Badly burned working on a car… so why not blog about my healthcare experience! Nurses rule.


I will be posting graphic images of my injury (burn) in this article.

Friday July 20th I had the nastiest little automotive related accident. Some of you may have caught my tweets.

I was working under my VW and bleeding some pressure off the coolant system which was at max temperature. It has to be done while hot in order to do an open system flush but the temp and pressure was way higher than I realized… Something not working right. The radiator has no drain so it has to be drained at the radiator hose. Well, as luck would have it the hose blew in front of me. I was doing it right but I should have noticed the temp was WAY higher than normal and bled some pressure off from the top as well first. My mistake.

Scalding coolant in EXCESS of 250 degrees f (121 degrees C) exploded all over me as I was stuck under the car. Well I’ve never shot out from under a vehicle so fast before in my life. I was smart enough to be wearing heavy gloves, safety goggles, and a heavy duty carhartt work shirt so I mainly scalded my hand and some of my head/face. My hand took almost all of the burn thank goodness and the glove helped protect me.

I got out of the gloves and clothing and immediately started flushing myself off with cold water from the hose. It felt glorious. The second the cool water wasn’t flowing over my burns it felt like acid and salt being rubbed on an open wound.

This is what it looked like, within moments of the incident.  My neighbour Marcelle covered my hand right away in baking soda and water paste. It helps neutralize the burn and combined with the immediate water cooling might have saved me from skin grafts. I love my neighbours!

(I am a huge nerd, some of my first thoughts were to record the details and blog about it when I was better… even in an emergency while I take care of critical tasks like first aid I think of all of you out there in internet land.)

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At the hospital ER my neighbour John drove me to (approximately 3 minutes drive from my house) they had me keep a constant flow of saline over the burns under soft wet bandages. Then they wrapped me up and gave me T3’s.  I made a cool video of them wrapping it, so everyone can see how to properly wrap a hand. I’d already downed a few (4 or 5) of my T1’s (over the counter but still has a little codeine) to take the edge off. The staff at the 50st @ Manning freeway ER were awesome. SO MANY hot nurses and they all checked in on me (probably to check out my cool burn). This really sweet girl named Sonya was taking care of me and was a really happy bouncy friendly person. I kept forgetting to mention to her how pleasant she was and how lovely she was with the other patients who were in worse shape than me. I noticed this very sharp looking nurse go by a bunch of times though, always very sleek and swift like she had important purposes. I wanted to say how she carried herself so well, seeming so sharp and dedicated (and she’s very attractive too) and then she came and did my bandage! You can see her in the video. I didn’t catch her name but she sure did a nice job and was very accommodating of my video nerdery. I wonder if her friends at the ER will get her to watch her soon to be famous “how to bandage a hand for a half stoned burn patient” video.

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The middle finger got the worst of it, 2nd and 3rd degree burns. The rest of my hand had some 2nd degree burns and blistering scattered around mostly along the index and ring fingers. It was wrapped in a WHOLE tube of polysporin for the night and I went back the next morning to get it changed. The blisters had formed… HELLO YUCKYTIME!
I spent a day and a bit with them all puffed up and then the doctor sliced them open and drained them to avoid infection. I got a cool new wrapping, a little less bulky this time.

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The next day (Sunday now) I went back again and met this amazing nurse. His name is Stan (Stan the man!) and he was the best! He checked my burns and whipped out a little snipper tray, cleaned me all up and cut away all the dead skin that he could get. It felt strange! He did the best dressing ever and it felt a lot better. Raw, but on the mend you could tell! He’s also a hoot! Tells great stories, is full of fun commentary, and knows his stuff. He deals with burn patients a lot and doctors call him up to say thank you because he makes their jobs so much easier. I imagine it also makes the patients treatment and healing a lot easier too! He should get some kind of ribbon or something. The rest of the skin on my finger came off today (Tuesday the 24th) as he could only carve off half my finger on Sunday. I don’t think anyone ever had so much fun getting chunks of flesh removed as I did, I hope they get him mentoring new nurses. It’s a rare person who can be that kind of funny and goofy but very caring and professional at the same time. Thumbs up for Stan! (Since at least I can still do that!)

