Alex (yakshaver) wrote,

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A couple hours ago I had the biggest adrenaline rush since I found myself on the floor unable to stand and crawled across the floor to call 911 four years ago.

Nowhere near that big an adrenaline rush. But still, the biggest since.

Maybe I need more fear in my life.

Or maybe not.

What happened was, I was putting something in the (already hot) oven, and I accidentally brought two fingers of my left hand into contact with the heating element. I jerked away as soon as I felt it. My first conscious thought, while I was still in the process of getting my hand and eyes lined up so I could look at the damage, was to wonder if the residual slight loss of feeling in my left hand from my stroke would mean I hadn't felt the pain quickly enough, and would have a bad burn.

Then I saw that the burns weren't the expected red of a normal first degree burn but rather the dark charred brown of a steak.

That, I suppose, must be when the adrenaline cut in.

I happen to have found out at a fairly young age that I'm good in emergencies; that I can force myself to assess the situation and act rationally while the voice in the back of my head is screaming oh my god we're all going to die!.

And really, this was clearly not life-threatening. So the adrenaline was seriously uncalled-for. But there it was.

So while my heart's starting to race and my breathing's getting rapid, I carefully close the oven door with my other hand, walk over to the sink and (since I had only a minute earlier been running hot water), run cold water until it felt cold to my other hand, then put my hand under the faucet for a good two minutes. Which gave me time to think.

Right. My first-aid training was 30 years ago. Keep meaning to update that. I don't remember anything about burns looking like seared meat. Though you'd kind of think that's an expected possibility. $100 ER copay, so don't want to do that if it's minor. Going to want to keep this in cold water for a while. (At least I remember that from my first-aid training.) So googling's going to be slow. Right; I'll call Alyse; if whe's free, she can google for me. Or if Dave's around, he'll probably just know what to do. Oh shit, I left my phone upstairs.

Fill a bowl with water. Stick my hand in it. start to walk across the kitchen. Turn back, and pour enough water out of the bowl that I have some hope of getting up the stairs without spilling it. Turn hand over at odd angle to keep burns immersed, and head up the stairs. Spill only a little water.

Call Alyse; she confers with Dave and relays. Take hand out of water and actually look at burns. Realize that (1) where the burns are, I used to have hair on the backs of my knuckles, (2) the thing I smelled as I was jerking my hand away from the oven was burning hair, (3) one of the burns is in two parts, with a pink area that is quite clearly a normal mild first degree burn right next to the brown area, and (4) that those two parts, judging by my unburned fingers, would appear to be an area that didn't used to have hair (now pink), and one that did used to have hair (now brown), (5) that the burns are not at all deep — looking at my fingers in profile, it's clearly less than 1 mm.

So probably the brown is hair-ash, adhered to mild first-degree burned skin. End phone call having decided for the moment against trying to wash it off, and in favor of applying neosporin.

Having applied the neosporin, and therefore no longer having one hand in a bowl of water and thus being able to type again, I decide to seek further advice, and ask on zephyr. (Zephyr is MIT's internal group instant messaging system. Twenty years old, and still better for group discussions than any other IM system I've ever seen.)

Instance: drzephyr Time: Tue Sep 15 19:06:25 2009 Host: MULTICS.MIT.EDU
From:  [me]

~10 min ago I accidentally brought two fingers of my left hand into
contact with the heating element in an electric oven.  I jerked
away as soon as I felt it.  The burns cover 0.5 to 1.0 cm^2 on 
the backs of the first (counting from the hand to the tip) joint
of my middle and ring fingers.  

What's weird is that the burns are brown  I believe this is
because the hair that had been growing on my knuckles is now
char embedded in the burned tissue.  Aside from that, they
seem to be quite minor burns.  I rinsed the burns under cold
running water for ~2 min, soaked them in a bowl of cold water
for ~10 more, then applied neowporin and started typing this.

If it weren't for the char, I'd stop there.  I'm wondering
if I should be tying to wash it away (since it didn't rinse
off, this would presumably be a matter of soap, water, and a
wash cloth or soft brush)?  Should I worry about it as an
infection hazard?

And this is the amazing thing about zephyr: less than 3 minutes later, someone replies:

my father (a retired surgeon) suggests leaving the char alone until it
separates by itself, which it will eventually do

At that point, I was intellectually satisfied. The adrenaline effects lingered for a while though.

The discussion continued for about ten more minutes. Someone else pointed out that a hot oven burner is not likely to be a source of germs; a third person chimed in that "very few pathogens" are likely to survive at those temperatures. Even though I was already intellectually satisfied, and had a course of action that I was intellectually confident was correct, I found myself feeling more assured — heart rate slowng, breathing deepening — with each of a half-dozen or so little facts. It was kind of strange to watch.

Tags: health, stories
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