This following is a story of stupidity and redemption. Let me preempt the story by saying something good did come out of my experience below. I received a cool ‘Cars’ blanket and a creepy home made teddy bear…a really expensive blanket and creepy teddy bear.
So I replaced a thermostat in my house a while back. Honestly I can’t believe it was still attached and functional when I bought the house in 2004. This thermostat had to be the original, horribly inaccurate and wasteful model that was installed when the house was built in 1979. You know the kind.
After I had replaced it I noticed a cool glass bubble with a bit of mercury metal inside(Please see attached image). Awed by the magical mystery that is liquid metal, I put the glass bubble down in my computer room for further investigation.
Days go by, days turn in to weeks, weeks turn in to months…so on and so forth until a few years pass. Having successfully sired two strapping young lads I was triumphantly playing a computer game while said strapping young lads went about their business in my computer room. I see the youngest one, we will call him Aidyn for anonymity sake, start to put something towards his mouth. With the ninja-like reflexes I have honed over the years I reached out and stopped him from putting the object in his mouth. I look down at my prize and to my horror I realize it’s the broken glass bubble that once contained mercury, which was now empty AND had a piece of chewed up grape in side of it. This meant only one thing; he had already put this in his mouth!
It’s panic time! Ninja-like calm is out the window. My heart sinks into the pit of my stomach thinking I just killed my youngest child. I search the area for any liquid metal hoping that it just spilled out. I don’t see anything! Gathering my wits as best as possible I gather him up and head up stairs with my oldest boy in tow. I calm myself down so I don’t startle Mary too bad. In my best “I am calm” voice I tell Mary that it looks like we need to take a trip to E.R. because I am pretty sure Aidyn swallowed some mercury.
I can see the worry and fear spread on her face as what I just said processes in her brain(all of this happened within .0001 microsecond because she is super smart and my ninja-like skills were coming back). I pack up Aidyn and tell Mary that it would be better if she stayed home with our oldest boy. I hurry and check our insurance website trying to find the closest E.R. that is covered by my insurance…it’s in Orem. Panic sets in again. There’s no way I am going drive 10 minutes so I can save money whilst my child is potentially digesting mercury! I set off for American Fork hospital, which is only 2 miles away from us.
We arrive and I rush in to the Triage center. The on-call nurse could probably see the panic in my face as I walked up to her with Aidyn in my arms. I tell her what happened and she calmly tells me to wait while she consults a doctor. She comes back and another nurse comes out and asks me what happened. After I tell her my story she attempts to assuage my fears by telling me mercury metal isn’t that bad if swallowed, it’s the mercury salts we have to look out for. Luckily there are no mercury salts in the liquid metal form.
They take us back put us in a room and tell me to wait. They give Aidyn a cool ‘Cars’ blanket and this creepy home-made teddy bear. Fifteen minutes go by(which seems like FOREVER) and they come back in and tell me they need to x-ray Aidyn to see if he swallowed anything. On the way to the x-ray room I immediately get grilled by 3 of the E.R. staff. They were asking how it was possible a 1 year old got a hold of mercury. I tell them the story and they ‘release’ me so I can proceed to the x-ray.
Let me say that x-raying(sp?) a small child is quite the task. We had to do it twice because he was squirming so much. Now, with my vast knowledge of x-ray technology and how metal looks when x-rayed(see “When Brian was 9 and swallowed a quarter” for more details), I immediately hurried over to the monitor to see Aidyn’s x-ray. To my relief I don’t see anything shiny or glaring. But doubt quickly creeps back in as I wonder if mercury looks any different in x-ray.
We go back to the waiting room and are told to wait. Another fifteen minutes go by and they finally come back with the results. He didn’t have any mercury in his system! Joy floods in and I whisk the doctor(female) up in my arms twirling her around while singing “The hills are alive with the sound of music!”. Ok, I didn’t do that but I was overjoyed. I can feel myself shaking, probably from the adrenaline leaving my system, more likely from my ninja-like awesomeness. I immediately text Mary with the good news and I proceed to pack up Aidyn and leave the E.R.
On the drive home I realized that I just paid for a really expensive blanket and teddy bear!
Moral of the story: DO NOT leave mercury laying around, forget about it for years, and then let a small child find it.
More details about post-mercury apocalypse are as follows:
- It was very awkward getting grilled by the E.R. staff. All of whom seem to think you intentionally poisoned your child.
- Yes, I did find most of the mercury that was spilled. Apparently when one is panicking it’s really difficult for your mind to focus on finding small silver objects in the carpet.
- Yes, we now have to replace the carpet in my computer room. Add $350 to the mounting E.R. bill.
- Very big YES to feeling like a complete failure as a father for leaving mercury laying around.
- Aidyn was actually having a great time while at the hospital. He was totally digging on watching the E.R. staff go about their business.
- Interesting tidbit: Mercury metal is the least dangerous form of mercury if swallowed. In fact they used to give it to people to help with upset stomachs back in the day. Mercury vapor on the other hand is bad for you.