We cooked all afternoon on Saturday. By the way, if you’ve never stirred 10 pounds of hamburger meat with a huge spoon, you haven’t lived. We actually were on the last round of chicken breasts, and we decided to try deep frying some. “Have oil and flour, will deep fry.” That’s our motto. So, Mr. E helped me get the deep fryer going and decided he would start cooking the hamburger patties. We were preparing enough meat to feed a small army. The plan was to then freeze it since it can be frozen again once it’s cooked. We were both exhausted from five weeks of summer camp, and cooking all day just added to that exhaustion.
Mr. E went over to turn on the flat-top griddle. It is gas-powered just like everything else in that kitchen. He turned it on and came back to help me. Then, he went back and realized it had not lit, so he turned it on again. He stepped away to stir the chicken and went back. The griddle still had not lit, so he went to light it with a lighter. As his hand went up to the skillet, his brain told him not to light it, but his hand did not listen. Luckily, he realized what was coming, and he closed his eyes and turned his head. At that moment, fire blew out of the griddle and onto him.
I looked up from the deep fryer just in time to see flames shoot out onto my husband. Somehow, he managed to quickly get the flames out. Thank goodness he was thinking, because I was beyond responding at this point. I vaguely remember yelling something, and I know he started reassuring me that he was fine. I went rushing over, and about the time I got to him, the burning began. He ran to the sink and started putting water on his head and face. He was leaned over the industrial sink with the sprayer in his hand.
Mr. Everything told me to go get some eggs. I ran and grabbed three. He probably should have been more specific, since I am not known for my emergency-handling skills. He cracked those and put them on his head and told me to go get more. I got three more. I’m pretty sure I saw his eyes roll.
By this point, Mr. E said he thought we should call 911. I said, “Are you sure?” (Really, Al? Was he sure?) In my head, he was breathing and talking, so I should just drive him to the emergency room. I suggested this, and he said he didn’t think he could ride all the way there because it was burning so badly. Again, he told me to call 911. I asked him where the phone was, and he said, “On the wall!” Again, I think there was an eye roll. (Just a note here…. You do not EVER want me to be in charge of your well being if you are in an emergency situation. Trust me on this.)
I walked around and finally found the phone. I did remember how to dial 911. I was pretty proud of that. The operator answered, and I explained what was going on. The operator asked if my husband was having problems breathing, and I told her he was not. She said, “Ma’am, do you want me to send an ambulance?” My answer was, “I don’t know. What do you think?” She said she couldn’t make that decision and again asked me if I wanted an ambulance. Again, I said I didn’t know. I couldn’t figure out why she was asking me this. I had called 911 and not Pizza Hut, correct? Finally, I told her to send an ambulance, and she said she would send one then.
The ambulance took about 15 minutes to get there. It felt like an eternity, but really, this was impressive, considering the fact that we live in the sticks. I went to warn the Beetle and the Goose that an ambulance was coming. The Goose immediately started crying. (She gets her emergency-coping skills from her mother.) The Beetle shifted into action. He drove the ATV up to the dirt driveway so he could lead the ambulance down the long dirt driveway and to the camp’s dining hall. Good boy.
I went back to Mr. Everything and found him still putting eggs and water on his head. He had gone to the cooler and gotten a whole tray of eggs. It was all I could do not to freak out, and it took every ounce of my being and every bit of prayer I had in me to keep me calm. I told him that I was going to cover the meat and put it in the refrigerator while we waited. This was the only thing I could do to soothe my nerves until the ambulance got there. I had already tried lying across Mr. E’s back and crying, but that didn’t seem to be helping him too much.
There was a small group of people at the camp who were there to set up for a camp session that was starting the next day. The lady in charge came in the kitchen. I told her what was going on, and she asked what in the world I was doing. I said I was putting up the meat, and she said, “I can handle that!” I told her that if I did not put up the meat, I would die, and I think she got my message. She stepped out of the way and let me pack the meat.
When the ambulance arrived, the EMT informed us that putting eggs on the burns was not a good idea because of all the bacteria. Great. This added a new worry to my list of reasons to freak out. The EMTs said they were going to take Mr. Everything to Gainesville to Shands Hospital. I asked if I could ride with them. They said I could but I would not be able to be in the back with Mr. E. I decided to drive, and I said I would follow them. One of the EMTs said, “You do realize you can’t follow us, right? We will be going too fast, so you’ll just have to meet us there.” It was a really good thing she told me that, because I’m pretty sure I would have followed them. She told me the exit number so I could get there.
