Advice from an ER Nurse on Avoiding Household Mishaps while Sheltering in Place.

We would love to share some nursing humor from a friend of The Stay at Home Nurse, Jill Cohen. It’s something Jill wrote back in March at the beginning of the pandemic and has since created a GoFundMe project to help our Frontline Nurses but in a new/different way. Check out the page here. https://www.gofundme.com/f/backlinesfeedthefront

Unless you’ve been in outer space or a coma for the last month, you’re familiar with the concept of social distancing, and you’re staying home to help stop the spread of coronavirus and keep your family and community safe. I applaud you and thank you for doing your part. But home is a dangerous place too, and you may not be safe from your own self while sequestered there. Let’s not forget that there are other things besides coronavirus that can still harm us. I don’t mean to stoke fear and panic in an already panicky moment in history. But I do want to keep you out of the hospital. As an ER Nurse for 18 years, I’ve seen lots of everyday household activities go sideways and result in ER visits. On any given day you want to avoid this scenario, but during a pandemic, it’s especially important. Our healthcare resources are stretched to the max, and emergency rooms are teeming with coronavirus. You don’t want to wind up there and be exposed because of a needless accident in your house. So in that spirit, and with the backing of ER staff everywhere, I’ve compiled this handy list of tips that will help you to be more vigilant and escape some of those unseen hazards lurking right inside your front door.

1. Wine glasses. Don’t wash them until the next morning, when you’re sober. Because when it comes to ghastly hand lacerations, broken wine glasses are the worst. I get it—your kids are driving you crazy, and maybe you’re hitting the sauce a little harder than usual. This is ok, but if you wash the wine glasses when you’re drunk and clumsy, you will end up with jagged pieces of a wine glass in your hands. What are you doing tomorrow anyway? Just go to bed and clean it all up in the morning.

2. Be super careful when slicing bagels and avocados. Be careful when slicing anything, really, but talk about hand lacerations. Somehow bagels and avocados are particularly dicey for us. Opening a can of soup, on the other hand, does not pose nearly the risk that everyone thinks it does. But just to be on the safe side, don’t play fast and loose with soup cans either.

3. Go easy on the marijuana edibles. It’s ok that you’re bored at home and trying something new, but just eat a small amount, and give it at least an hour to kick in. I can’t tell you how many patients I’ve seen who thought they were having a stroke, having a heart attack, having a meltdown, being abducted by aliens, being possessed by demons, turning into a crab, etc, when really, they’d simply overshot it on the pot cookies. Don’t forget to clearly label your edibles either. If you’re sheltering at home with grandpa and he accidentally gets into them, you’re in for a very long and goofy day.

4. Don’t push too hard when you’re pooping. Have you ever done that and then become lightheaded? It’s a real thing called a vasovagal response, where the pushing activates the vagus nerve to slow down the heart, which then causes lightheadedness, which then causes some people to pass out and smack their head on the bathtub. Next thing you know, ER visit. So take it slowly there in the bathroom. Read a magazine. You’ve got nothing but time lately anyway.

5. Don’t take on new home projects with which you have no experience or expertise. A pandemic is not the time to finally climb up on your roof to clean the gutters or learn how to operate that table saw.

6. Don’t stick Q-tips in your ear canals. You could wind up with an infection, an ear injury, or a piece of the Q-tip trapped in there, which is then called a foreign body. What’s worse is, the tired ER doctor who has to fish it out of you will be annoyed because let’s face it: everyone already knows this practice is ill-advised.

7. Speaking of foreign bodies, don’t put anything in your rectum that’s not designed to go there. I’m not joking. People do it all the time. I’ve seen shampoo bottles, corn cobs, dildos, shot glasses, light bulbs, and a colorful array of vegetables. No judgment, but here’s the thing: if it doesn’t have a handle or a ripcord or some other safety feature, it can and will get stuck. Best to wait until after the pandemic to be all creative in this department.

8. Speaking of sexual activity here’s something good to know: if one tablet of Viagra feels great, four is not necessarily better. Seriously, only take the recommended amount of this drug. An overdose can result in priapism, an exquisitely painful condition in which your erection will not recede for hours. And hours. Too much of the natural stuff that treats erectile dysfunction, horny goat weed, does the same thing. Horny goat weed is real, by the way. Google it for some amusing research that will pass a few minutes of your quarantine. But there’s nothing amusing about priapism. It can cause permanent damage, and the treatment to relieve it might involve a needle. Guys, need I say more?

A few closing thoughts:

Normally I’m not this bossy. I usually subscribe to a very live-and-let-live philosophy, and I don’t have a big problem with it when people run with scissors or juggle knives in traffic. But we’re not living in normal circumstances at the moment. Stakes are higher if you get injured, so think about the consequences, and back away from the Q-tips.

I giggled a bit when I wrote this post. But please know that it’s all true, my intention is to be helpful, and I don’t take the coronavirus pandemic lightly. Each day, my heart breaks a little for every healthcare worker being pushed to the limit, and every human who is sick, financially devastated, losing loved ones, or just frightened of what lies ahead. I’m on edge too, and I use humor to cope. Most of us in the ER do. It’s the only way we stay sane amidst the absurdity and tragedy we constantly face.

Finally, I’m sure this is not an exhaustive list. My ER colleagues out there in the social media world, have you got anything else to add? If so, please do in the comments below. Let’s keep as many people as possible safe from themselves, safe from the ER, and safe from the coronavirus pandemic.

Jill CohenJill grew up in Miami in the seventies and eighties playing tennis, roller skating, and doing aerobics. She went to Emory University, graduated Phi Beta Kappa, and earned an MA in English Literature from the University of Colorado. Afterward, Jill taught English abroad, taught writing at CU, and decided to pursue nursing.

She initially wanted to specialize in sexual health education as a public health nurse and fix the whole teenage pregnancy problem. However, while earning her doctorate, she learned that hospital nurses get four days off every week. So, Jill became an ER nurse instead. She’s worked in Colorado, Wyoming, California, Florida, and Australia.

She’s volunteered in Central America and pedaled as a medic on bicycle tours across Africa. After a 20-year ER career, she recently started a new chapter as an RN on the virtual team at One Medical Group, saving lives from her living room. Jill also volunteers at the humane society, travels extensively, backpacks, bike packs, dances, snowboards, teaches fitness, and is a varsity squad friend.