December 2011 Archives

December 29, 2011

Smoke Detectors and Smoke Alarms Save Lives--but Too Many People Ignore Them

In our last blog post, we wrote about five family members who died of smoke inhalation during a house fire in Connecticut. The fire raged so quickly through the wooden house that investigators still do not know if there were smoke alarms in the house that alerted the occupants.

But consider this: if these fire investigators think that people could have died in a fire even though there might have been smoke detectors in the house, how can anyone think that they could escape a fire when they do NOT have working smoke alarms in their house? Smoke inhalation kills people so quickly that even one or two breaths of air contaminated with smoke and carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide can render a person unconscious, and cause them to die even if they are rescued before suffering any third degree burns.

Here is just one recent example of such a situation: A woman died from smoke inhalation in Washougal, Washington in large part because the smoke detector in her apartment had been disconnected. The 28-year-old woman's apartment caught fire not while she was asleep, but right in the middle of the day! And the fire was not very big--it was contained to an upper-floor apartment and did not spread to the lower floor, and was extinguished within a few minutes. But the woman was found unconscious in a bedroom, and there were no other occupants in the apartment. The Clark County Fire Marshal's Office said a few days later that there was not a working smoke detector in the apartment--it had been disconnected.

"It's tragic, that is for certain," said the property manager. "We've done our best to reassure the other residents that there are no structural problems in the building. It appears that this was an anomaly. As far as we know, there are no electrical, structural or mechanical problems with the unit that would be of concern to the other residents." In other words, this fire might have started from something as simple as a pot or pan left on the hot stove and then forgotten.

If this tragic story does not convince you to install smoke detectors near the kitchen and the bedrooms of your home, and also to check the batteries and the working status of these smoke alarms regularly, then you are simply risking your life and the lives of others who come through there.

Lastly, if you or someone you know does suffer a smoke inhalation injury or severe burns, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York 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.

December 27, 2011

Connecticut Home Fire Kills Five, and Offers Fire Safety and Smoke Inhalation Lessons

A Connecticut house fire killed three children and two grandparents on Christmas morning, and it was possibly sparked by one careless act: Still-hot fireplace ashes were placed outside in the yard, but too close to the house.

The ashes from the family's Christmas Eve yule log were probably still smoldering when they were removed from the fireplace and dumped outside the 100-year-old wooden home. The overnight wind seems to have blown the embers against the wooden building, sparking the Christmas morning blaze.

The head of household, a 47-year-old woman, and male companion were the only ones to escape the furious fire, which gutted the home in just minutes. A 10-year-old girl and her seven-year-old twin sisters died in the inferno, as did the children's grandparents, who were visiting for the holidays. "My whole life is in there," the homeowner sobbed as emergency responders led her away from the burning home.

As details of the fire emerged this week, it was reported that the grandfather tried in vain to save one of his granddaughters, but was overcome by smoke inhalation. "He had the little girl with him [when we found his body]," said a fire chief. The victims were all found on the second and third floors of the home, where the rising smoke quickly accumulated.

Also, the family was doing the renovation work on the house, and the lumber and other construction materials around the house might have helped spread the flames very quickly. And it has not yet been determined whether the house had working smoke detectors.

There are a few lessons that we can all learn from this tragedy:

1. Every house or apartment should have smoke alarms so that people have enough time to escape from a burning building.

2. Third degree burns are not what kills most people in a fire. Instead, it only takes a few breaths of poisonous, smoke-filled air to be overcome by smoke inhalation, making a person unconscious and thus unable to escape the fire. And because smoke rises, the victims in this house fire were probably overcome by smoke very quickly because they were on the upper floors of the house, where the smoke would collect the fastest.

3. All occupants of a home or apartment should know the exits that are nearest to their bedrooms--including windows that they can escape through. This way, they will not waste time looking for an exit during a fire.

4. It is best to crawl on the floor to escape from a smoke-filled room, because smoke rises--remember, the safest air to breathe is down near the ground.

5. When doing renovation work to a house or apartment, be careful when storing flammable materials such as fuel for machinery or lumber. They should be placed away from the building so they cannot cause a fire or make a fire even more dangerous.