While they loaded up Mr. E, I went to get my purse, phone and other items I needed from the house. I was so proud of myself for thinking to pack fresh clothes for Mr. Everything. (Of course, later, I realized I had left them on the kitchen counter when I left, but it was the thought that counted.)
I followed the ambulance for the 2 miles down the muddy, bumpy, slippery dirt road. I said it was the longest ride I had ever had. Mr. E said he was pretty sure his ride was longer. He won that competition, because, while I was driving, he was in the back of an ambulance with a wet towel over his head, and he was in pain. I’m sure that 2 miles lasted forever for him.
On the way to the hospital, I called Mr. E’s mom and my parents, and I called a friend from our church in Brandon. I should have known the church grapevine would work efficiently. By the time I got the emergency room, my phone was already dinging with text messages.
On the way, I had a brief thought about the fact that we had no one up in Gainesville. It wasn’t a pity party. It was more of a glimpse that, oh, we’re alone. Boy, was I wrong about that! By midnight that night, Mr. E had received 5 visitors. We also had gotten many text messages and calls of concern. We had offers of food and help with the kids. We might not know many people up here, but we are certainly not alone!
While I was driving to the hospital, Mr. E was getting to face one of my biggest fears. He was taken in as a trauma patient. In case you don’t know, this means that you get the full sha-bang. When they arrived at the hospital, he quickly found himself on a metal table with a swarm of people over him. They cut off all his clothes (that would be the part I fear). He said one person was sticking his arm, one person was putting monitors on, someone else was examining his head and someone was sticking a needle somewhere he really wished a needle would never go. Then, as quickly as the swarm came on, they left, and he was alone. Lying on a metal table. In a room. Alone.
Meanwhile, I arrived at the hospital and valet parked the Suburban. (Yes, they have valet parking.) I entered an emergency waiting room that looked just like the worst episode of “ER” I had ever seen. There were people wrapped in blankets and people puking in buckets. There were people who were angry and people who were crazy. It was really, really bad. I went to the information desk and waited my turn. I asked how to find Mr. E, and they did not find his name in the system. This was when the panic started to set in. I said, “I am at Shands, right???” The employee said I was but that maybe I had beat the ambulance there. I assured her that I had not beat the ambulance since I had just driven 45 minutes and the ambulance was in front of me when I left my house. She called me over to a more private booth, away from the man who was pretending to be deaf (really). She asked what had happened, and I told her. She said Mr. E had probably come in as a trauma. Then, the employee told me that, if he had, he was not listed under his real name. She said, “I don’t know exactly how to find him, so you’re going to have to sit down and wait.” I turned and looked around the room full of crazies and looked back at the employee. I’m pretty sure she saw the panic in my eyes, because she said, “Oh second thought, wait right here. Let me see what I can do.”
A minute later, the employee came back and said, “He is about to come talk to you.” Then, “he” came around the corner and said he would lead me to the family room. With these words, the panic fully set in. The only time I had ever been led to a family room was to receive horrible news. Now, don’t get me wrong, I knew Mr. E was not dead. However, I was afraid they were about to tell me that he had been taken to a burn unit and I couldn’t see him. Then, I would die.
So, as we walked through the hall, I tried to regulate my breathing. I just knew they were going to leave me in an empty room so they could break it to me gently. Then, “he” turned the corner and said, “You can wait in here.” I turned the corner and saw other people sitting in the waiting room. I exclaimed, “Oh thank goodness! I’m so glad you’re here!” The people quickly scooted out of my way and made room for me. I’m pretty sure they were moving away from me because they thought I was crazy. I was glad they were there, though, because I knew the staff would not give me terrible news in front of other people.
In just a minute, “he” came back and said I could follow him. “He” walked me back to where Mr. E was lying on the metal table, looking around. I walked up to him and said, “So. How was your weekend?” He said, “What are you going to blog about this week?” I smiled and knew he was okay.
I’ll tell you the rest tomorrow…