Well, THAT Was Stupid! (Straws Can Kill)

[NOTE: I do not place any blame on Endurance, E.S.P. (Essential Safe Products), the blog that ran the giveaway, stainless steel straws in general, or anyone or anything else for today’s accident. It was purely and absolutely my fault. But seriously, do NOT let your kids use steel straws unless they are totally strapped into padded chairs, with no chance of moving/falling/walking/leaning/etc. Please, just don’t let your kids use these things.]

I love winning giveaways. Who doesn’t? So when I recently won a fellow blogger’s giveaway for four Endurance stainless steel straws, a Kleen Kanteen stainless steel cup, and two organic cotton produce bags (you know, so you can buy a bunch of green beans at the grocery store w/o having to use a plastic bag), I was pretty happy.

And the straws! I saw my sister-in-law using some of these last week and thought they were pretty neat. We go through so many plastic straws; we’re currently plowing through a huge bag of them that I recently bought at Ikea. So much plastic in all our straw use, right? So of course stainless steel ones sounded awesome.

I didn’t realize the produce bags were part of the giveaway, or maybe I overlooked it. They were a nice surprise.

My husband claims he saw danger as soon as I tweeted this picture.

Plus, of course, I love surprises, even if I know they are coming. I love when the UPS truck drops off a package for me. The boys and I were very pleased to open the box today. They couldn’t wait to use the straws.

Me, too! So it was lemonade for them in their usual cups and iced coffee for me in my new stainless cup. Stainless steel straws for all!

It was mid-afternoon. They finished their lemonade (so I thought), and I was ready to get out of the sweaty running clothes I’d been in since 6:30 this morning (ewwwww, right?). So I stripped down, telling the kids to stay safe while I was in the shower, and—

-horrible screaming. Ben, face-down on the living room floor. His cup lay nearby. Blood everywhere, down his chin, all over his arms and chest and stomach. I scooped him up. He was gurgling blood, that’s how much there was. He was hysterical. I gave him a wet cloth to suck on but he refused. I asked Max to get a flashlight and was able to see what I didn’t want to see–that it wasn’t just a lip cut or tongue bite. He’d fallen with his cup, and the steel straw had gone right into his palate–the roof of his mouth.

I cleaned us both up, calmed him down a little, and called the pediatrician while getting us both somewhat dressed (right back into my sweaty running clothes, of course, as it was the closest clothing).  Max was a champ. He was calm, ready, and helpful. Though he did keep saying, “Blood! Look at all the blood! Blood! Blood!” which got Ben screaming louder.

I guess it DOES kind of look like a murder weapon, maybe.

The pediatrician said to come in immediately, but when we got there we learned they’d been trying to call me to tell me they really had no doctor available to see us and we should head over to the emergency room.

This got Max going again. “Is that the hospital, Mom? Will he need stitches? Mom, will they use a sharp needle and some string and pull it through his mouth? Will it hurt a lot?” until I said Stop, please, just be quiet, let’s not scare your brother.

Ben dozed off. It was naptime, right?

I dropped Max at a neighbor-friend’s house (have I mentioned how much I LOVE my neighbors??). Ben and I headed for the hospital. The doctor looked in his mouth and said, “Well, there’s not much we do for that. The mouth heals pretty quickly. We won’t stitch it.”

and I sighed with relief, planning to thank him and leave. He stayed seated and added:

“With an injury to the soft palate, there is a chance of damage to the internal carotid artery, which delivers blood to the brain. What time did this happen? We could do a CT scan, but we’d have to sedate him and give him a heavy dose of radiation, which we don’t like to do unless we really have to. So I think the thing to do is just keep an eye on him.”

“Ok!” I said. “So we should just keep a close eye on him tonight? Where do you mean, ‘keep an eye on him’?”

“No, here. For the next four to six hours,” he said.


Ben, to my joy, isn’t really into watching videos or TV. So he quickly got bored in the hospital room despite the nurse’s queuing up Cars just for him. We wandered. The doc gave us permission to wander around as long as we stayed close.

Ben immediately found a big tin of lollipops, and I let him have one. Then the doc came over to tell me that he shouldn’t have that, and couldn’t have water or food until 7 p.m. or so.

Have you ever tried to entertain a two-year-old in a hospital at dinnertime when he is bored, sore, and not allowed to eat or drink? “I leaving!” he kept declaring, beelining for the doors.

Some ear/nose/throat (ENT, if you will) specialist came to check Ben out, telling me the same thing the other doc had: He’s probably fine, the injury isn’t in the usual zone for injuring the carotid artery but we need to make sure, we don’t think the CT scan is called for, the reactive dye could cause sensitivities and the dose of radiation will probably cause cancer later in life, our clinical judgment says you can skip the scan and He’s probably fine and Just watch him closely for the next 72 hours and Stay near a hospital this weekend and Watch for signs of stroke and Wake him up a few times tonight and Come back and see me next week.

Catching bubbles in the pediatric E.R.–so ready to go home

When we got home, he ate an enormous dinner of chicken soup and mac-and-cheese and an ice cream sandwich. He hugged the kitty and watched part of a movie with Max. He practiced jumping, his newest trick. He nursed.

He fell fast asleep.

And I cannot believe that I had no idea that inuring your soft palate can possibly kill you. Did you know that? I had actually considered not going to the emergency room, except it the wound was so ghastly-looking that I really thought it needed stitches. I did not know that the wound would be fine but the risk of brain injury was real.


Bottom line: Yes, I admit total fault. I’m so used to my kids’ managing just fine with their regular (plastic! flexible!) straws. It hadn’t occurred to me that these reusable (steel! inflexible! dangerous!) straws were so dangerous. I should have probably evaluated it better.

While it was kind of a freak accident, my children will not be using these straws again, and I will be sure to keep them out of their reach. Sure, I could let them use the straws in controlled situations, but it’s not worth it to me. They can use any color plastic straws they want to. Just not stainless steel.

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