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I met my wife in the hospital during my internship and she gamely followed me for a number of years on this peripatetic journey. I went through a number of hospital EDs in Missouri and Ohio, always moving to a better job. After being married for only several years, we found ourselves in northwestern Ohio, just the two of us, no children, no family, no friends in the area. I was working in a regional referral center and my wife had given up working in hospitals.
This was when I discovered that the all-too-familiar to me was sometimes a bit alien and bizarre to the family. I pulled into a local gas station to fill up with my wife in the passenger seat when I was accosted by a well-dressed young African American man. He seemed genuinely delighted to see me. “Hey doc, remember me?” When his warm greeting was met by my blank unknowing stare, he broke into a broad grin and started pointing enthusiastically and unabashedly at his groin. He was creating quite a scene at the gas station. My wife, trying to look very small, remained in the car. Sudden recognition, smiles all around, bear hugs and guffaws. And my wife? Perhaps wondering just how the marriage was going.
It took me awhile to explain to my wife that I had seen this young man just a few days before in the department with his genitals severely entrained in a zipper – a hazard to males of not wearing underwear. After freeing him, like pulling a thorn from the lion’s paw, I had a friend for life. Ironically, that very night, I received another zipper entrainment when two young boys walked in with one boy’s head very close to the other’s chest. The one’s eyelid had become entrained in the jacket zipper of the other and they arrived walking very, very carefully in sync. The apparent horror was mitigated by the very calm acquiescence by the children of their predicament. Nothing unusual here, my eye’s stuck in your zipper. Do you mind?
Both zipper entrainments were handled successfully (“Something About Mary” notwithstanding, without any blood loss) and I was becoming adept at zippers. So how does one handle human flesh stuck in a zipper? There are several tricks passed down from ED doctor to ED doctor, such as cutting the median bar, but regardless of technique, what most do first is call the hospital maintenance man to access his tool belt. There is nothing like a pair of vise grips or wire cutters.
*Reprinted by permission of EPMG.
Charles Grassie, MD, JD