If you or someone you know does suffer a severe burn injury or a smoke inhalation injury, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York 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.

December 23, 2011

Another Elderly Victim Who Found the Strength to Survive Her Severe Burns

A week ago, we wrote about a 70-year-old woman who fought through physical and psychological trauma she suffered from receiving third degree burns--and fought so well that she was able to walk again, and do many things on her own, even tough doctors never thought it would be possible.

Well, we have an even more unbelievable burn survivor story to share with you. Last month in the Morning Sun newspaper serving central Michigan, a writer chronicled the experience of Evelyn Clark, a 79-year-old who was burned in a gasoline fire in July 2011 and nearly died a few times since then. But Evelyn has recovered, and she spent what she calls "an extra special" Thanksgiving with her husband Jim, plus her children and her grandchildren at her home in Weidman, Michigan.

After being burned outside her home while pouring just a bit of gasoline in a barrel to start a controlled fire, Evelyn was rushed to at Spectrum Health Butterworth Campus in Grand Rapids. She suffered third degree burns on nearly 30 percent of her body, and then she developed pneumonia and another life-threatening condition while she was undergoing more than one skin graft.

Her daughter Colleen knew the burns were very bad when her mother declined pain medication--because her nerves were burned away, so she was feeling no pain. This is a very bad sign.

Evelyn does not remember much after arriving at Spectrum, where she was showered to remove dead skin. Then, donated skin was used to cover Evelyn's burns until skin grafts could be taken from her legs. "Thank goodness for people who are willing to donate organs, even skin," Colleen said. "The body rejects it but it serves its purpose [until the skin heals]."

Evelyn had burns on her right arm, chest and face. She was hospitalized for six weeks, and at one point was not expected to live because she contracted methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a bacterium that causes infections that are very hard to treat. Then, pneumonia set in.

Evelyn was put on a ventilator and taken to intensive care for five days. all throughout her hospital stay, though, Evelyn received not just the support of her family but also more than 150 cards from well-wishers, which is important for the psychological aspect of healing from burn wounds.

Fortunately, once Evelyn was placed on strong antibiotics, she started to recuperate and in a few days was out of intensive care and back in a room in the burn unit.

After spending several days in the hospital, physicians performed skin grafts, which were very painful, Evelyn said.

After being released from Spectrum, Evelyn spent 10 days at Masonic Pathways in Alma in rehabilitation. Once Evelyn went home, doctors told Colleen that Evelyn recovered because she is active and in good physical condition--and because she had people around her to keep her in a positive frame of mind.

Evelyn is thankful that she is still alive and that her family, friends, and local churches stood by her, and is thankful for all the prayers that were offered. She is now taking water aerobics classes and has become famous in the town.

If you or someone you know does suffer a severe burn injury or a smoke inhalation injury, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York 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.

December 21, 2011

Chemicals in Household Cleaners Can Cause Severe Burns, and Even Death

In Portland, Oregon last week, a 59-year-old man suffered severe chemical burns on more than half of his body, all because he tried to do something we all do at one time or another: He tried to clean stains from his clothing with a cleaning solution.

Cleaning chemicals have strong, dangerous odors that can overpower a person and make them unconscious quickly. What's more, the chemicals can also create severe burns when they come in contact with the skin. When using such cleaning chemicals, people should wear protective gear and work only in a well-ventilated area, or else risk suffering burns to the skin, eyes, or lungs.

The Portland man came home from his job working on a crane. He told his wife he was going to use chemicals in the bathtub try to clean grease stains from his coat. But when his wife came home a few hours later, she smelled an overwhelming odor similar to paint thinner. She then found her husband in the bathtub, with his clothes drenched in a solvent-based chemical. She called emergency medical personnel.

The paramedics arrived and carried the semi-conscious man to the front yard to start first aid. A fire crew also arrived and put the man in a hazardous-materials suit. The man had severe chemical burns on more than 70 percent of his body, and an ambulance took the man to the Oregon Burn Center.

