The other night the paramedics brought in a woman with burns on most of her scalp. The medics said when they got to the residence, the patient was screaming hysterically. They could see a fire had been burning in the fireplace and some partially burned wood was scattered out onto the hearth. The fire appeared to have been recently put out and there was water in and around the fireplace as well as on the carpet, the couch and the patient. When the medics asked the patient what happened, all she would say was, “I have lice!” The best they could guess from looking at the scene was she had put her head inside the fireplace to burn her hair in order to get rid of the lice. Water had then apparently been used to douse her and the fire.
By the time she arrived in the emergency department, she had stopped screaming because the medics had given her morphine. Now she could not keep her eyes open and was unable to answer questions.
She certainly painted a pathetic picture. She was very obese, had no teeth and her tongue kind of stuck out as she snored. Some of her hair had obviously been cut off near the scalp before this event. Most of the scalp and her ears were burned.
I reviewed records from previous visits, which showed she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Her urine drug screen showed she had taken phencyclidine, also known as PCP or angel dust. That is just the worst combination: a drug that makes you crazy taken by a crazy person.
The burns were not severe enough for her to be admitted to the burn unit so we cleaned her up, dressed her head and sent her to the psychiatric emergency department.
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