October 2011 Archives

October 31, 2011

With Winter Approaching, Be Careful with Firewood and Other Heating Fuels to Avoid Severe Burns

It seems that winter has come early to the Northeast, and surely there are many people in that region who have already started using firewood and other sources of fuel to heat their homes.

However, it is very important to think and take precautions before using a fireplace or other heating unit, because it is very easy to have an accident that causes a small fire to grow out of control, and possibly cause severe burns or swift, deadly smoke inhalation because the fire is in an enclosed space--a den or some other room.

Here is just one recent example of a person being careless and causing a life-threatening situation: In mid-September in Brooklyn Park, Maryland, fire investigators determined that a man who was burned a few days before in the basement of his Brooklyn Park home had poured gasoline on wet wood inside his fireplace.

The 41-year-old man was attempting to light his fireplace, but the wood was too wet to ignite, said a local fire spokesman. But as the man poured gasoline on the wood to get it to burn, the gas erupted in a large flash (which is not unusual for gasoline) and engulfed and burned the man. He was taken to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Burn Center with both second degree burns and third degree burns across his legs. Fortunately, there was no damage to the house or injuries to any other people.

You simply must think about safety before using a fireplace for the first time this season, or a kerosene heating unit, or other heating units that require you to add fuel. Otherwise, you could end up with severe burns or poisonous smoke inhalation and suffer permanent physical damage.

If you or someone you know suffers a burn injury or a smoke inhalation injury, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, NY so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a solid legal case.

October 28, 2011

Burn Camps Help Burn Victims Cope With Their Scars--and Are Located in Every U.S. State

In our last post on Wednesday, October 26, we talked about the many services offered at the new Grossman Burn Center in Phoenix, Arizona. But once a burn victim is released from a burn center like Grossman, there are still many challenges to deal with for the rest of their lives. But burn survivors can gain the confidence to move forward in their lives with the help of burn camps. In fact, every state in the U.S. has a burn camp.

Here is one example: In August 2011 a 10-year-old named Elizabeth Watson attended a burn camp in Utah, and came home feeling energized and able to better handle the complications in her life. When Elizabeth was younger, she hated the burn scars that wrapped around her legs, arms, feet and part of her head, thinking that they were so ugly. But over time, Elizabeth learned that the burn scars suffered from a propane accident when she was just 5 months old do not define who she is or how she looks. They are simply, as she says, "a part of who I am."

Elizabeth attended the annual University Health Care Burn Camp at Camp Tracy in Mill Creek Canyon in Utah, along with 40 other young burn victims. They rode horses, went swimming, made music, and created arts and crafts over four days. All of this helped them build confidence that they can do whatever they want, and that their burn injury and scars won't hold them back..

"Burn survivors go through a lot of different phases in their healing. It's sometimes difficult for them to feel good about the way they look after suffering severe burns and to have positive self-esteem," said camp co-director Brad Wiggins, a clinical nurse coordinator at University Health Care Burn Center. "The camp's purpose is to facilitate interactions with other burn survivors and teach them how to move past their burn injuries."

Asked what her favorite activity was during these burn camps, 6-year-old Chloie Workman just smiled and said, "Everything." Chloie also got to talk with other people for the first time about her burn injuries, caused by an accident when she pulled a rice cooker onto herself. "I learned about other people and how they got their burns too," she said.

For kids under age 12, the paid for by the Professional Firefighters of Utah, the union that supports more than 15 municipal departments in the state. Firefighters also volunteer at the camp by becoming counselors, doing cleanup and cooking for the children. The Greater Salt Lake Council of the Boy Scouts also donates the use of Camp Tracy.

"In the past, firefighters have kind of lost track to what happens to [burn survivors], and what this burn camp gave us is a chance to follow up and see how well they're doing," said camp co-director Ron Fife, who also is a Salt Lake City fire division chief. "It's a great opportunity that firefighters have and something they really support."

Ten-year-old Elizabeth said she would just like to go to burn camp without having the scars. Yet she says she has accepted what happened and just wants to move forward. "I used to picture my life like it was put into a book," she said. "But then I realized that without my scars, I wouldn't know what my story was about."