Firefighters investigated the bathroom, which was small and not ventilated. They found a three-gallon bucket with only a little bit of solvent left. For a full 30 minutes, the firefighter used electric fans to clear the dangerous fumes from the house.

If you or someone you know does suffer a severe burn injury or a smoke inhalation injury, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York 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.

December 19, 2011

Gas Explosion Kills Man, Injures Six--Is There Negligence and Liability?

A few weeks ago, the Associated Press reported that an explosion in a home in Fairborn, Ohio killed a 75-year-old man and caused debris injuries and severe burns to six others, including four children. The blast was so powerful that it also significantly damaged neighboring homes.

Both the gas and water service were turned off inside the home so repair crews could work on the water line. But the house exploded when the crew apparently hit the gas pipe while doing their work. The explosion sent debris and the victims literally flying through the yard, and a neighbor reported seeing a baby with burns, and bloodied from being hit with flying glass.

That 1-year-old baby was in fair condition while a 5-year-old child was in good condition by the next morning, said a spokesman for Dayton Children's Medical Center. A third child, whose age wasn't available, was treated and released the same day. But a 13-year-old was transferred in critical condition to Shriner's Hospital for Children, one of about four hospitals in the country specializing in pediatric burns.

One neighbor told the local newspaper that the blast, which happened 100 yards from her home, felt like a car hitting the side of her house. Windows shattered on homes on both sides of the destroyed house, and debris could be seen a full block away. The neighbor said she saw the infant lying in the yard, and that some of the other victims were laying there too, and still on fire. "It was like a movie scene. You see a huge fireball and you see people come out of it on fire. It was horrible."

Another neighbor told the newspaper that she was nearly struck by a flying piece of wood that came from the explosion. A few minutes later, she saw two adults running down the sidewalk carrying three bloodied children, so she offered to take the children while the adults returned to the scene. "Medics told me to keep them awake because they had head injuries, so another woman and I sang to them," Corelli said. "And we didn't let the kids look back. It was still on fire and there was a lot of blood."

A spokesperson for Vectren Corp., the company doing the repairs, said it hadn't yet been confirmed that there was a gas leak, but that the company would conduct its own investigation into the cause of the explosion. The injured people might file a lawsuit against Vectren and other parties, claiming that they committed negligence which resulted in their severe burns and other injuries.

If you or someone you know does suffer a severe burn injury or a smoke inhalation injury, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York 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.

December 14, 2011

A Burn Survivor's Story Shows That Even the Most Severe Burns Can Be Overcome


In mid-November, at story in the Gaston Gazette from North Carolina covered the long, very painful, but ultimately successful recovery of Lucille Camp. Lucille is a 70-year-old woman who found the inner strength to survive and even modestly recover from third degree burns she suffered across half her body nearly three years ago.

Today, Lucille can stand from her wheelchair to take crutches and, with help from her daughter Sandy Johnson and nurse Judy Tate, slowly walk across a room. Johnson said her mother's fierce determination has kept her alive and improving since being caught in a house fire in January 2009. When that happened, Lucille was taken to the Wake Forest Burn Center in Winston-Salem, where doctors told the family that she wouldn't make it through the first 24 hours.

Lucille not only survived, but she has continued to amaze doctors with her small improvements over time. But her recovery has not been steady, and it is very trying not just physically but psychologically. The assistance of workers from Palliative Care Cleveland County, a local group, has been essential to Lucille's progress.

Palliative care services manage the pain, suffering, and stress of serious injury or illness, and the palliative care team works with a patient's own doctor to move the patient through the health-care system as the patient needs different treatments from different doctors and facilities

One problem Lucille's primary physician had was controlling her pain without making Lucille too sleepy or disoriented. The doctor asked the palliative care team to help with symptom management. Another set of eyes can help."

Lucille's daughters stay with their mother at night. During the day, nurses from Health and Home Services in Gastonia, NC take turns staying with Lucille. Their brother, Donnie Camp, keeps the house running by making repairs as needed, and Lucille's husband of 45 years, Claude, provides constant support and encouragement.

