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NYE Celebrations Turn Deadly for One Texas Nurse


All seemed well on New Year’s Eve in Laurel Oaks, a neighborhood just outside of Houston. 61-year-old Philippa “Phil” Ashford was celebrating with her family and setting off fireworks near their home until things took a deadly turn. Ashford, a nurse manager at Menninger Clinic, a Houston-area addiction treatment center, quickly fell to the ground when her neck was struck by a stray bullet. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Local authorities believe the bullet may have come from outside the immediate area. Gunshots were heard throughout the Laurel Oaks neighborhood on the night of December 31st. The bullet seems to have hit Ashford by chance, turning this celebratory event into a somber affair.

Everyone deserves to have a happy New Year celebration. Learn how to celebrate the holidays responsibly with the following safety tips.

Who Was Philippa Ashford?

Working in a local addiction treatment center, Ashford was known for going above and beyond for her patients. She spent her life helping vulnerable individuals overcome addiction on the road to recovery. She worked at Menninger Clinic for over 12 years, which offers mental health counseling and substance use detoxification services to adults. According to officials from the clinic, she specialized in community integration and motivational interviewing.

Ashford did more than just show up to work. She routinely brought out the best in her patients, which won her the Texas Nurses Association District 9 Top 25 Outstanding Nurses Award in 2015. She was also a member of the Sigma Theta Tau Nursing Honor Society and the sorority Zeta Phi Beta.

Ashford’s death marks a tragic start to 2020 and a major loss for the Houston community. Shortly after the news of her death broke, Armando Colombo, the president and CEO of Menninger Clinic, released a statement commemorating Ashford and her contributions to the larger community. “Menninger will hold a memorial service to honor Philippa, whose loss as a talented professional and friend will be felt by all of us here at Menninger and across our local mental health community.”

When Holiday Celebrations Spiral Out of Control

Unfortunately, injuries and fatalities are not uncommon around this time of year. According to the National Safety Council, holiday safety should be a top concern from late November to mid-January. Individuals tend to eat, drink and travel more around the holidays than any other time of the year, which can lead to a number of potentially deadly incidents, including trips, falls, automobile accidents, house fires, and accidental explosions. In 2017, 329 people died on New Year’s Day, 463 on Thanksgiving Day, and 299 on Christmas Day.

We’re not finished with the holidays just yet, which means we could see a few more mishaps in the weeks ahead. As a healthcare provider, talk to your patients about why it’s important to celebrate the holidays responsibly.

Share these tips with your patients, so they don’t end up in the emergency room around the holidays:

  • Use moderation when indulging in alcohol and other substances that may affect your state of mind.
  • Get plenty of sleep and stay hydrated to stay alert.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to travel over the holidays, reduce your speed, and use caution on snowy, icy roads.
  • Do not shoot firearms when under the influence of alcohol or in the vicinity of other individuals.
  • Practice proper safety when operating a motor vehicle, buckle up, and put away your cell phone.
  • Decorate your home with fire-resistant materials.
  • Replace lights that have broken sockets and missing parts to avoid starting a fire.
  • Do not overwhelm electrical outlets with too many appliances and lights.
  • Move decorations away from potential fire hazards, such as radiators, space heaters, and other appliances.
  • Keep candles out of reach of children and store them up high where they won’t get knocked over.
  • Inspect your chimney and fireplace before starting a fire.
  • Do not burn wreaths, trees, or decorations in your fireplace.
  • Avoid consuming raw meat or eggs.
  • Wash your hands frequently to avoid contamination.
  • Refrigerate hot or cold food within two hours of serving.

There are bound to be plenty of accidents and emergencies around the holidays. As a care provider, you’ll likely have your work cut out for you as patients start filling up the waiting area.

Our heart goes out to Ashford’s family. This terrible tragedy could have been avoided with adherence to proper safety practices by others. Keep these tips in mind to celebrate the holidays responsibly.


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