Rubber Tourniquets

By Kristin Engler

January 4, 2021

Rubber Tourniquets

My four-year-old son plays with the blue rubber tourniquet from his latest hospitalization. A nurse tied it around his arm to insert an IV into the tender part of his forearm near the crook of his elbow. Then the IV bag dripped antibiotics and morphine into slender veins while my husband held him.

My sister, at age four, was also dosed regularly with infusions: first daily, then weekly, then monthly. A nurse would come to insert the IV and monitor my sister; she used a tourniquet that was the stale yellow rubber of first aid kits. There must have been hundreds of infusions in those early years, yet I only remember the one tourniquet. Between infusions it nestled in the kitchen junk drawer, jumbled among paper clips and promo pens until the nurse came back.

The infusions stopped eventually, but the tourniquet remained; now a tool for opening jars. As each family member wound the rubber around a lid and twisted until it popped, they remembered the days of nurses, uncertainty, and pain, then continued to cook dinner, letting the memories rest between the cracks of daily life tasks. Then, back into the drawer once more until the next sticky jar of spaghetti sauce or jam.

At first, it was disconcerting—if familiar—to see a tourniquet appearing around the house again, but my son mostly plays with it. Now, he loosely wraps it around his arm to process what had happened in the hospital, then takes it off and decorates his tourniquet with pony beads and scotch tape. He strings it across two Lego towers to serve as a bridge.


Kristin Engler is a freelance writer and editor whose previous work has appeared in Jeopardy Magazine and other publications. She holds a degree in writing from Western Washington University and lives in Bellingham, Washington.


Photo by Karolina Grabowska courtesy of Pexels
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