If you or someone you know suffers a burn injury or a smoke inhalation injury, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, NY so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a solid legal case.

October 26, 2011

New Burn Center Opens in Phoenix, Arizona to Help Burn Victims Heal

In October 2011, Grossman Burn Centers announced the official opening of its new burn center in Phoenix, Arizona, at St. Luke's Medical Center. The eight-bed unit is the fifth Grossman Burn Center, and the second outside the state of California.

GBC Medical Director Dr. Peter H. Grossman commented that "It is a privilege to partner with St. Luke's Medical Center to bring additional state-of-the-art burn care services to Arizona. Our facility will complement Phoenix's existing burn center by making more beds available to Arizona's growing population, and by providing patients and referring physicians with more options for their burn treatment regimen. This is a very positive development for the Grossman Burn Centers, for St. Luke's, and for Arizona."

The Grossman Burn Center at St. Luke's Medical Center provides a comprehensive suite of burn care services, from acute and reconstructive burn care, to rehabilitation and post-treatment emotional and psychological support. The center is under the direction of GBC Medical Director, Dr. Peter H. Grossman. It is managed on a day-to-day basis by Dr. Robert Bonillas and Dr. Anthony Admire, and staffed by physicians on the medical staff at St. Luke's Medical Center trained in restorative burn care.

The Grossman Burn Centers have been involved in the treatment of second degree burns and third degree burns for four decades. GBC's approach to burn care focuses on more than just patient survival. Its surgeons and health care professionals seek to restore patients to as close to their pre-injury status as possible in terms of physical ability, cosmetic appearance, and emotionally.

Besides California and Arizona, the company also has a Louisiana burn center.

October 20, 2011

New Information on True Causes of Death from Smoke Inhalation: Hydrogen Cyanide Poisoning

On October 6, 2011, the Fire Smoke Coalition launched the first Smoke Inhalation Treatment Database for use by EMTs, first responders and medical professionals throughout the world.

In the United States, residential fires are the third leading cause of fatal injury and the fifth most common cause of unintentional injury death, yet the majority of fire-related fatalities are NOT caused by severe burns--they are cause by smoke inhalation.

Despite the amount of fires in the U.S. decreasing each year, the amount of civilians dying in fires is actually increasing. For example, in 2009, 1,348,500 fires were attended by public fire departments, a decrease of 7.1 percent from the year before; however, 3,010 civilian fire deaths occurred, which is an increase of 9.3 percent.

In fire smoke, hydrogen cyanide can be up to 35 times more toxic than carbon monoxide, an underappreciated risk that can cause severe injury or death within minutes. In a review of major fires over a 19-year period, cyanide was found at toxic or lethal levels in the blood of approximately 33 percent to 87 percent of fatalities.

While many fire department medical directors and physicians have altered treatment protocols to consider cyanide as a deadly poison in smoke inhalation patients, thousands still have not. Until cyanide is presumed to be responsible along with carbon monoxide, especially in victims removed from closed-space structure fires, people will continue to die of what is actually a complicated illness. It cannot be assumed that carbon monoxide is the only poison requiring treatment, or that it is the sole cause of death.

The Coalition is requesting all medical providers and physicians to enter data following treatment to smoke inhalation victims. Information collected will be available to all medical professionals, day or night, and will hopefully provide insight into "new" treatment practices that include consideration of an antidote for cyanide poisoning associated with smoke inhalation--more than just hyperbaric chamber therapy that forces high amounts of oxygen into a patient to cleanse the lungs of carbon monoxide. There are only two FDA approved cyanide antidotes in the United States--the Cyanokit®, also known as Hydroxocobalamin, is one of them.

In April, the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) passed a resolution noting that there is mounting proof, obtained through atmospheric monitoring on fire grounds throughout the U.S., that hydrogen cyanide (HCN) is a predominant toxicant found in fire smoke. The resolution calls for educating the fire service about the dangers of smoke inhalation--including those of HCN--through support of a national education program, the development of HCN poisoning treatment protocols for all local and state emergency medical services (EMS), and efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to establish a national database of smoke inhalation injuries, medical complications and deaths linked to HCN.

