The Woodward News

December 20, 2013

Things can go wrong in an instant

Rachael Van Horn
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — I recently wrote a story for the paper warning folks to slow down and pay attention so they wouldn't accidentally leave out medications that could poison their children or grandchildren.

Seems the holidays get people all wound up and we forget to close suitcases or put things where little hands can't get them.

Anyway, all that made me think of a time when we darn near kilt my big brother.

It was mid-summer, Tucson, Arizona.

 So, you get the picture, it was hot out there.

My brother Mark was out working in our very large back yard, which had been a project he and my father had worked on together for years.

The yard was a beautiful combination of cactus garden, a little corner of producing grape vines and then a well terraced and decorative area where Bermuda grass grew. It was like entering a Tuscan villa really.

 I vaguely remember the day it happened.

I was like, eight-years-old and had spent the day playing with our dog, Blitz.

But I distinctly remember my brother coming inside from the sliding glass patio door, covered in grass clippings and sweaty. His face was red and he was very hot from working outside.

Back then, my mother had a habit of using a large glass jar to put water in and then she kept the water in the refrigerator to make sure it was nice and cold when we wanted a drink. This was like the early 1970s, before normal people had water in the door of their refrigerator. Frankly, I still don’t have that luxury.

Anyway, my mother had been deep cleaning that day and was out in the garage looking for something she needed and my brother, being incredibly thirsty, spied the water jar on the counter top.

So he got a huge glass, put a ton of ice in it and poured that water over the ice and drank deeply and quickly. It was when he was about nearly half done with that glass when he realized it was not water, it was bleach.

My mother had been using the bleach here and there and wanted a container easier to handle than the huge jug she had, so she poured it in the smaller jar. It was a jar that was identical to the water jar we used daily.

My brother knew instantly that he was in trouble. My mom came in and she immediately called the hospital. Just before she called, my brother was tempted to make himself throw up but my mom made him wait to find out what was the right thing to do. They said don’t throw it up, because the bleach would cause burns coming up.

So for the next few hours, we watched as Mark drank more water than we thought possible to dilute that bleach.

I thought he was going to die.

Luckily, the ice he had put in that glass had take up a lot of the room in the glass, so really he hadn’t gotten more than about four ounces of bleach before he realized what he was drinking. There was still a lot of bleach, especially when it’s really not made to drink, but easier to dilute than a whole glass of the stuff.

 This whole thing took under 60 seconds to happen. That is how fast something like that can go wrong. To this day, if you ask my mom, she feels bad about that accident. She was and is a fastidious house keeper and was very in tune with our health and safety. Yet, for a moment where the farthest thing from her mind was the idea that someone would come drink the bleach she had poured in that jar, sure enough it happened.  

 Mark is fine. He lived to torment his little sister (me) and become the hunky football star of his high school football team.

But we all remember the day we could have lost him.



Rachael Van Horn is a Woodward News staff writer