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Stan spent the time with me to show me how to dress the wounds myself properly. I was sent home with a great goodie bag full of really cool medical supplies like self-adhesive bandages and syringes full of saline. I got some of this awesome ADAPTIC stuff too. It’s basically a bandage soaked in vaseline so it doesn’t stick to wounds. Freakin AWESOME! I will be back to get my dressing changed and hand checked again this week but I can go a couple days safely at home in between. I’m pretty comfortable with medical stuff (can you tell?) so I don’t mind doing some of my own, but the people at the ER are also happy to do it for me every day if I need them to, it just might mean a bit of a wait. A walk in clinic doctor gave me a prescription for this EXPENSIVE burn cream with silver in it called Flamazine, but everyone at the ER told me it was stuff they used 20 years ago and clinics give it out because it helps the pharmacies make money. Polysporin is what they suggest at the ER, most of them hadn’t seen this FLAMAZINE stuff in years. Polysporin feels way better anyhow, and I learned how valuable proper medical care is. We need more proper family doctors taking patients not walk in clinics which are basically revolving door prescription factories. The walk in clinic also did a lousy job on bandaging my hand, something called a “clinical aide” instead of a real nurse did it & haphazardly at best. Deregulation and privatization at work. I wish he had more opportunity to get a real career in healthcare not some low paying clinic position with no room for advancement. I definitely felt I got better care at the ER than the walk in clinic, and a LOT faster too though I know that isn’t the case at other hospitals where wait times are higher.

On my first three trips to this ER I spent about 10 minutes waiting each time, even when I went for just a bandage change. I went for my bandage changes about 9am when it wasn’t busy. My fourth visit I went at 3pm to check at a more busy time. I was waiting 2 hours and then Stan got me all sorted out. My total time including treatment was 3.5 hours. THAT is how medical care is supposed to be. 90% or more of the people in the ER could easily have been treated by a family doctor but they didn’t have one! I asked around, it’s impossible to find good doctors so they clog up the ER. I was chatting about that issue with some parents waiting to get their kids checked out when my turn came up.

Check out this awesome stuff! I got a few goodies every trip and now I have enough to do my own dressings for a couple weeks in between doctor check-ups. Down side is I don’t get to hang out with Stan as much, and I met this totally awesome triage nurse I would love to see again named Alysson (love that spelling) who was SO charming and funny. We were cracking jokes and she said I was her favourite patient Smile I Think I might have a bit of a crush. She’s a deadly babe too. All the other nurses I chatted with (and I talked to quite a few lol) thought Alysson was pretty fantastic. Nurses and electricians do get along very well…I wonder if she knows?  I got a really great photo of her when I was grabbing a shot of the triage station where you get assessed upon arrival. She really does deserve some attention for being so much fun to deal with (and such an incredible distraction from things like pain and suffering).  She chatted with me and was super friendly but still switched back into nurse mode the second this older lady came in, didn’t waste a moment and helped her right away. Cool lady but still eminently professional. From this station you go to registration and then either the waiting area or into a treatment bay.

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Well, at this time I have done two bandage changes myself (a little awkwardly but effectively) and feel pretty good. I got a nice prescription for T3’s which I hope to not fully use up. They are always handy to have around for emergencies. I intend to go back and see the good people at the ER later this week and thank them in person (some more, since I always remember to say thanks while I am there too).

Here’s my first one handed attempt. It feels better than it looks.2012-07-24 23.03.03


Throughout this whole experience I tried to keep in mind that I want to share the details with the world. I made an effort to mentally record as much as possible and really absorb what I could from the people around me. I’ve always thought that in times of injury and stress a joke is better than a complaint, a smile is better than a scowl, and a friendly polite happy attitude will yield better results than a whiney, demanding, ignorant one. I asked questions, made wisecracks, empathized with the people who work in the hospital and appreciated them for what they do.

A cleaning lady spent 10 minutes with me in a hallway while I waited for the doctor, and brought me a list of clinics accepting regular patients when she found out through conversation that I had trouble finding a general practitioner. There was a new building opening and she wanted me to get in first so I could check it out. Very kind! Everyone showed genuine care, concern and even a little curiosity about my injury. Though the nurses and people who operate the main desk station inside the ER back room were a bit quieter and less friendly I imagine they were dealing with about a million things at once. Nothing a few hugs couldn’t fix.

Oh, the doctors were good too. No real jackasses, all friendly enough, capable and seemed highly skilled. Always in a rush of course but I wasn’t exactly a critical case. They seemed interested in getting me better and able to take care of myself at home as quickly as possible, and they sure do know a lot of stuff! When you can get one chatting they’re very interesting. Since 95% of my time I was dealing with other healthcare workers I guess 95% of the article I can dedicate to their awesomeness. In all honesty, my actual treatment was at the hands of nurses except for having the blisters cut open and I’m 100% sure Stan could have done that too given half a chance. The doctors took a quick look and made sure I knew about infection risk, gave me pain meds and left me in the capable hands of the front line people who make the healthcare system work. Nurses (& other care workers) RULE.

1 Comment(s)

  1. Having been in and out of the hospital and clinics myself over the past few weeks I’m kind of jealous of the care you got. The only time I felt cared for was by the med student at the u of a emergency department.

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