If you or someone you know suffers a burn injury or a smoke inhalation injury, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, NY so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a solid legal case.

October 18, 2011

Burn Injuries from Electric and Natural Gas Service in the Home Are Too Common

A few weeks ago in Kinston, NC, a utility worker was injured badly after 7,200 volts of electricity traveled through his body when he came in contact with an underground power wire. The worker, whose name was not released at press time, was working to fix a power outage when the incident happened. He was taken to the burn unit at UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill because he suffered second degree and third degree burns. One city official said the worker has second degree burns to his face and chest, and third degree burns to his arms and legs. The employee is a lineman who's been with the city for 25 years. He was working on an underground primary line in a ditch when he was shocked.

That same week in Lake Katrine, NY, a faulty propane gas line caused a home fire that severely burned an elderly couple. The fire left the unidentified woman hospitalized in critical condition at Jacobi Medical Center in New York City, with burns over 90 percent of her body. The man was taken to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla with burns on about 40 percent of his body. Neighbors trying to help the couple also suffered burns that required medical treatment.

Officials investigating the fire say it is likely that there was a leak in the line between an outdoor propane tank and the stove inside the home, which caused an explosion.

These two incidents are prime examples of how common elements within a home can be dangerous, and even deadly. Electric and gas service are things we take for granted, but we must never forget to be careful when dealing with them. Exposed wires, loose or ungrounded plug outlets, and plug outlets near water faucets are prime areas where someone can be badly burned--or have their heart stopped-- by electric shock. In fact, more people die from burns received by electric shock, rather than from a heart stoppage.

And anyone who lives in a home that uses propane or natural gas should always be aware of the smell the gas creates--if you can smell it even though it is not being used for cooking or heating at that moment, then you have detected a gas leak, which can cause an explosion from the smallest spark! So if you do smell gas, leave the house right away and call the local fire department to come and inspect the house.

If you or someone you know suffers a burn injury or a smoke inhalation injury, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, NY so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a solid legal case.

October 14, 2011

Burns and Smoke Inhalation from Kitchen Fires Can Be Deadly--and Preventable

In Las Vegas in early October, a casino employee was lucky to have survived after suffering smoke inhalation after a fire started inside his restaurant's grease duct.

Firefighters quickly doused the fire a little before 9 a.m. on a Sunday at the Wynn Las Vegas Resort, and damage was confined to a small mechanical room. And the local fire chief credited the design of the duct system for containing the fire. The Wynn resort is about 10 years old, so it has a very modern design that helps with fire prevention so that a small fire cannot spread easily and become a large fire that threatens any more lives.

On the other hand, many older restaurants around the country are not designed in the same way. As a result, they have a much higher chance of being engulfed in a rapidly-spreading fire if their grease ducts and air ducts are not cleaned regularly. Restaurant managers have an obligation to make sure this cleaning happens enough so that there is only a small chance of a grease fire growing out of control.

Here's another lesson to be learned from this story: Restaurant patrons should always locate the fire exits in a restaurant before they sit down at a table. Even a few seconds can make a difference between life and death when evacuating from a fire, so know where to go if a fire does break out.

Fortunately, once the fire was discovered in the back of the Stratta restaurant at Wynn Resort, employees evacuated customers from their breakfast tables, and also from the adjacent casino areas, while firefighters vented smoke through a hotel skylight.

Things do not always turn out so well with kitchen fires, though. In Kansas City recently, a restaurant employee turned out to be not as lucky as the one in Las Vegas. Now, he has finally come home from the hospital to continue healing after he suffered severe burns that came from hot grease.

Gary Cifuentes, 22 years old, almost never complained while in the hospital for over a month, receiving painful treatments for burns that covered more than 50 percent of his body. Doctors released him from the burn center at the University of Kansas Hospital in early October. "The truth of it," he said about his survival, "is that it has been a miracle."

In late August, the restaurant worker was critically burned by a vat of grease that spilled on him when a car slammed into the side of the restaurant he worked at in Olathe, KS.