When Lucille has a physical problem, the palliative care team is a phone call away and makes a house call if necessary. And though Lucille sometimes doesn't like the doctor's orders, she complies after the doctor explains why it's necessary. For instance, the doctor said at one point that because Lucille had contracted pneumonia, she had to stop eating by mouth until she got stronger, or else risk choking on her food. Lucille had to be fed with an intravenous tube for several weeks, but eventually got back her ability to swallow safely.

"I have an open relationship with Lucille that has helped her to understand that I will not give her things that will make her unsafe," the doctor says.

Lucille knows that her doctors have helped her get stronger, and be able to live longer than many thought she would three years ago. "I have come a long way since I've got my doctor," Lucille said. "I thank God for all my nurses and my doctors and my family."

If you or someone you know does suffer a severe burn injury or a smoke inhalation injury, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York 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.

December 14, 2011

Steam Burns

Boiling water steam can cause steam burns. The burn can vary in severity from a minor to a major burn. It can be a first degree burn part I, II, second degree or a third degree burn part I, II. The temperature of boiling water steam is more than 100 degree centigrade (which is 212 degrees Fahrenheit) and pure steam is invisible, therefore the person can be in danger of a steam burn without being aware of it. Steam can be inhaled leading to airway burns that can have serious consequences and can end in the patient's death.

When a patient has a steam burn, it's important to assess the severity of the burn, a superficial steam burn can be treated at home see first degree burns part I, II. Major burns need medical attention.

Avoid the following:

  • Don't over cool the burned area as it may lead to shock.
  • Don't use ice to cool the burned area as it may cause further damage.
  • Don't use bandages that are adhesive as it may adhere to the burned skin.
  • Don't apply butter or oils to the burned area as it interferes with the healing process and can make the burn worse.
This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.
December 8, 2011

Flash Fire in Operating Room and Flash Fire in Science Class Cause Severe Burns

In Maple Grove, Minnesota, a 15-year-old boy is spending a few days in a burn unit at Hennepin County Medical Center after a flash explosion in a science class that burned him and three other Maple Grove Junior High School students. The three others were treated and released, but the boy, Dane Neuberger, is still in the hospital suffering from second-degree burns on his face and neck.

Neuberger said he was simply taking notes in class when suddenly, and from seemingly out of nowhere, he was on fire. Neuberger was sitting in the front row of class when his teacher asked the ninth-graders to turn their desks toward a lab table while he conducted experiments. They were learning about the flammable substance methanol. But the flame that was supposed to stay in the bottle and consume the methanol did not do so, the container exploded.

The flame from the container came in contact with some spilled methanol that was left on a lab table, which caught fire. This is the fire that hit Neuberger in the face, neck and hand. It also caught his shirt, which he ripped off while the teacher rushed to help him.

"I was on fire. The teacher wrapped me with a fireproof blanket," he recalled. "People were screaming and just ran out." another student said that "I saw a kid running down the hallway, he was burned, black, with no shirt, running and screaming."

Neuberger remembers that, "Immediately afterwards, I was in shock, so I didn't feel much. But when I was sitting in the nurse's office, the pain became unbearable-- it felt like I didn't have my lips."

Dr. Ryan Fey, a surgeon at HCMC's Burn Unit, affirmed the severity of Neuberger's wounds: "Burns like these are quite painful." But he offered some hope in saying that these burns may be able to heal without skin grafts and possibly without permanent burn scars. "If the wounds heal in about 10 days, then we'll know," Fey said. "Right now, we think the risk [of long-term scarring] is pretty minimal."

Both the school district and state fire marshal are investigating the incident, to determine the exact cause and whether the teacher committed negligence in fire safety precautions.

Another accidental flash fire took place recently in Crestview, Florida. There, a woman was undergoing minor surgery at a medical center to remove cysts from her head when a blaze suddenly erupted in the operating room, leaving the woman with severe burns to her face and neck.

Kim Grice, a 29-year-old mother of three from Holt, Florida, was unconscious during the incident, which was fortunate. She was immediately flown to a hospital with a burn center in Alabama. It was not clear what caused the flash fire. The woman's mother said that "Kim said to me, 'They woke me up and everyone around me was hysterical. I don't know what happened to me.'"

