02 March 2009

You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow 
from flying over your head, but you can prevent 
them from building nests in your hair.”
  - ancient Chinese Proverb

I've just finished reading a story from the Evansville CourierPress. It's arguably the worst I've read in a very, very long time.

An 18-year-old tried to rid herself of head lice with gasoline, and ended up with severe burns over more than half her body. As she waited in the bathroom for the gasoline to kill the lice, the fumes built up, and the water heater pilot light ignited. The resulting flames seared her over most of her body. According to the report, she "suffered third-degree burns on her chest, arms and hands and first- and second-degree burns on her face and head. Doctors had to shave off her hair to peel off the burnt skin on her scalp, [...] and they already performed one surgery to bring her swelling down."

The 18-year-old is now in critical condition, so doctors have put her into a medically-induced coma so that they can work to save her without putting more stress on her system. It's not clear yet that she's going to survive this. Her roommate, fiance, and mother are keeping vigil over her.

However, it's not the burning or disfigurement that bother me about this story. It is hard for me to accept the fact that nobody could seem to do anything to prevent her collision course with horror. The roommate and the fiance agree on this point--she was determined to go through with the gasoline soak, even though they objected to it on the grounds it was dangerous, and there were other, safer methods for getting rid of lice.

Had she stood on the ledge of a window overlooking a street, or threatened to drink poison, would nobody have thought to call for help, in an effort to prevent her self-destruction? 

There are valid reasons for requesting help from officials in extreme cases--when a person shows suicidal tendencies, it's important to remember that their lives depend upon your sanity, reason, and rational thinking.

If somebody says they're going to do something you know is dangerous or reckless, and you don't use every means at your disposal to stop them, then by your inaction you are hurting them, too. Pay attention to the people you love, and help them stay safe. And if you can't do it alone, get help.

I'm sure that right now, Jessica Brooks' mother, fiance, and roommate are all in agreement with me.

Excuse me. I have to go check to be sure that nobody's fingers are reaching into our electrical outlets.


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