Cifuentes spoke to media through an interpreter Friday just before his release to stay with family in Kansas City, KS. He spoke from a wheelchair, his arms and hands in special wraps. There will be many more painful dressing changes and trips to the hospital, but doctors expect him to make a full recovery. "They tell me to keep working hard and keep moving forward," he says. He also thanked God for being alive, thanked medical staff and thanked family and friends, who almost never left his side in the hospital. Kansas workers' compensation is paying for his care, but it is unclear whether the fund will cover all of the costs.

Again, the lesson here is this: Kitchens are among the most common places for people to suffer severe burns and smoke inhalation. Therefore, everyone should think ahead of time and take precautions when in the kitchen, to avoid being injured.

October 13, 2011

A Lesson Learned: Child Suffers Severe Burns in Starbucks Accident

In late September, a 13-month-old girl received severe burns from an accident at a Starbucks Coffee shop in Stuart, FL.

According to the local sheriff's office, witnesses saw the mother of Lourdes Marsh place the infant in a clip-on tabletop chair that had been manually attached to the table. The chair has no legs that touch the ground, and such a chair is meant for children who are about Lourdes' age. But for some reason, the weight of the child placed into the chair caused the table to fall over, sending a large cup of very hot coffee and another large cup of hot tea onto Lourdes.

Lourdes received second-degree burns to her face and upper torso. Witnesses said that skin was steaming, red, and coming off her body. A fire/rescue spokesman said the burns covered 20 percent of her body. For a child that small, 20 percent is a dangerously large portion of the body. What's more, blistering of the skin from burns is a dangerous situation--not only does it require immediate professional medical care, but it makes it possible that the child will have permanent scars. While the child was being taken by helicopter to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami as a precaution, she was alert, which was a positive sign. And after a few days, Lourdes was recovering at home, although the extent of any permanent scarring will not be know for some time.

It should be noted that Starbucks did not provide the infant seat to the Marsh family. The seat was brought into the Starbucks by Lourdes' mother. An alert was issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, warning parents about potential danger with these seats. So legal liability might rest with the maker of the child seat, although Starbucks could be named in the lawsuit as well, because the table was not able to hold a seat that is made specifically to attach to it. Also, the liquid in the two cups was so hot that it might have been an unreasonable danger.

If you or someone you know suffers a burn injury or a smoke inhalation injury, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, NY so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a solid legal case.

October 6, 2011

A Victim of Third Degree Burns Gets Support That Gives Her Hope--And Then She Gives Other Burn Victims Hope Too

An article back in July in the midwestern newspaper The Columbia Missourian told the heartwarming story of one woman coming to the aid of another woman who was the victim of third degree burns. This story also has lessons for anyone who kmnows someone who suffers severe burns.

Larisa Rudelson never knew Albina Lewis until she went to visit her in the burn unit at University Hospital in Columbia, MO. Both women are originally from Russia and now live in Columbia, so Rudelson understands that being away from one's home can be very lonely, especially in such a situation that Lewis found herself in.

On February 23, Lewis' apartment caught fire, and she could not escape in time to avoid being badly injured by severe burns. Her arms, hands, ears and one of her legs were damaged, but fortunately her face did not receive burns as serious as those on her extremities. These burn injuries kept her in University Hospital for more than four months, and recently she was moved to the St. John's Mercy Rehabilitation Hospital in St. Louis.

Surgeries and extended stays at both hospitals have left Lewis and her husband, Craig, with enormous medical bills. But through word-of-mouth, Rudelson heard about Lewis' accident a few months after it happened. Immediately struck by the fact that Lewis was from Russia, and without ever meeting her before, Rudelson wanted to help.

"I imagined that she is lonely over here, and I felt that I could help by showing support," Rudelson said at a recent benefit for Lewis that was held at Studio B Dance Center in Columbia. Rudelson began visiting Lewis at University Hospital during her free time, but their interactions were always one-sided--Lewis had to have an emergency tracheotomy which left her speechless.

