My Father-in-Law is a Superhero!

This has absolutely nothing to do with SharePoint, but I’d like to mention it anyway: My father-in-law is a superhero. Here’s the story. Before you move on, however, know that there is some pretty graphic descriptions here, so if you have a weak stomach, or even a strong stomach, you may want to skip to another blog post. 

On Monday, December 7, 2009, my father-in-law, Øyvind Johansen, was alone in his kitchen making donuts, or at least a fairly similar Norwegian thing called smultringer. Smultringer are cooked in hot oil, which is a dangerous thing, but Øyvind is a very good chef and extremely careful.

Before I tell the story, I’d like to tell you a bit about Øyvind. He is one of the toughest people I know, and he always does what is best for everyone else, as you will shortly learn. He is caring beyond belief and never asks anything for himself. He is one of those honest, hard-working, kind, and gentle people that far too few people are fortunate enough to know.

Now, for reasons you will realize shortly, the events that happened this day are not clear in detail. However, what we know is this.

At some point, the oil overheated without Øyvind noticing. Perhaps he had his back turned or was in the opposite part of the kitchen getting the raw dough for cooking. The hot oil burst into flames, and as hot oil usually do, it burned vigorously. From the fire damage we saw that it had to be an extremely hot fire.

Now, most people will then simply reach for the fire extinguisher or a fire blanket. For some reason, Øyvind was not able to do so. Perhaps the extinguisher, which was positioned just a few feet from the burning oil, was beyond reach, and he would have to run around the kitchen to reach it.

To make matters worse, the fan above the stove was pulling the flames up into the attic, increasing the chances of a full-blown fire.

I have no idea what went through Øyvind’s mind, but based on what I know of him, it might go something like this: “Hm… If the house burns down, we wont have any chance of celebrating Christmas here” So, without any kind of fear, but with a definite lack of rational thinking, he reached into the flames to get the pot with the burning oil away from the stove and also away from the fan.

Yeah, it’s real easy to say that it’s better to burn down a house than to risk your life trying to save Christmas, however, knowing what I know about Øyvind, that was never even once on his mind.

Somehow, and firefighters know this is difficult, he managed to put out the fire alone. At that point, the heat was so intense that the roof tiles had begin to boil. Quite literally, the tiles were boiling; we can see that from the damage to the roof. In addition, he had to do this while having third-degree burns on both of his arms up to the elbows in addition to first and second degree burns to his face and head. The pain must have been extreme, but at least the house was not ablaze.

This is where most people would be called heroes. After all, saving a house at the expense of extreme pain is a heroic act. However, that wasn’t enough for Øyvind. He probably thought that he was somehow to blame, so he wanted to clean up after himself.

Warning: This is where the graphic content begins.

First order of business, of course, is to call the insurance company, so with the melting skin dripping from his arms, he looked up the number for the insurance company and called them to say what had happened. He claims he didn’t use the computer to long on to the internet, and while that may be true, at least we know he sat in the chair in front of the computer because his oil-soaked foot-prints are all around that chair.

Then he went to begin the clean up, grabbing a bucket and a broomstick. He started filling it with water and pine-sol cleaner, and while doing so, tried getting some gloves on his hands, probably mostly to prevent the remainder of his skin contaminating the cleaning water. He didn’t succeed, however, as we saw when we looked at the water.

At that point, he decided that he might have to see a doctor, so he calls his wife, my mother-in-law, to tell her that he might have to take a drive. This was almost a full hour after he put out the fire, and he probably was in some kind of shock, because he was seriously contemplating driving to the hospital almost 20 minutes away. The fact that he, at this point, wore his skin lack a sack didn’t seem to bother him; he just didn’t want to be a burden to anyone.

My mother-in-law managed to convince him to at least let the neighbor drive, so he went over to them to ask for a ride. The neighbors later commented that ‘at least he had the sense to put a lot of skin cream on his wounds’ only to discover later that he had no cream on at all. You can probably figure out what that skin cream really was.

Øyvind was, of course, rushed into the hospital where he underwent treatment and surgery to save his arms. At present, we don’t know the fate of his arms, hands, or fingers, but at least he is alive, the house is saved, and it might be Christmas after all. He is awake and more or less back to his old, funny self, wearing bandages and plastic bags around his arms, and probably planning how he’s going to rebuild the kitchen himself, right after he is healthy enough to stand on his own.

What can we learn from this? Here’s what I learned. When, in the recipe, you reach the step where it says ‘Burn down your kitchen (optional)’, heed the ‘optional’. Oh, and don’t turn your back on heating oil either.

So Øyvind, next time, remember that you appear to be allergic to burning oil.


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Bjørn Furuknap

I previously did SharePoint. These days, I try new things to see where I can find the passion. If you have great ideas, cool projects, or is in general an awesome person, get in touch and we might find out together.

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