Sep 11, 2006

Holey Pancreas, Batman!

Weird, but scarily possible: On Aug. 29 a teenager was impaled by a 10-inch piece of metal thrown from his brother's lawnmower. The shard punctured the teen's pancreas and lodged in his abdominal aorta, which (and this is really weird) is fortunate because it helped staunch the bleeding that otherwise would have been fatal within minutes.

I'm only bringing this up because who among us doesn't cut a few corners, so to speak, in our gardening practices? I'm no exception: I can't count the number of times I've reached a little farther than I should from a ladder, or thrown on open-toed sandals to mow the lawn, or taken down a tree limb using two cuts rather than three or more. What about you: do you don protective goggles every time you mow or edge the lawn? Wear a respirator, gloves, and body armor every time you apply pesticides or herbicides? For that matter, do you know whether any of the plants in your garden might be toxic?

I can only imagine how the kid's brother feels, but then again, who the hell expects scraps of metal the size of drinking straws to be lying around in your lawn? Yet the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 16 percent of all lawnmower injuries -- some 12,000 per year -- come from objects such as nails and wire, thrown at about 200 mph.

The story seems like it will have a happy ending, but it's still a good reminder to make a habit of looking for any debris that might be on your lawn before you start to mow. Hire a trained and licensed landscape contractor to handle the chemicals and tools. And sign yourself up for a class on pruning and/or landscape maintenance.

The pancreas you save could be your own.

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