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Daily Archives: December 13, 2009

The Attack of the Killer Grits

I grew up in the South, Alabama to be exact, with things like fried green tomatoes, biscuits that melt in your mouth, catfish, turnip greens, okra, corn that grows far above your head, and of course grits. Grits are about as Southern as it gets. I liked them growing up but don’t care so much for them anymore. Not sure why that is, it just is.

No one is sure where grits originated but it’s likely that the early settlers in the Jamestown, Virginia area were exposed to “Rockahominie” by the Indians. Rockahominie was softened maize mixed with salt and animal fat. Grits probably descended from this and quickly became a staple among the settlers. Grits helped many Southerners get through the Civil War and the Great Depression. Corn was one of the few things that was plentiful and grits served as a cheap food source during these trying times.

I can still take you to many places throughout the South where old grist mills remain. Some used horsepower to turn the stones that ground the corn while others employed a waterwheel powered by a river, stream, or creek. People would bring their corn to the miller, who would grind it for them, often keeping a portion for himself in payment.

That brings us to the case of Carolyn Brown. She found a new use for grits. A method of getting even. Seems that her boyfriend, who has yet to be named, came home from work and an argument broke out. He told her that he was leaving her but then went to bed to catch a few winks. Probably not a great idea. Carolyn apparently fired up the stove and boiled up a mess of grits, which she then dumped on her sleeping boyfriend. He suffered second-degree burns on his face and arms.

Depending upon who you talk to, burns (thermal injuries) come in either 3 or 4 degrees. A first degree burn is a minor irritation and reddening of the skin such as a sunburn. A second-degree burn is one where the skin is damaged more severely and blistering and some skin loss occurs. A severe sunburn can do this as well as touching a hot stove or spilling an acid on your arm. A third-degree burn reaches deeper into the skin, damaging the lower dermal layers, the area where skin regeneration takes place. For this reason, burns of this magnitude cannot repair themselves as the more minor ones do. The skin will not regenerate and scar formation is the norm. These types of injuries typically require skin grafting. A fourth-degree burn is one where deeper tissues such as muscles and tendons are also damaged and to repair these requires even more extensive surgery.

First and second degree burns typically heal without problems and with little medical intervention. Third degree burns require grafting, extensive antibiotic therapy, and luck. The mortality rate in this type of burn can be quite high. If such injuries cover over 50% of the body, an extremely high mortality rate, mostly due to secondary infections, will follow. The skin protects us from infections and when it is removed by whatever means infection becomes a serious concern. For someone with this type of burn over 75% or more of their body, the mortality rate can approach 90%. Burns are not something to be trifled with.

The victim of this attack was lucky. Grits tend to be very sticky and pasty and are not easily removed. They glom onto the skin and hold the heat inside. Sort of like the cheese on that pizza you had last night. As it was, he suffered second-degree burns, but it could have been worse.

Grits go with many things but a domestic dispute isn’t one of them.

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2009 in Interesting Cases, Medical Issues, Trauma

 
 
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