Making a New Year's pledge to stay safe

Maybe instead of deciding to hit the gym more often or give up snack foods, you should concentrate on not ending up in the emergency room in 2014.

Good morning, and let's be honest — your New Year's resolutions are probably only good for a week, maybe two.

Instead of trying to give up chips and salsa or joining a gym, you would be better off aiming not to be one of the millions who will land in emergency rooms in 2014 for entirely avoidable mishaps. And I just happen to have some pointers from ER doctors who have seen it all.

In November, after writing about federal judge and WWII veteran Harry Pregerson's continued good deeds for his fellow servicemen and women, I got a book in the mail from the judge's nephew, Dr. Brady Pregerson.

It's called "Think Twice: More Lessons From the ER," and it's a sequel to his book: "Don't Try This at Home."

"I was sewing up a friend who had cut his hand trying to clean out the inside of a wine glass," Pregerson said. "And I told him, 'I've seen this so many times, I should write a book on stupid stuff not to do."

Like cutting frozen food with a sharp knife (the blade will find your fingers).

Like tailgating (the ER is filled with drivers who thought they would be able to stop in time).

Pregerson, like any ER doctor, has seen plenty of tragic, unavoidable injury, illness and death in more than a decade of working at hospitals in Los Angeles and San Diego County. But emergency rooms also serve as 24-hour convention centers for Darwin Award candidates — those who spray cooking oil onto the open flame of a barbecue grill or decide to climb up on the roof to clean the rain gutters after a couple of beers.

"Eighty-five percent of what is in this book is common sense," Pregerson says in the foreword to "Think Twice."

Reading his pamphlet-size compendium, I was reminded of conversations with my buddy Dr. Mark Morocco, who's also an emergency room doctor in Los Angeles. He can't recall how many times he's seen patients with fingers chopped in a tell-tale way.

"So, you were cutting a bagel?" he'll ask.

Yeah, how'd you know?

Here's a no-brainer, in more ways than one: If you ride a bike, in a region with 40 billion or so cars, you should wear a helmet, right?

You'd think so, but a long line of knuckleheads missed that memo, and Morocco sees a few serious head injuries monthly.

Lately, Morocco said, there's been a run on infected piercings. He had one patient drop in with a tongue the size of an air mattress. He couldn't understand what she was saying, but the patient's friend was somehow able to translate the babbling when Morocco asked who had done the nice piercing job.

"A friend of a friend up on Sunset."

She would have been better off going to a tire shop.

Now that anyone who stubs a toe can get medical marijuana, Morocco sees patients who prescribed themselves a little too much medicine.

"They think they're having a stroke," he said, and have no idea what's wrong with them.

He will ask if they have had anything unusual to eat or drink, and patients have been known to say they took a bite of a marijuana-laced cookie "and didn't feel anything. So I ate six."

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