I get schooled.

I gave a sheepish wave as I stood beside Muddy at the top of the hill and watched Tim’s parents, Dr. Holmes and Mrs. Holmes start up the road towards us.

“Hey Muddy. Would you mind introducing me to Tim’s parents please?” I asked as I glanced at him sideways. I noticed his pasted on smile started to sag as the guests approached.

“Do I have to? I was kinda thinking of making a run for it and hiding in storage box on the party boat.”

“Is there room for two?”

“Nope. You would be on your own.” Muddy told me. I gave a fake little chuckle as I looked at him.

“Well Muddy. That’s pretty shady of you. In that case, I really must insist that you stay and face the music with me.”

“Fine…” Muddy grumbled as the foursome neared us.

“Good morning Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell. Welcome back to Camp Acorn! May I introduce you to Anne. She is our camp nurse.” Muddy said as I extended my hand to shake.

“Nice to meet you.” I said as I shook their hands. “Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell, I wonder if you have ever met Dr. and Mrs. Holmes?” Pleasantries were exchanged amongst the group.

“It’s actually good timing that you have arrived together. I was wanting a doctor to look at Tim’s eye.”

“What happened to his eye?” Mrs. Maxwell asked me quickly.

“It seems he got some bug spray in it. I have had him down at the eye wash station in the Arts ‘n Crafts building. Would you mind taking a peek at it, Dr. Holmes?”

“By all means. Show us the way.”

“Honey?” Mrs. Holmes touched Dr. Holmes arm. “I will meet you at mass. I promise to save you a seat.” She winked and started towards the main house.

Muddy led the way with the Maxwells following him closely. Dr. Holmes and I stayed a little further back.

“I didn’t see his eye until this morning. It looks horrible.” I whispered. Dr. Holmes stopped and turned to me. I stopped too.

“OK.” Dr. Holmes responded in a business-like manner. “When did it happen?”

“Last night.” I said. Dr. Holmes took in a breath.

“And how did it happen?”

“During a bug spray fight, Tim managed to spray it into his eye. It was a ‘contraband’ can of aerosol spray.”

“I see. Aerosol and likely at close range.”

“Yes…” I whispered back as my breakfast rolled in my stomach. The guilt I felt was substantial.

“And why the delay in assessing him?”

“My fault. I didn’t get all the details so I was not aware of the seriousness, I was distracted with removing glass from another camper’s foot, and then forgot about it entirely.” I fessed up. Dr. Holmes nodded.

“Fair enough. From what you are telling me this is an opthalmologic emergency. Serious damage results from the alkaline compounds that are in bug spray. Alkali injuries are, frankly, worse than acids. The fact that it was delivered at high pressures from an aerosol can makes it even more concerning. Immediate and prolonged irrigation, followed by aggressive early management is key with these injuries and we have missed that window of opportunity.”  Dr. Holmes said he looked at me with grim intensity. This blast of information felt like a slap across my face.

“I…I had no idea. I am so incredibly sorry.” I bumbled. My lip trembled and I felt my eyes sting as they threatened tears.

“I know you are, Anne. Let’s assess the damage. I will have the parents take Tim to the ER for treatment. I will call ahead and have our opthalmologist meet them there.” Dr. Holmes gave me a quick nod. I nodded slowly back at him. He patted my shoulder. “Let’s go quickly.”

When we entered the Arts ‘n Crafts room. Muddy and Joe were sitting at the craft table watching the interaction. The Maxwells were talking to Tim. Tim had finished his breakfast and, thankfully, had the eye patch on. Dr. Holmes briskly strode into the room and over to Tim.

“Hi Tim. I’m Dr. Holmes. I want to tale a look at your eye.” He smiled, shook Tim’s hand and then he pulled a wooden stool over directly in front of Tim. Dr. Holmes went to the sink where he washed his hands. Then he sat down on the stool. Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell gathered behind Dr. Holmes so they could get a good look too. My pulse quickened and tiny beads of sweat broke out across my forehead. This would not be good.

…oh dear…

Dr. Holmes gently pulled the tape and eye patch off and exposed Tim’s eye. Mr. Maxwell winced. Mrs. Maxwell’s facial expression went from one of concern to barely veiled horror as her mouth dropped open. I wished the floor could swallow me up.


“OK. Looks like you have done a fine job with the irrigation, Tim.” Dr. Holmes said in a calm and reassuring manner. With this, Mrs. Maxwell closed her mouth.

Dr. Holmes gently pulled on the lower lid, then the upper lid and directed Tim to look up and down and here and there. While he examined him, Dr. Holmes questioned Tim. During this interview he asked when and how it had happened. As Tim described the bug spray war his parents shook their heads in incredulity. Dr. Holmes asked what had been done to treat his eye, what made the pain better, what made it worse. Tim told him about the hour bent over the eye wash station last evening, again this morning, and his rough night.  Dr. Holmes asked all the questions I should have asked Tim…ten hours prior. The questions regarding the circumstances and the mechanism of injury are, obviously, important and guide treatment. These are the questions that I had failed to ask. Derp.

“Alright Tim. I would like an eye doctor to see you and recommend treatment. The best way to do this would be to go the the emergency room. They can irrigate your eye more too with a special contact lens that is connected to sterile fluids.” Dr. Holmes put a hand on his shoulder. “And my additional recommendation is that you never engage in a bug spray war again.” Dr. Holmes got up and went back to the sink to wash his hands.

Eye irrigation

“What in God’s name were you thinking, son?” Mr. Maxwell chastised Tim as he crossed his arms across his chest. Tim grimaced.

“I guess I wasn’t, Dad.” Tim said as he rose from his seat.

“You’re not kidding. Let’s go.” Mr. Maxwell marched towards the exit. Tim followed him with a hang-dog look.

“You could lose your vision, Tim!” Mrs. Maxwell berated Tim as they left. We could hear her as they continued up the stairs. “And to think you are a leader in training, Tim! Who in their right mind would hire a kid who brings an aerosol spray can to camp. It’s on the ‘Do not’ list, for Pete’s sake. A bug spray war? What the hell is that anyways? Boys! I will never understand boys.” Mrs. Maxwell stopped at the balcony and popped her head over it. “Thank you, everyone, for your help. We will call later and give you an update.”

“You’re welcome.” Dr. Holmes waved at her as she left. “Shall we go?” He looked at our gloomy little group. We all nodded.

Muddy and Joe gathered the breakfast plates up and we all left the Arts ‘n Crafts building. We could see the Maxwell’s car driving towards the exit. Just outside the main house was a small group of counselors in a circle. I realized Sammy was at the center of the circle. She was getting a warm welcome back.

“Sammy!” I cried out and ran to her. She broke out of the circle and I gave her a quick hug. “I’m so glad you are back. We missed you.”

“I missed camp like crazy!” Her grin was dazzling.

“Are you….feeling better?” I asked.

“Tons. Thanks.” Sammy gave me a knowing look and another quick hug. “I gotta go. Lots to do for Visitor’s Day. See you later.”

“OK girl!” I smiled at her as she ran off with the other counselors towards the main house. I watched her go. Dr. Holmes walked up beside me.

“A sick one? Should I take a look at her too?”

“She was sick…but it was self induced.”

“Oh. Let me guess. Hammered and hung over after her night out?”


“And…I will bet underage too.”



“Three days.”

“We all can learn from mistakes.”

“Agreed.” I said. Dr. Holmes looked at me. I smiled. He winked and patted my back.

“I think his eye will be OK, Anne.”

“Thank God.” I said with great relief.

“Have you ever heard of the Swiss cheese theory?” Dr. Holmes asked me.

“I just lived it.” I responded.











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