A 15-year-old boy was treated at an Ohio emergency room after accidentally inhaling a dart from a homemade blowgun. Several sites on the internet describe how to make the devices.
Teenage boys messing around with homemade blowguns are showing up in some emergency rooms after accidentally sucking the needle-tipped darts down their windpipes, doctors say.
No one knows how many mishaps may have occurred, but researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, say they got worried after seeing three 14- and 15-year-olds in three months with the devices stuck in their throats.
“I find it concerning that this is becoming an emerging hazard,” said Dr. Kris Jatana, an expert in removing foreign bodies from airways. “Typically we see these aspiration events in children younger than 4.”
The problem seems to spring from a proliferation of more than 20 Internet sites that describe how to make the guns from household objects like sewing needles and shoelaces, said Jatana, writing in the latest issue of the journal Pediatrics.
He and his colleagues treated the teen boys who came to the ER in 2011 complaining of coughing and wheezing for hours. At first, they didn’t want to admit they’d been messing around with blowguns, or that they’d accidentally inhaled the homemade darts.
“One of the children was very reluctant and didn’t disclose until later in the evaluation when we showed the X-ray,” Jatana said.
When they did talk, the boys said the same thing: Using online instructions, they made blowguns out of household items like window shade wands, ink pen cases, shoelaces and straight pins.
When they took a deep breath to shoot the blowguns, they inadvertently sucked the darts into their throats. The trouble is, the act of inhaling opens the vocal cords, raising the risk that the objects will be sucked down more deeply, Jatana said.
“These three teenagers were very fortunate to have good outcomes,” said Jatana, noting the darts were removed with bronchoscopes. “But it is potentially a very serious problem.”
The darts could have impaled the trachea or punctured the veins of the airways, he notes. They could have required open throat or chest surgery to remove.
A call to the American College of Emergency Physicians didn’t turn up concerns about the blowdarts, although a review of blowgun-related injuries in the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s database revealed at least two cases in the past five years.
There was a 9-year-old boy in December 2010 who swallowed a pin after inhaling a blow dart and a 14-year-old boy in June 2012 who did the same.
“I am certain there are more out there,” Jatara said.
It’s actually not that uncommon to swallow pins, needles or thumbtacks, Jatana said, because people often hold the objects in their mouths when their hands are busy and then accidentally inhale.
“I’ve taken those objects out of teenagers,” he said.
But he wants parents, doctors and teens themselves to be of the danger posed by blowguns, particularly when so many websites promote them.
“We’re obligated to educate the community on this type of hazard,” he said.
I had a dream last night. It was the kind that seems real right up to the point where you wake up.
Some things were strange about it…certain things were really strange about it, but it never occurred to me that it might not actually be happening. I’m still not prepared to say that it didn’t happen. I’m not spiritual and I don’t really understand stuff like that. I just feel like I’ve been somewhere and now I’m back, and I know something really happened when I woke up…and I think while I was asleep too.
I went to bed last night with a strange feeling. We all remember times when we felt like we were being watched, but this was more than that. I felt like there was someone there with me, but still I couldn’t keep from falling asleep.
I don’t exactly remember the beginning of the dream. The first thing I remember was starting at my house and walking. I was just walking down the road. All of my neighbors’ houses were gone. I was just on a long, empty road and there was no one around but me. I don’t remember what I had been doing at my house before, but I may have been there a while before I started walking. I just recall feeling a strong urge to walk.
I felt okay walking down that road. It was cold and dark and I felt a little lost, but I wasn’t afraid–not like I had been in my room.
I don’t know how long I was on that road. It felt like a long time. I mean like days long, but I never felt tired and I just wanted to keep walking.
The road changed after a while. It had been straight and nondescript the whole time, but eventually I reached a bend and then a fork in the road. When I reached the fork, I wasn’t alone anymore. A familiar voice called out to me from the side of the road.
“It’s good to see you,” the voice whispered. “I’m just sorry to see you here.”
I turned to face the voice, knowing who I would see. It was an old friend from my childhood–someone I haven’t seen in years. He looked just a little different from how I remembered him, but not by much. He was older than when I saw him last, obviously, but he seemed at least a few years younger than me somehow–even though we’re supposed to be the same age. He was also very pale. Unbelievably white, in fact, and he had deep circles around his eyes that were solid blue, as were his lips.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“I’m here to warn you,” he replied.
Naturally, I was all ears.
“There’s a man in your house right now,” he explained.
“What do you mean there’s someone in my house? I was just there…I think.”
I didn’t actually know how long ago I had been there. I wasn’t sure how long I had been walking.
“You don’t understand,” my friend stammered with apparent urgency. “He’s really in your house right now.”
I had no idea what he was talking about, but I was curious.
“Who is he?” I asked him.
“He’s the Cold Man. He comes to people at night when they’re afraid.”
The Cold Man? I’d never heard of anyone like that before. I wanted to know more, so I asked, ”What does he do?”
“He waits to be noticed, then he makes his move. You know that chill you feel on your back when something really scares you? That’s not just nerves. That’s him standing behind you.”
“What for?” I wondered. “What does he do once you notice him?”
My friend looked down and away. He wouldn’t answer that question.
“Just don’t let him in,” he cautioned.
“What do you mean?”
“He can be close forever,” my friend explained. “He’ll walk around your house at night and even stand in your room while you’re asleep…like he is in yours right now. He can know where you are. He can even be looking right at you, but he won’t find you unless you let him.”
“How does he find you? I mean, how do you ‘let him?’”
My friend looked to either side of the road like he was worried that someone might overhear. He leaned in very close and whispered, ”If you see him, if you hear him, or if you ever start to feel suddenly very cold…don’t move. Don’t talk to him. Don’t acknowledge him. Don’t ever let him in”
“I don’t understand,” I admitted. “How do I get rid of him?”
“You can’t,” my friend replied in a small, shuttering voice. “Look, I’m out of time.”
“‘Out of time?’” I repeated, not sure what he meant exactly.
My friend shook his head. His eyes were wide and he was shivering. Off in the distance I noticed a dark figure creeping up behind him, but something kept me from speaking.
“My time is up,” he stammered. “Just whatever you do, don’t let him in, and whatever you do…don’t answer it.”
Something pulled my friend into the darkness and suddenly I couldn’t see him anymore. Before I could follow after him though, I was startled awake by a loud noise. I was sitting in my room, fully dressed with my shoes on. I could swear I wasn’t dressed when I went to bed. My shoes and legs were covered in dust, my feet were sore, and I could hear a ringing noise right next to me. In the confusion of waking up from such a vivid dream, I didn’t immediately recognize it. I felt so cold.
Then, I looked down and saw my phone. That was the source of the ringing. Remembering my friend’s words, I didn’t answer it. Eventually, it stopped ringing.
The room was cold as ice. The feeling that I was being watched was as strong as it had been when I had fallen asleep. I could hear something moving inside my closet, but I dared not move. I just closed my eyes and waited. Eventually, I heard footsteps walking away, still from inside the closet. It was as if they were walking down some unseen hallway, though my closet is small and I couldn’t see anything unusual in there.
When the footsteps got far enough away, the cold lifted.
He didn’t get in this time. If my dream was true–if the thing in my closet was who I think it was–I must never let him in. I think he’ll be back tonight though. That’s when he’s supposed to come, as my friend told me.
I don’t know what happened to my friend, but I just hope people will remember his warning. If you start to feel cold while reading this, don’t be alarmed. If you hear something in your house, just ignore it. You can’t afford to let him find you. Don’t let the Cold Man in.