much seriousness as I could muster, added, “I’m not sure why I’m going because I faint at the sight of blood.” A few modest chuckles ensue.

See me donating blood or having some blood work done, and you’ll see me staring heavenward counting the acoustical tiles on the ceiling. It has nothing to do with genetics as my father, years ago, had knee surgery and asked the doctor if he could have just a local anesthetic so he could stay awake to watch the procedure.

Dutifully, I attended all the birthing classes with my wife prior to the arrival of our firstborn. With a complication during labor and the decision made for a C-section, and unprepared for such a change of plans, I was escorted out of the delivery room and placed in a smoke-filled room with a bunch of soon-to-be dads smoking cigars and watching football on TV. It was New Year’s Eve, after all. Even as my eyes watered from the smoke, I was happy to be there.

When children two, three and four came around, I was fully trained for the procedure but refused to glance at the angled mirror to view any baby coupled with blood. “Just get me when you pull one out,” I instructed the doctor.

Never a soap opera fan, I had no trouble missing “General Hospital,” watched only a few episodes of “M*A*S*H,” and knew how to avert my eyes from anything red squirting out of random veins and arteries on “ER” or “St. Elsewhere.” There is never any need to be “entertained” by any of the “Saw” films. Even though I’m a bit of a fan of war movies, “Saving Private Ryan, “Lone Survivor” and “Fury,” can cause me to periodically squint and squirm.

Somebody turned my wife onto a BBC drama series entitled “Call the Midwife.” Graphic is an understatement, and consequently on those nights I find a good book on the night stand rather than sitting on the sofa next to my captivated wife. “ESPN” will have to wait.

It just so happened about a month ago that another friend of my wife gently jabbed her to look into a Netflix medical drama, “Doc Martin.” When she suggested we check it out, I could only cringe. Streaming video on cable TV was one thing, but streaming blood was, most definitely, quite another. Even with her enthusiastic “it comes highly recommended,” I seriously considered coughing up the $10 to rent a second box from Spectrum and channel-surf untethered.

Claiming ignorance in the sequential operation of four remote controls in order to access the program, I was once more called upon to “work some magic” and find a dated episode to begin. More hesitancy grew when I learned the doctor in question was a brilliant vascular surgeon who had practiced at Imperial College London. While my wife was pleading with me to join her, I once more reminded her of my aversion to anything bleeding.

So it was that with a modicum of anticipated queasiness, I took my seat on our red-leather couch and joined in the initial viewing. Formally wanting to be addressed as Dr. Martin Ellingham, the lead character, Doc Martin, finds himself forced into being the lone general practitioner in a quaint Cornish village of Portwenn. The man, it turns out, is a no-nonsense sort of fellow, with no bedside manner to speak of, who manages all medical procedure’s strictly by-the-book and has no need for idle chitchat with patients or otherwise.

Almost embarrassed to admit, my wife and I both were drawn into the tales therein sometimes watching two of three episodes in one evening together. When word came that Acorn TV had acquired the rights to the program from Netflix and we had only seven days for a free trial before we had to pay a monthly fee, the two of us binge-watched to get up-to-date.

How, you might ask, does one so easily nauseated by the sight of the stuff that coagulates manage to acquiesce to viewing significant quantities of blood squirting hither and yon? Maybe I should tell you why Doc Martin left his surgical practice in London. He was forced out because of his hemophobia. That’s right, a surgeon with an acute fear of blood. Go figure.

Gee. I don’t feel so sick to my stomach anymore!

By Ken Pollitz

Guest Column

Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at

Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at

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