Rudelson is also connected within the Russian community in Columbia. She spread the word of Lewis' situation and, soon thereafter, she was not the only Russian who visited Lewis in the burn unit. Russian priests came to visit her, and women from the Russian community gathered to host tea parties in her hospital room.

One of Lewis' nurses was impressed by the outpouring of support from a community that had never met Lewis before the accident. "They didn't just come once or twice. They were always coming by to let Albina know that there were people here for her, people that cared about her and were praying for her recovery," the nurse said.

The nurse also talked about support that she saw from Lewis' co-workers at ABC Labs. Although Lewis had only worked there for five months, the walls of her room at the burn unit were adorned with postcards and notes from her co-workers. "The postcards were just a nice reminder for Albina that people are thinking about her," the nurse said.

Monica Logan is one co-worker who keeps abreast of Lewis' progress. Logan also coordinated with Studio B Dance Center to set up a benefit to help offset some of Lewis' high medical bills. In hopes to attract patrons to the event, free beginner dance lessons were offered by one owner of Studio B Dance Center.

A varied mix of co-workers, members of the Russian community, nurses from the University Hospital burn unit ICU and complete strangers gathered to help support the cause. Besides a requested donation of $15 from the patrons, there was also a silent auction of more than 30 gifts. Most of the gifts were gift certificates for local restaurants. All of the proceeds from the event were directly contributed to a fund for Lewis.

Lewis is very determined to get her abilities back. Her husband sometimes wakes up next to her in the hospital to find her doing bicycle exercises to make her legs strong again. And though Lewis is still rehabilitating in St. Louis -- she had another surgery in July, and it might not be her last one--Logan said that Lewis' determination gives friends and co-workers hope.

October 4, 2011

Smoke Detectors Save Lives, but Too Many Homes Don't Have Them

In late September in the small town of Greenville, NC, a popular local restaurant owner died during a fire inside his house in the middle of the night. The man's two dogs also died in the fire. Unfortunately, it does not seem that this incident had to end up this way--smoke detectors just might have saved the man's life.

Derek Oliviero was just 27 years old--young enough to be able to run from the house and avoid severe burns if he had become aware of the fire. But he died of smoke inhalation when his home stared burning because a faulty electrical outlet in the kitchen malfunctioned while he was asleep. Firefighter found the man in the house around 3 a.m. but he was unresponsive. They tried to revive him, but their efforts failed.

Neighbors witnessed the incident. "It took a long time to get him out of the house. It was really scary," said one of them.

Here is another recent story that shows just how important smoke detectors are for saving lives when fire breaks out while people are asleep. In Fort Edward, NY, a family of four was able to escape without serious harm after their home caught fire early on a Sunday morning in early October.

Two members of the family suffered only minor smoke inhalation as they fled from the house at 12:30 a.m. The local fire chief said that two parents and two young children lived in the home, and that the father was awakened by a smoke detector. He then alerted the rest of the family after discovering a fire on the first floor.

The family climbed out a second-story window onto a porch roof, and then jumped from the roof to the ground as the fire quickly spread. "The smoke alarms saved their lives," the chief said. "When we got there, fire was coming out all of the windows."

The chief said the incident served as a good reminder for people to check their smoke detectors as the heating season begins. "They're alive because of the smoke alarms," he said.

Lastly, keep in mind that smoke detectors should be in more places than just the home. Here's an example why: In late September, eleven elementary-school-aged children suffered smoke inhalation on a school bus outside Boston.

Boston police said that a possible engine malfunction caused smoke to build inside the school bus. All were reported to have minor injury from the smoke inhalation, and they were transported to local hospitals as a precaution.

In such a case, there might be legal liability on the part of the owners of the bus because of the injuries suffered by the children. Smoke inhalation can happen very quickly, and is dangerous because of the poison gases contained in the smoke. Even 5 or 10 seconds of inhaling smoke might require hyperbaric oxygen therapy to force fresh oxygen into the lungs and save the patient from death.

If you or someone you know suffers a burn injury or smoke inhalation injury, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, NY so that the personal injury attorneys in the firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if you have a solid legal case.