Perhaps because there will be an investigation into possible doctor negligence or nurse negligence in the operating room, or possible liability for a medical device maker that was in the operating room, "the doctors and the hospital are not telling us what happened," said the woman's uncle. "They did say they had never seen anything like it before, and they are terribly sorry that it happened."

A statement from the facility, the North Okaloosa Medical Center, read: "The hospital deeply regrets today's event in which a patient sustained burns during a procedure in our ambulatory surgery center. The staff took immediate steps to respond, including moving the patient to the hospital's emergency department. . .We are conducting a thorough review to fully understand what happened in a deliberate effort to prevent such an event from occurring again."

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

December 6, 2011

Severely Burned Boy Making Excellent Physical and Psychological Progress

There is an uplifting story on CNN.com today about a burn victim who is not only is healing physically from his burns, but also psychologically. Here's the proof: The boy, Youssif, was given a "certificate of citizenship" recently, which is an award for being exceptionally nice to a fellow classmate in school. Another boy got hurt, and Youssif helped the boy with his gashed arm by applying an ice pack and helping to stop the bleeding.

Youssif is proud of his award--and his family, his doctors, and his entire support system should all be proud as well. Four years ago, Youssif suffered third degree burns to his face--much of it melted, actually--during a battle among local sects in Iraq. But after dozens of surgeries in the United States, doctors have been able to reverse a lot of the horrible burn scars. Not only that, but Youssif is no longer the sad, quiet child he was in the few years after his burn injury.

Through extensive counseling with his family, he is now able to cope with the facial scars he still has from the attack, and he also has an upbeat attitude that's hard to believe. He says his looks no longer bother him, "because none of my other friends make fun of me," he says in English. His mother is so happy to see her boy like he was before he was burned. "His personality has changed so much," she told CNN.com. "The way he interacts with people, and everything else. It began as soon as he started school and realized that the children don't care about his appearance. It allowed him to have a normal life."

When CNN first aired Youssif's story in 2007, viewers around the world responded to the family's plea, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Children's Burn Foundation, a Los Angeles-based foundation that took on his case.

His mental recovery has by far outpaced his physical one. He still needs more surgeries. Treating Youssif has been challenging, his doctors say, because his skin tends not to heal well. His doctors want to slow down the pace of surgeries for now to determine how his burn scar tissue and skin will develop and change as he gets older.

He loves soccer and plays on a local team. "I never used to do that in my country," he says, "because it was kind of dangerous there." He loves the ocean, which he had never seen in Iraq.

And he wants to be a doctor so he can help others when he grows up.

If you or someone you know does suffer a severe burn injury or a smoke inhalation injury, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York 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.

December 1, 2011

Group Home and Nursing Home Fires Are Common--Is Your Relative Safe From Severe Burns and Smoke Inhalation?

On October 31 in the Chicago suburbs, a fire at a residential mental health facility early in the morning forced the evacuation of about 400 residents to a village community center, officials said.

A mattress fire, probably caused by cigarette smoking, broke out about 1 a.m. on the sixth floor of the Lydia Healthcare Center, a long-term care center in the south suburb of Robbins, Illinois. The building had to be closed because the fire sprinkler system was activated and the building then had to be cleaned. Most of the damage to the building was caused by smoke and water.

Three residents and one employee were taken to a local hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation, but none of the injuries were life-threatening. A representative of the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago said they were providing blankets and food for the displaced residents, and that they would be able to go back to the group home within a day or two.

This incident should be a lesson not only for those who live in group homes or nursing homes, but also for the families of people who live in such facilities.

Before a person is placed in a nursing home or group home, the family should make sure that:

--Fire exits are not blocked or locked
--There are fire extinguishers in several spots on each floor
--The sprinkler system on each floor is working and is also inspected regularly
--The facility staff is trained in proper evacuation procedures for residents.

Each of these tips can help save residents from a fast-moving fire or smoke condition that could cause confusion among residents and and then trap them, exposing them to the possibility of severe burns and deadly smoke inhalation.

If you or someone you know does suffer a severe burn injury or a smoke inhalation injury, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York 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.