Asking people to stay at home to binge Netflix with their families, significant others, and roommates all day shouldn’t be that hard, but humans want what they can’t have. When people get bored, they try new things, whether that’s baking bread for the first time, skateboarding off a roof, or finally testing out that table saw they got five Christmases ago.
When people try new things, they get hurt.
Under normal circumstances, when the world isn’t in a state of pandemic and chaos, even a minor injury might warrant a trip to the hospital, or at the very least to the corner store to grab some peroxide and band-aids. But when the hospitals are packed with COVID-19 patients, many harmed-by-boredom victims aren’t willing to risk a trip. We’re stuck at home, having to deal with the consequences of our own stupidity by way of perceived invulnerability.
I spoke with subjects from all over North America who sustained injuries at home as a result of quarantine, directly or indirectly, whether they sought medical attention, or just plugged the wounds themselves, Frank Reynolds style.
Dr. Brown*, 48, Montreal, Quebec
A few weeks after social isolating begins, at the peak of COVID, I am the surgeon on call for surgical emergencies. We have done a lot of planning to prepare for potentially operating on very sick COVID patients, with both patients and ourselves at risk. It’s a tense time to say the least.
I received a consult from the emergency department expecting the worst, knowing at that point the virus affected the elderly population most. It was an 85-year-old man...with a rectal foreign body. For those of you not in medicine, that means there was something in his ass that shouldn’t have been there. People are dying, there’s a pandemic going on, and this is what I’m dealing with. Being a doctor you develop a dark sense of humor, so I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find some comic relief in the situation. I was dying to know what this “foreign body” was.
Wasting no time, my team and I go to see the patient and we get our answer. He was home, socially isolating like a good senior citizen, until he got bored. He decided to watch porn, as one does. And while watching, he figured he should spice things up by inserting an air freshener spray can his anus. Unsurprisingly, the cap got stuck up there. Really stuck. To the point where we couldn’t remove it by just reaching in to grab it. In the end, we had to sedate him so we could manually disimpact it without the patient being in pain. I see all sorts of cases like this, people doing risky things in the privacy of their own home that leads to an ER trip, but I’d be willing to bet hospitals around the world are seeing an increase in rectal foreign bodies and the like as a result of quarantine, because what else would a responsible socially distancing person do other than jam something up their ass?
Melissa, 31, Brooklyn, New York
It was the first week of April and Brooklyn had been locked down for about a month at that point. I'd finally gotten a grocery delivery a week after I put the order in, and I was pretty excited to make some chicken soup. Maybe I was a little too excited because I opened the sealed chicken bag by stabbing it aggressively with a serrated knife and ended up slicing the tip of my index finger.
I ran around looking for bandages, blood pouring out of my finger and dripping all over the apartment. I didn't even have paper towels. I started to sweat as I wondered how deep the cut actually was. I wasn't sure what to do. Should I go to a clinic? Should I go to the bodega and get band-aids? Will they even have band-aids? At that point, things were getting pretty serious in Brooklyn. Cuomo had issued the stay-at-home order and hospitals were over capacity. Just going to the store for band-aids felt like an unnecessary risk.
After I calmed down a bit, I looked around again for anything clean to wrap around my finger. I found some panty liners in my drawer and wrapped one of them around my finger. Then, I tightly secured it with electrical tape. The next morning, the cut was still bleeding, so I super-glued the cut shut and wrapped it with another panty liner. I only had one liner left, so I cut that one up for rationing. I prayed that I had some tampons somewhere for when my period would eventually come. My finger is fine now and I'm much more careful with knives. Even a small wound can become a crisis when there's a plague happening outside.
Phil, 29, Ottawa, Ontario
My home office is downstairs and my wife's is upstairs. Somehow I got the idea that I could benefit from doing some micro-exercising in the house to mitigate some of the isolation-related sadness and weight gain. I thought I could start by running up the stairs whenever I went up there to see her.
