KENNEWICK, Wash. — The scars on a young Finley man’s leg and stomach will forever remind him of a fiery experiment gone wrong last week.
Randy Fishman, 18, was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after accidentally dousing himself in burning rubbing alcohol in his dorm room on the Washington State University Pullman campus, according to a WSU police report.
The River View High valedictorian suffered second- and third-degree burns on his right leg, stomach and left hand, and he cut his right arm in the accident.
He was released from the Seattle hospital Friday, returning to Finley to rest at his family’s home before heading back to school this week, he told the Herald.
Fishman, a pre-medicine student, was alone Nov. 1 in his dorm room late in the afternoon. Out of boredom, he held a flame from a lighter under a jar of isopropyl alcohol to watch it boil, he said. When nothing happened, Fishman held the flame above the rim of the open jar.
The fumes from the alcohol ignited, startling Fishman and splashing the burning liquid over his hand.
He dropped the jar, pouring burning alcohol over his legs and stomach and setting his shorts and shirt on fire too.
The flames didn’t penetrate his cargo shorts, but Fishman’s leg was on fire from 6 inches above the knee to below his ankle, he said.
He swatted at his leg and shirt, and struggled to get his burning shorts off. When he finally managed to remove them, he ran into the hallway in his underwear to get a fire extinguisher. His left hand still was on fire.
He broke the glass case holding the extinguisher with his right elbow, causing a gash. Once the burning clothes pile in his room was extinguished, he threw on another pair of shorts and stumbled down six flights of stairs to meet the emergency crew he had called.
A police officer later noticed “an imprint of fresh blood” on the staircase wall where he apparently had leaned as he made his way downstairs, said the report.
The teen barely remembers that part of his ordeal. He hardly could feel any pain until he was put in an ambulance.
“I had so much adrenaline that it really didn’t hurt that much,” Fishman said.
Once that wore off, “it was easily the worst pain I’ve had in my life,” he said.
Doctors in Seattle wrapped his legs and stomach with a new special material for burns, enabling him to go home after three nights at the hospital’s burn ward, he said.
Fishman asked doctors how bad his scars would be, but was told to focus on recuperating from the injuries first, he said. He doesn’t think the scarring will be disfiguring, but it certainly will be visible, he said.
And why did he hold a lighter to a flammable liquid in the first place?
“That’s something I’ll ask myself for the rest of my life,” Fishman said. “I don’t do stuff like that. I’m a smart kid.”
While valedictorian at River View last year, he was recognized as a Washington State Scholar and was supposed to get a $32,000 scholarship from the state before the budget crises reduced those scholarships.
He still received more than $30,000 in scholarships from other sources, including a $16,000 WSU Regents Scholar Award.
The fire caused no damage to the dorm, and Fishman said he didn’t get in trouble with the university.
“They just wanted to know that I’m OK,” he said.