Sunday, July 5, 2009

Donorcycles and Near Drowning

Spring never came, summer looked as if it might skip New England entirely and it has been raining for a month. At last, the sun is out and warm weather, it seems, has finally stuck the landing here in the Artic Tundra of the northeast. Every SUV has a dog's head sticking out of it, mine included. Tina, my dog, is happily chasing chipmunks in the woods. Yesterday, I'm not lying, there were two ducks sitting in a tree in my backyard bog. That was a first for me, so I had to Google "Do ducks perch in trees" just for laughs....guess I'm not the only one to wonder since there was quite an extensive amount of informtion to be had on ducks perching in trees. Mr. EDnurseasauras was not best pleased to be awakened to see this once in a lifetime sight, though. Oh, and the grass is green and my eyes are watering. Other sure signs of warm weather are yard sale signs; I saw a sign on a tree in one neighborhood advertising "Puppy's For Sale". Puppy's what? Being a stickler for spelling and grammar, that really annoyed me. The hot dog stand in town advertised with this hastily written sign, in magic marker on a poster board:

"Hot Dog $1.50 withacanofcoke" kind of squished in. Hurryupandeat.

Being the first actually really hot day means that all the pale skin that hasn't seen the light of day since Labor Day is going to get roasted. Pass the melanoma please.

Bikes, skateboards and other devices invented for challenging the fragility of the human body are being dusted off so that we who work in the ER have job security. We have lots of sutures and tetanus, and have stockpiled slings, casting material, splints, bandages and crutches.

And the sure sign of spring: motorcycles are back on the road for all of the seasonal drivers (Simplysweet, I'm talking 'bout chu...). Indeed, they are everywhere. In this Live Free and Die Stupid state, the mandatory use of helmets is not a law...more of a suggestion, actually. Of course, those of us who care for such idiots who choose not to wear protective headgear and wind up in my ER could tell you a few stories about ruined bodies, ruined lives and ruined families. Here's a small public service announcement for anyone who doesn't wear a brain bucket; some may believe it is just another means of thinning the herd, but scraping your brains off the highways and byways is someone's job. I guarantee it does not make anyone's day. Let me walk you through a couple of scenarios.

Patient A is traveling along the road on a bright sunny afternoon on his Harley, wearing jeans, a T shirt, and sneakers; he is not wearing a helmet. At a speed of 40 MPH, for whatever reason, he hits a patch of dirt, a rock in the road, swerves to avoid a squirrel and loses control of the bike. He is brought to the ER unconcious with a big bleed in his head. This turns out to be a really bad day for him because, despite our best efforts, he dies of his injuries.

Patient B, while riding his Harley on a lovely summer day also hits a patch of dirt, swerves to avoid a squirrel and loses control of his bike. He is brought to our ER concious and alert, but with a big crack in his helmet. That helmet saved his life. I don't know anyone who has sustained an injury without a helmet and survived who persists in riding without one. I am sure they are out there, though.

Another equally stupid idea is to let kids ride those ATV's. I don't know the law on this but it just doesn't seem to make sense to let a kid behind the wheel of something so heavy that he would be powerless to get it off if landed on him..........provided he was still alive. When you bring in your 9 year old covered in blood from an ATV crash telling me he has been riding since he was 4 merely signals me that you are an idiot and should be locked up.

Two separate but related incidents tended to bring out the sighing, eye rolling and lecturing old nurse in me.

We heard the radio call from MAC base on our scanner about a 3 year old who had fallen in the river not far from our facility

"We won't get that, will we?" asked Cathy, my Southern Girl coworker.

"Maybe. If the patient needs an airway we will, it he's coding we will, and if it was more of a swim than an actual near-drowing we will". I get out the warming blanket just in case.

Sure enough 20 minutes later we get the patient, a little cold (the river is frigid this time of year) and his mother who went in after him. His head went under for seconds before she brought him out spluttering and crying. An eyewitness said she was reading a magazine when the kid went in. So it turned out lucky, and thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. This was reinforced after I met the dad.

He appeared to be a combination of Colonel Sanders and Mark Twain, complete with beard and straw hat to go with his portly appearance. He had no trouble telling his kid, loudly, about all of his experiences in the ER.

("This one time, at band camp...")

Seriously dude, I do not care if you had a broken toe or a bee sting. Neither does your kid, and where were you when your wife was reading a magazine while your son decided to go for a swim in the Swift River? I really just hate in when people act like a parent for my benefit. I already know you're an idiot, just shut the hell up. Sheesh.

Two weeks later, in rush the Parents of the Year with the little swimmer. "I think he cut his finger off!", Mom shrieked. Dad, affable as ever helped the situation not one bit by trying to tell the kid how he cut his finger when he was 5; all while we are trying to get information about how the injury happened, etc.

The child was playing with a disposable razor. Yes. A. Disposable. Razor. The excuses this time included, "well, the cap was on, and he's played with them before. He likes to pretend he's shaving".

Oh, that's different. Perhaps you'd like to give him a knife to stick into an electrical outlet when he gets home? It should be OK if the knife has a wooden handle. Pour a little water on the floor too. And hey, instead of a sticker, please let him help himself to a fun Bic lighter; we have an array of colors to choose from.

Yikes. The finger wasn't cut off, only needed a few stitches. Ever helpful, Dad retained the focus on himself the entire time, not getting the hint when I suggested he could maybe talk to his son to keep him calm. Finally I had to say "Dude, pay attention to your kid, please! This isn't the time to share your diarrhea problem with the class!". Idiot.

Discharge instructions included (no lie) "Do not allow child to play with razors", and "Choose appropriate toys". Oh and expect a visit from social services at some point.