Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Halloween Danger: Fear the Jack-O'-Lantern!

Many dangers lurk during the Halloween season.

We worry about tainted treats being passed out on Halloween.
We worry about the risk of a child being hit by a vehicle while trick-or-treating.
We worry that poor visibility, ill-fitting shoes, or draping fabric could cause a person in costume to trip.
We worry that untended or poorly placed candles might cause a fire or burn someone.
We worry that some Halloween themes and costumes could scare younger kids.
We worry small children might choke on hard candy.
We worry about stranger danger while our kids are out canvassing neighborhoods for treats.

And I have always worried about the danger of someone being cut by a knife when carving a pumpkin.

Pumpkins - waiting to be Jack - o'-lanterns!

A Pumpkin Carving Party

This evening my son left our house dressed like a cowboy (quickest costume he could assemble) and carrying his pocket knife, a sharp kitchen knife, and a pumpkin. A volunteer group he belongs to was having a pumpkin carving party.

I said goodbye, and reminded him (as I always do) to be careful.  "Don't cut yourself," I said, as he walked out the door. Had he been younger, I would have elaborated about the dangers of pumpkin carving. He is 17 now though,  and as competent at cutting things with a knife as I am.  I refrained from further comment - I'm working hard at trying not to over-mother!

An Interrupted Phone Call

A couple of hours later, I was chatting on the phone with a far-away friend.  The call-waiting beeped, and I ignored it.  Minutes later, my husband burst into the room I was in. With unusual bluntness he said, “I need to talk to you - now.”  I realized he was talking into his cell phone to my son. I quickly said goodbye to my friend.

A vague thought flashed through my head. Something's wrong.  Sure enough, my son's hand had slipped as he stabbed a hard section of his pumpkin, and his thumb had slid onto the blade. ... Lots of blood. ... Might need stitches. ... On his way to the Emergency Department.  

Wait - what? Is he driving himself?? By this point I was grabbing my keys and purse and made an unsuccessful attempt to quickly tidy up my hair.  I was out the door within minutes of the call.

A Quick Visit to the Hospital

We only live about 15 minutes from the Emergency Department.  I probably got there quicker.  

By the time I arrived at the hospital, my son was already in an exam room, and had been assessed by the doctor.  I thanked the group leader and my son's friend; who had driven my son and his car to the hospital and were waiting for me to arrive. I signed the paperwork, then found the room my son was in.  He was calmly holding a bloody towel to his thumb, but pulled it back to let me see.  A nasty, nasty gash -- but it could have been much worse.  

I'm sparing you the gory picture, and cropped the wound out of this photo!
Almost immediately, the doctor was back in the room.  My son didn't flinched when the lidocaine was injected and the doctor closed the wound with stitches. Fortunately, it was his non-dominant hand that had been injured, and only soft tissue had been cut. The doctor was confident that my son would heal quickly and soon be playing his guitar again.

An Exchange of Photos

As the wound was being sutured, I sent my friend a text, to explain why I had so rudely ended our call. Before I did though, I saw that she had sent a photo to me, right after we hung up. Ironically, as she had no idea yet what had happened, it was of her son and his girlfriend - with a pumpkin they had carved!  

I sent her a photo of my son's cut (she is a nurse, so she could handle it!) and a quick text explaining the circumstances.  She couldn't believe he had already been admitted and seen by a doctor, in the short period of time since we had spoken.  

Stitched, bandaged, and ready to go.
Just barely an hour after my son had called us, his thumb was sutured, a dressing was applied, and we were walking to our cars. One advantage to living in a small town is that sometimes the E.D. is not very busy! 

If only he hadn't decided to add a final touch to the lid of his pumpkin, my son's thumb would not be sore tonight!

So ... heed my warning - -  

If you are planning to carve a pumpkin this year - just BEWARE!
Check out this post, if you want a safe alternative for decorating a pumpkin - one that doesn't involve a knife!

The Guilty Jack-O'-Lantern.

A special thanks to everyone who helped my son after he cut his thumb this evening!  
Have you ever been injured on Halloween?

This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog. Check them out!


  1. Oh my gosh this is terrifying!! I am so scared of this myself. I can hardly even watch people carving pumpkins. I am so glad your son is ok and what a blessing that he was able to be seen and treated quickly. Do you think he will still enjoy carving pumpkins?

    1. Thanks Jennifer. I think he is a little sheepish about the whole thing - but I'm sure he has more pumpkin carving in his future. I'm not giving him another pumpkin this year though!!

  2. I'm so sorry your son was hurt! I'll tell you how I avoid self-injury when I'm carving, though: I use a Pumpkin Masters kit. It comes with little specialized pumpkin saws that make it much easier to do detail work...and much harder to slip and hurt myself. And trust me, I need all the help I can get.

    1. Hi Karen - thanks. We have those tools, and I suggested them. But the response was "Nah, I'd rather use a knife" ...

  3. Glad he's okay! I was always hovering when knives were involved. Sounds like you were right to worry too! Sorry I haven't been around much my daughter has going through a lot with the twins. She's now hospitalized at 28 weeks for the duration of her pregnancy. It's been rough, didn't even get to make it to that huge baby shower I had planned in KY!

    1. Oh Rena - I'm so sorry to hear about your daughter! I've been sort of absent from blog socializing myself. I just thought you were busy with the shower. I will be thinking positive thoughts for your family and the babies!!

  4. I'm so sorry your son got hurt! It's so scary when you get those phone calls. We will be carving pumpkins tomorrow night - and I will remind the boys to be careful!

    1. Not sure a reminder to be careful does much good ... mine didn't. But maybe it would be good to remind them that certain parts of the pumpkin are tougher than others, and your hand could slip if you aren't really careful. (Wish I had said that now!)
      We have been carving pumpkins as a family for about 14 years, and this is the first accident. Pre-knife skills, the kids drew designs and scooped out the insides. This year no more pumpkins will be cut though!

  5. It's so easy to do....the darn things are a combination of thick, tough and slippery. Glad it wasn't any worse.

    1. You summed up why they are hard to carve absolutely perfectly! I was glad too!

  6. Definitely one of the perks of living in a small town is that we do get faster emergency care! Hope your son's hand heals quickly!

  7. Yikes! Definitely - yikes! I'm so sorry your son is injured. But grateful he will heal. And live to carve again . . .

    1. Thanks Diane. He was talking about carving another one the next day. I said NO. :)

  8. I too am a worrier. A chronic worrier. About the possible, the likely - and about the improbable. I am so very glad that your son's injury was relatively minor and quickly treated.

    1. Thanks E.C. Me too. Sometimes I even worry about worrying!

  9. I hate carving pumpkins... for this reason. I'm not good with a knife on a flat surface, let alone cutting a round pumpkin! Eeeek!

    Thanks for sharing your #mommyreality. This is terrifying!

    Good to hear it wasn't too serious... although stitches, either way is not fun.

    Wishing you a lovely day.

    1. The injury was much less invasive than I feared. Driving to the ER with the scant information I had been provided, I pictured his thumb just dangling. I'm not good with sharp objects either. In fact, I nicked my own thumb a little with the scissors as I was cutting the tape to redress his wound yesterday!


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