Midnight at the Emergency Room on the Fourth of July

merica.jpgOur family met at my grandmother’s house for Independence Day celebrations, which was all kinds of fun. Plenty of good food was eaten (including ribs, jalapeño poppers, and potato salad) while the kids played in a wading pool and shot each other with water guns while bouncing on a giant trampoline.

There was also epic consumption of wine and beer, right before breaking out the fireworks. And I know what you’re thinking, since this story ends at the emergency room…

We had already shot off all the dangerous fireworks, the ones banned in Sacramento proper that you can still get away with in the backyard-goat-allowing burbs, when my cousin announced she had a special surprise.

For the past decade, she had been stashing illegal sparklers. The old-fashioned metal kind you can write your name in cursive with and still see it glow for a few seconds in the air. The kind they swapped out for the pathetic safe ones kids now have to use, since we no longer trust kids not to grab the wrong ends of exploding metal sticks.

Yeah, we lit them and had lots of fun remembering how sparklers used to actually be cool, back in the days when you could ride in the back of pickup trucks, shoot BB guns, and walk to the candy store all by yourself. Back when the biggest concern about living off Day-Glo orange popsicles and Kraft macaroni & cheese was staining your clothes (a lot of food used to be orange).

Unfortunately, I forget how hot they remain after going out and got a blister on my finger from holding it wrong. Suddenly, I remembered how we used to throw used sparklers into buckets filled with water and why.

Society used to trust people with higher temperatures, back in the day. Who doesn’t remember losing a paper sheet of skin off the roof of their mouth the day after eating hot pizza?

Probably Millennials, that’s who… And furthermore, you punks need to get the hell off my lawn (shaking cane).

Guess I got soft after manufacturers started making everything stupid-proof. At any rate, we ran out of good sparklers and started firing up the lame modern kind we had left. My cousin accidentally shot one into her hand and burned herself.

Oh the irony… using illegal fireworks without a hitch, then injuring yourself with a regulation sparkler.

I was at home in bed a couple of hours later when she texted me, asking if I could take her to the emergency room. I got dressed, drove to her house and found her holding one arm under the kitchen faucet while finishing up a glass of wine with the other. “It REALLY HURTS,” she kept saying.

I drove her to Kaiser, wondering if they’d put a little lampshade around her wrist, since that’s what they did when I grabbed the stove at age two. I reassured her this was probably a big night for injuries. She said she really hoped she wasn’t the only one.

We made it to the emergency room where my lit cousin walked in and told everyone how she’s burned herself after breaking out illegal fireworks. “You’re the first one tonight!” the guy behind the desk yelled. “At least, the first one who walked into the emergency room.”

I briefly wondered why anyone would schedule a fireworks injury appointment, before we figured out they meant people were coming by ambulance. I thought making an appointment would be funnier though (What’s the reason for this appointment? Well, I’ve got a bunch of illegal fireworks and am planning on drinking a lot. I know myself and figure I’d better be prepared for what-have-you…)

Along the way, my cousin kept regaling the staff with tales of her fireworks adventures and admitting to having more than a little wine. “SHHHH!” I kept telling her. “You want them not to give you any painkillers?”

“I’m just being HONEST!” she said, cause drunk people love to tell you how it is.

The nurse smirked and gave her some Norco. I kept fretting about her drinking talk getting her into hot water, but it apparently amused the hospital staff.

Turns out, she has a second degree burn on her hand. They put ointment on it, bandaged it, and gave her a prescription for painkillers. We went to the pharmacy in the middle of the night, where we overheard a guy explaining he had no identification after his dog “ate his license.”

I kid you not. He claimed his dog ate his driver’s license. I’d always assumed the dog-eating-your-homework deal was a silly cliche that actual kids won’t even use.

We finally got the prescription and I drove my cousin home, just as the painkillers were beginning to kick in. She said she was still in a lot of pain and I told her she was probably lucky she was a bit plastered. We remembered hearing about how people performed operations in the 19th century using nothing but whisky and how you don’t realize, as a child, just how inadequate that really is.

There’s that scene in Gone With the Wind where a guy gets his leg amputated after throwing back a drink… shudder.

My cousin will be okay, thankfully, but it was an interesting lesson. The illegal fireworks were fine, maybe because we knew they were potentially dangerous. Do we let our guards down too much when we expect everything to be regulated? Do we live on the precipice of a world where people will start injuring themselves with Nerf bats?

I hope everyone else had a wonderful Fourth of July! 🙂



10 thoughts on “Midnight at the Emergency Room on the Fourth of July

  1. That’s an interesting thought about whether people get more injuries when they get comfortable or rely too much on regulations. Of course, I once burned the holy hell out of my mouth after taking a big swig of hot chocolate though, so I feel like regulations can only take you so far haha. Maybe we should start assuming that ALL objects are out to kill us…that sounds like a mentally healthy way to live.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, that sounds like Meryl Streep’s character in Lemony Snicket. Except the irony was her living in a giant dangerous house precariously balanced over the ocean while thinking harmless stuff would kill her.

      There’s got to be some big social metaphor in that.

      I tend to believe in safety regulations (at least when companies make dangerous products), but do sometimes think being sheltered has its price. Like lukewarm pizza, damn it. Enough is enough 🙂


    1. That is interesting and I can see how all those things lead to injuries. You can be thrown pretty dang big on a trampoline and people blow their fingers off with fireworks and drown all the time.

      Of course, if we tried to prevent ALL injuries, we would have to pretty much sit there doing nothing. I wonder where society should draw the line.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interestingly enough, I read an article this morning on the 10 things ER doctors won’t allow in their homes. Among them were trampolines, swimming pools, and fireworks.


  3. I was worried when I read your post headline, thinking it might be more serious (like the kids might have gotten injured.) I shouldn’t diminish your cousin’s pain as non-serious, but it did make for a good story, and I’m glad no one was grievously hurt.

    Your story brought back a lot of fond memories of my dad (a doctor) getting us those crazy hot sparklers to play with on July 4 in the backyard.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I can see that… Thankfully no, none of the kids were hurt! No major injuries, just a late night trip.

      Sparklers definitely used to be more exciting. Seems strange they banned them when we have much more dangerous fireworks available, though I’m guessing it’s because kids play with sparklers

      Liked by 1 person

    2. When I was growing up, my dad painted cars for a lot of doctors who were shameless automotive thrill seekers and my husband lived near a doc who bought a new car every year which he drove like a bat out of Hell. I volunteered at Roseville Hospital in Central Supply and got to know doctors “behind the scenes,” when they took off their priestly white robes in the locker room next door. Makes me wonder if non-ER docs take all the chances, relying on “good old Ted in ER.”

      Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s