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It was a fairly quiet evening in my ED, compared to most evenings, when the staff and I had a little time to catch up on each other’s lives and poke a little fun at what one another had done, or failed to do, in the past. During this time came the single most feared and despised word by all ED professionals. The registrar shouts “triage” and the party began to break up and go about the mundane tasks delegated to the late shift.

I still recall standing at the nurse’s station as the triage nurse escorted this young lad back to the treatment area. He was about 10 years old, sandy hair, average size, and blue eyed, although wide eyed. Pretty much your typical 10 year old in every way, except that this young man had a 3-foot-long WWII bayonet hanging from the middle finger of his right hand. Behind him, as you might expect, were two angry but concerned parents.

While I have learned it is nearly pointless to ask questions as to why people visit the ED during the late hours, I must admit that this situation piqued my curiosity. So, I asked the young lad how did this happen? Typical for young children, he was not ready to go to bed as instructed to do so. Out of boredom, he began playing with this bayonet. Don’t ask me how or why this got into his room. Regardless, he decided to place the ring finger of his right hand into the barrel hole of the weapon. Subsequently, he could not remove it from his finger. His efforts, all in an attempt to avoid confronting his parents with his dilemma, merely exacerbated an already difficult situation.

Being somewhat experienced in the ED, I suspected the usual ring cutters were not going to cut through a quarter inch of bronze. Other ring removal techniques were fruitless. In the end, I called hospital maintenance to bring a hacksaw to the ED, which I used to make two cuts thru one-half inch of the bronze ring (taking nearly an hour) and thus removing the foreign body. In the end, the finger was saved, the bayonet went home with family, and I kept the one-half inch section of bronze as a memento of the event. I do not know what other misfortune might have befallen this lad after he left my ED.

John Newcomb, MD

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