It was by accident and I mean that literally. I was in my second year of college as a bio/chem premed major when I had an accident in the Organic Chemistry Laboratory. It was late afternoon near the end of October, those Fall days when no one knows how to dress for the weather, very cold in the morning but warm by afternoon. I was about six weeks into refining a chemical substance for identification and had already spent about 24 hours in the lab doing so. With my lab notebook at my side I had documented the entire process down to every last detail. My lab station was always very neat with clean glassware on paper towels drying and other chemicals at the ready.
This one particular afternoon the setting sun came through the lab window at such an angle making us all very warm. Just prior to making some adjustments to my experiment, I fortunately removed my sweater. I poured my substance out of the hot beaker into a test tube and decided that it was still much too cloudy and poured it back into the hot beaker sitting atop the Bunsen burner for additional heating. Doing so caused a loud explosion sending hot, shattered glass everywhere followed by a fireball that rolled up both of my arms taking all the hair with it and settling on my right thumb. I froze as I saw my thumb on fire and burning paper towels float through that air. The student next to me stomped the fire out while I snapped to and blew out my thumb. It was all a matter of a few seconds but to me it was all in fast and slow, choppy, blurry motion. Almost the way a Jason Bourne movie is filmed. It was over for me, I would never recover the lost experiment in time for finals.
During that semester I had helped a hall-mate study for all her clinical exams. She was a nursing student and filled me with fantastical stories of her days in clinical. I was romanced by her stories and knew it would be years before I ever touched a patient, and here she was helping people presently. After visiting the infirmary to have my thumb bandaged, I marched myself down to the registrar’s office and changed my major to that of my study partner’s- what an ordeal it was, not like today with so many online degrees, options, and online PhD programs. By the next Fall I was happily with patients and not one of them exploded. This was one time a fireball saved someones life. Mine.
**I specialized in Cardiothoracic Nursing and worked in the MICU at Deborah Heart and Lung Center in NJ. I taught clinical nursing at an LPN college in NC then went on to be a Nurse Specialist in the Pulmonary Rehab unit at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in NC. The most rewarding career outside of the home! Now I practice my nursing skills on my children, husband, family, and friends. They haven’t exploded either. Yet.
Tomorrow in BRK- French Toast Sticks, a recipe I made up for my children’s lunch box.
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