From Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul Second Dose


There are truths that are not for all men, nor for all occasions.


As nurses we know that third-degree burns are generally pain free because nerve endings have been destroyed. At the same time, the burned patient is usually alert and conscious, unless they have also sustained a brain injury.

When the rescue crew loaded Mr. E. into the helicopter, he asked what his chances were. The nurse knew he was in serious shape, but not wanting to destroy his hope, he hedged, “I think you have a fifty-fifty chance, my friend.”

When Mr. E. arrived at the regional burn center, he was stabilized in the emergency room and the burn surgeon came down to review the resuscitation efforts. The surgeon was a straight-shooting, mustached professional who looked like he could have been a marshal in Dodge City during the days of cowboys and gunfights.

Mr. E. looked up at him and asked, “Doc, what do you think my chances are?”

The doctor looked earnestly at Mr. E. and replied, “Do you want me to be truthful?”

“I’m not sure I have time for you to be anything else,” Mr. E. returned.

“I don’t think you can survive your burn injuries.”

Mr. E. paused for a minute and then replied, “Put me back in the helicopter. I like their odds better.”

L. Sue Booth

[EDITORS’ NOTE: Mr. E. holds the record for surviving the highest percentage of burns and for leaving the burn unit successfully. Today, he lives independently in his own home, drives his own car, and is helping to raise his three children. He volunteers to meet with burned victims and their families, and talks to occupational and physical therapy students, nurses, and doctors about the care and psyche of burned patients. ]

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