I should note that I usually wear moccasin style slippers in the house but the weather was warming up so I'd taken them off. All I was wearing were these terrible ankle socks that I bought in a 20 pack from some awful megastore. The material is very thin and very slippery.
Not thinking about my slick, slick socks I started to jog up the stairs, only to slip on the second or third stair. It all happened in one amazing, fluid motion. From upright to straight down in an instant. Smashed the bony part of my shin with all my weight onto our bare wood stair. I was on the ground in hysterics. I couldn't stop laughing at how stupid I was and how bad it hurt. My wife was very confused by the crash, followed by the laughter. I spent a great deal of my youth skateboarding and have had more than my fair share of nasty shinners but this one took the cake by a very wide margin. We no longer run up the stairs in my household.
Tini, 34, Los Angeles, California
I’m a writer so I work from home. I usually get out during the week, but not anymore! Which means I'm spending a lot more time on my computer for work, reading books on my phone, and the real culprit—video games. My wrists are in real pain as a result.
My wrists and hands get tired from writing, and then I go to play video games. Lots of rapid button pressing under lots of pressure. It gets to where when I type I can feel it in my forearms (?) but I'm bored inside and I wanna play! I've had a few moments lately where I spend a few hours just swapping from my handheld Switch to my PC games when my wrists and hands get sore. I’ve been playing Overwatch and Battlefront II when I feel like competing with others and getting some social time in. Witcher 3 on my Switch when I want to disappear into another world on the couch by myself. I guess these games all use different muscles? They're all hurting now, though. I have willfully ignored the gentle signs my body tried to send me. I'm not proud of it.
I have a wrist brace, and in the interest of full disclosure I have some health issues that can cause problems for my joints, so I like to tell myself that it takes less for my joints to get affected. Really, I'm just playing a truly embarrassing amount of video games. I am a 34 year old woman, and if I walk into an Emergency room with my hands and wrists packed in ice from gaming asking for help in the middle of a pandemic, I'd never be able to look anyone in the eyes ever again.
Lucas, 35, Muskoka, Ontario
I work at a bank which is still an essential service, so my wife has been home with the kids (ages 4 and 2) on her own. Since she normally works, too, this has been a big adjustment for her, as it would be for anyone. She’s solo parenting five days a week, with no trips to the park, no play dates, no other human interaction. We live on a busy street, so no bikes or scooters, and we have a pretty small yard. Safe to say she needed an outlet for the kids’ energy. Trampoline it is! Great idea Dad!
Bought the thing (good price too!) and got it home. Which was a pain in itself since the box weighed more than 200lbs. I gave up working out back in late January like most people so it was a lot. Anyway, the leg supports went together easy. Then came the springs. There are a lot of springs. You have to stretch the spring to install it. Not too much but enough to need to use a little force if you read the instructions. If you don’t read the instructions and just assume the springs will go however you tell them to go, then you’ll need to use a lot of force to stretch the springs into place. And in the end, you won’t be strong enough to install the last few springs no matter how hard you pull. I know because I was pulling hard on those springs.
I’m three tries into putting the jumping mat into place. By this time I’ve installed and removed three times as many springs as I should have. By the time I got the mat in place properly, I was done. Shoulder on fire. Pulled way too hard on the springs while trying to keep my pride and I knew I was gonna feel it in the morning. But I finally got the mat in place. It works great. Now just got to install the safety net and I’ll be done. Fuck! To install the safety net I have to remove and reinstall each spring. Again.
By this time I’m getting chirped by my kids, my wife is laughing at me, and then everyone turns on me and starts giving me the, ‘Is it ready dad? Is it ready dad? Is it ready dad?’ Finally, I managed to get the thing done, happy kids, appreciative wife, and hours of happy jumping time to come. I haven’t been able to wash my hair with my right hand for four days now. Can’t reach my right arm above my shoulders. Lousy virus, lousy springs, but happy family.
*Name has been changed to protect patient privacy.