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.

September 29, 2011

Burn Camps Provide Support for Burn Victims That Lasts a Lifetime

Over this past summer in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a celebration for guests at the Great Lakes Burn Camp showed the huge amount of camaraderie shared by victims of severe burns and their families. This was the 17th annual camp, which lasts six days and is set alongside a beautiful lake.

Mike Longenecker, camp director and one of about 90 staff members and counselors overseeing this year's 52 campers, said that it is very moving to see the joy this burn camp gives so many kids. "You've got to remember that these are kids with burn (scars) and they're at an age where peers put image and looks under a microscope," he said. "Burn camp gives these kids a week where they can look any way they want without having to worry [about exposing their scars], and be themselves." Even with a skin graft to repair damaged skin, burn victims rarely look the same as before they were burned, so the psychological effects of burns are almost as serious as the physical effects.

Longenecker said he's missed wedding anniversaries and his wife's birthdays to run the burn camp, but he adds that she knew when they married that the annual camp visit means so much to him.

A carnival-like atmosphere on the first morning included food and attractions that set the tone for the campers, who are between the ages of 5 and 17 years. This burn camp starts with parade of cars, motorcycles and trucks. In fact, forty-one fire trucks from 38 departments in a six-county region gave the campers a ride to the lake. There were also 175 motorcyclists, who paid a fee to participate, with proceeds going toward the $600-per-person expense to send a child to camp. Also, there was a series of ambulances. In all the parade was so large that it took almost seven minutes to pass by each intersection. Hundreds of spectators lined the route to wave to the volunteers and campers.

Lauren Chisholm and Hannah Summersett, two burn victims, chanted and used hand gestures to relay their excitement to the crowd as they passed by. "I was going bonkers all week waiting for this day to get here," shouted Summersett during the parade. Chisholm added that she starts her countdown to the August camp on January 1 of every year, and "today, the number of days is finally at zero."

One parade watcher, Windee Wagner, said her son attends a camp for young people who have diabetes, so she knows the bond that the camp experience creates. "We've been coming to this parade for five years, and it always brings tears to my eyes. You see the smiles on their faces and it just makes you want to reach out and hug them and tell them to always be strong," she said. "I like that my son and daughter can see that just because these children are burn victims, it doesn't mean they're not kids, too. They're no different."

Harold Garnaat, a 63-year-old local resident, dyed his hair three colors to help raise funds for Great Lakes Burn Camp. He said the publicity generated from accepting that dare was well worth it. "A guy I knew from years ago flagged me over and asked me for a pen. Then he wrote a check for $1,000 to the camp and told me to keep up the good work," Garnaat said.

For more information on children's burn camps, click here. And If you or someone you know suffers a burn injury of any type, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, NY so that they can determine whether another party is legally liable for your injuries, and if you have a solid legal case.

September 28, 2011

Abandoned Homes Pose Risks for Fires and Severe Burns

One weekday last month in Portland, Oregon, a boarded-up, vacant home burned down in the southeast section of town. Firefighters responded to the home just before 4 p.m. on a Monday to find the house, located at the end of a road, in flames. To minimize the risk of injury, the firefighters went on the defensive and were able to take control of the flames within 10 minutes, said the fire & rescue battalion chief.

Neighbors told firefighters there had been an increase in transient activity at this home and at another abandoned home nearby. Authorities have not yet determined the cause of the fire, but estimated that the house suffered about $10,000 in damage.

By itself, this incident is not much news to report on. But consider this: It's just the latest in a string of fires in abandoned homes, not just in the Portland area but nationwide as well. For instance, there were four fires in abandoned homes in just two months in Flint, Michigan--all on the same block. And with the number of home foreclosures sure to be high for the foreseeable future, these types of fires are not going to lessen unless precautions are taken by those responsible for the house.

"Firefighters are encountering more and more calls involving homes that are vacant and boarded, especially in certain parts of town," said a Portland fire department spokesperson. "Because of this, our fire crews are keeping an extra close watch over abandoned homes that may be at risk for becoming attractive nuisances."

In fact, these homes are magnets for kids to play around in, and sometimes even start a fire in. While they often see no harm in such behavior within an "abandoned" home, they are playing a dangerous game that can result in third degree burns for themselves or for their friends who are with them.

