Accidents waiting to happen

SEAMUS BOYER
Last updated 05:00 07/07/2012

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Ever wondered if a nail could pierce bone? A Masterton man apparently did, so he placed a nailgun against his forehead and pulled the trigger to find out.

The nail shot into his skull, pinned his beanie to his head and came to rest behind his nose.

"He actually walked himself into the hospital and was laughing about it," said Vicki Hookham, charge nurse manager at Wairarapa Hospital's Emergency Department.

"I think he thought it was quite funny."

He was transferred to Wellington Hospital where the nail was removed, leaving him without sight in one eye.

"It turned out they were seeing if it would go through the bone," Ms Hookham said.

"Needless to say, there wasn't a lot of brain function going on before or after that decision."

The bizarre case from 2010 is just one of thousands emergency department staff face each year. Last year more than 20,000 people presented at Wairarapa ED, figures obtained under the Official Information Act show.

Their reasons included hot cheese sauce splashback, sea slug consumption, and an attempt to "dig to Russia".

The more wince-inducing entries include "chainsaw versus hand", "cow horn versus face", and the ominous-sounding "skydive accident".

"Often it's like 'How on earth did that actually happen?'," Ms Hookham said.

"We end up asking them, 'Can you explain that to us again?', because it just doesn't make sense."

Last year ED staff treated everything from sunburn to constipation, to car crashes, eczema and earache. Stings from wasps, bees and jellyfish also feature, as well as bites from spiders, cats, dogs and humans.

"Like any emergency department, no two hours are the same, which is what we love about the job," Ms Hookham said.

"When you're dealing with some of the heavy, nasty stuff and then you get some of the lighter stuff in between, it keeps the job manageable in a way."

Last month a farmer was gored by a bull, one of its horns puncturing his abdomen, driving up under his ribs and "tickling his heart", she said.

"It literally scratched the underside of his heart – another centimetre and it would have killed him."

And rather than shying away from such wounds, staff enjoyed testing their skills in treating them.

"We don't think of those [cases] as being horrific – in fact it's those ones that get your adrenaline rush on.

"For us it's a break from the bread-and-butter cases such as chest pains and pneumonia. It's what makes us want to work here."

'I WAS DIGGING TO RUSSIA'

Ten of the more unusual ED entries:

1 A patient aged 20-39 suffered burns while making cheese sauce in a jug.

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2 Someone under 20 cut their foot while "digging with spade to Russia".

3 "Killing sheep in the dark" left a person aged 60-79 with a cut finger.

4 A patient aged 20-39 hurt their ribs when they "picked up dog to throw over fence".

5 Tripping while "putting on jeans" left someone aged 40-59 with a thumb injury.

6 Someone under 20 ended up with "lacerated buttocks" after falling through a glass coffee table.

7 A patient aged 20-39 injured their toe after they "kicked couch whilst watching a movie".

8 Cartwheeling into someone's head left a person under 20 with an injured foot.

9 Someone in the 20-39 age group ended up in ED after eating a sea slug.

10 A patient under 20 got a sore ear from spraying deodorant into it.

THE COUNT

Emergency Department presentations in 2011:

Wellington Hospital: 51,770

Hutt Hospital: 39,509

Palmerston North Hospital: 39,244

Hawke's Bay Hospital: 38,349

Wairarapa Hospital: 20,198

- The Dominion Post

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