On the day before US Thanksgiving, I was at my lab late, waiting for my beloved husband to get done with an opera chorus rehearsal. For reasons that don’t matter, I didn’t go home for dinner. Instead, I prepared some yummy cup-of-soup for dinner, adding boiling water from the electric kettle in our lab. I immediately grabbed the cup in my right hand to take back to my desk… and slopped boiling-hot soup on my hand. It landed in the little triangle of skin between the thumb and index finger, where there is a little depression — and saw no good reason to leave. This hurt, so my body acted quickly to throw the water off of the web of skin.
Unfortunately, that meant that soup jumped out of the cup onto the floor, onto my shirt, onto the desk, onto the back of my hand, and even one little splatter onto my forehead. YOWCH!
I quickly grabbed my waterbottle and poured it over the back of my hand (watering one of the office plants in the process). It hurt, but not so much that I thought I couldn’t clean up some of the mess before going 50m to the closest washroom to run more cold water over my hand. So it was a minute or two before I ran more cold water over the burn.
It hurt, but it didn’t hurt that badly. I had never scalded myself before, but I certainly had burned myself before, and it wasn’t painful in that same league. So I ate what was left of the cup of soup and went back to debugging.
After a while, the scald started to hurt. It hurt more and more as time went on. This was really, really strange. I wondered if scalds were somehow different from “regular” burns. It was hurting enough that I was having trouble focusing on my work. “How long would it keep getting worse?” I wondered.
What really made me nervous was that I was supposed to jump in a car and go down to the US in a few hours. I have travellers’ insurance so that I can get medical treatment in the US if needed, but it would probably be a big logistical hassle. Finally, I decided to go to the emergency room a few blocks away. I felt kind of foolish for doing so, but I had never had the experience of a burn’s pain getting worse and worse as time goes on.
As soon as I got outside, my hand started feeling better. This made sense, given the cold and moist air on my bare skin. At the emergency room, they saw me quickly, told me I was fine, and sent me home. I felt relieved but somewhat foolish, but it had been really strange for the pain to increase.
I went back to the lab and commenced working again. I started typing and mousing and typing and mousing again. With my hands. Especially my right hand. And what do you think happened? The pain started increasing again in my right hand!
I felt really, really stupid at that point. It was hurting more and more because I was stretching the scalded area. Duh.