If you are the most recent owner of a home that is no longer occupied, you must be wary of your potential legal liability for severe burn injuries or other types of injuries inflicted on someone inside the house--even if you were not the direct cause of the fire or burn injury, or even present at the time.

Here are some legal details: Landowners are not obligated to protect trespassers who enter their property without permission. But if a landowner knows -- or should know -- that there are frequent trespassers on his/her property, he or she will be liable for any injuries caused by an unsafe condition on the property if:

- the condition is one the owner created or maintained;
- the condition was likely to cause death or serious bodily harm;
- the condition was such that the owner had reason to believe trespassers would not discover it;
- the owner failed to exercise reasonable care to warn trespassers of the condition and the risk presented.

Furthermore, a different standard of liability applies where the trespassers are children. When children move onto a property without authorization, property owners have a duty to ensure that the property is safe. The reason for this exception is that children tend to be naive regarding dangers on a property, and in fact could be lured to dangerous conditions; such conditions are referred to as attractive nuisances. Therefore, a property owner has a duty to inspect his/her property to see if there are any potentially dangerous conditions that might attract children and, if there are, act immediately to correct the unsafe condition(s).

If you or someone you know suffers a burn injury of any type, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, NY so that they can determine whether another party is legally liable for your injuries, and if you have a solid legal case.

September 22, 2011

A Burn Victim Now Helps Others Overcome Their Severe Burns

There was a terrific article written for the Associated Press this past week about burn survivors and their path to living normally again. Here is part of that article:

Three dozen hotel housekeepers are focused on 62-year-old Sharon Everett. She's helping lead sensitivity training at the Hyatt Regency Cincinnati in advance of the Phoenix Society's annual World Burn Congress held each year in late September. It will be hosted by Shriners Hospital for Children - Cincinnati, and is being held in this city for the first time.

She's come to prepare the hotel staff for a conference that will draw hundreds of burn survivors from around the country, as well as family members, burn care professionals and firefighters. She also will tell her story.

On July 9, 2000 Sharon was returning home from the grocery store. Her shopping bags sat on the floorboard behind the driver's seat, and included chemical products for the family's pool.

But as she pulled into the driveway, the car's interior suddenly burst into flames. Fire officials said the blaze ignited when the pool chemicals leaked and mixed with other grocery products. Her husband George said "I thought I lost her. I thought she was gone." Doctors thought so, too, at first, saying she had almost no chance to survive. Sharon had suffered third degree burns across 60 percent of her body. Her head and face were most severely burned. Her nose, lips, eyelids, ears and hair were gone.

Sharon remembers nothing of the fire. She was placed in a drug-induced coma for five months so skin grafts could take. "Her body had to work so hard to heal," says her daughter Patty, the youngest of the Everetts' five children. The family lost track of the number of surgeries Sharon endured.

After nine months in the hospital and a rehab center, Sharon came home, and the responsibility to provide burn injury care at home fell on her family. They changed gauze dressings, massaged burn scar tissue, and put on compression garments to reduce scarring.

"We took turns breaking down," says oldest child Katie, now 40 years old, who quit her teaching job to help care for her mother. "So when one person was feeling down, somebody else was always there to pick us up. And Mom was always the perfect patient. She was never complaining."

Sharon, who had to relearn tasks like how to feed herself, was bolstered by her family. "It's kind of like I had to live up to their expectations," she says. "It was the strength in them that helped me do it."

The Everetts say they were lucky to have the support of their family, community and church. Because of the generosity of others, they didn't have to make a meal for about a year after the accident. Still, "you feel so helpless," Katie says, "like you're the only ones who've ever been through this traumatic injury."

Katie searched the Internet and found the Phoenix Society, a Grand Rapids, MI-based burn support organization. The society's 2001 World Burn Congress was in Grand Rapids. At Katie's urging, the family rented a large van and headed north, less than a year after the accident.

"I was anxious about going," Sharon says, "because I didn't know what to expect. I was also excited about going. I knew we would learn something."

They met "so many people who had been through similar injuries, which was hard to believe," Katie says. "They were surviving, and thriving, and having a good life."

Says Sharon: "It was amazing to see people and what they had accomplished, and to see them having a good time. Laughing. Dancing."

She hasn't missed a conference since. She and George and various family members have traveled to Vancouver, Sacramento, Phoenix, New York and other cities.

The Everetts say the conference is like a family reunion where people share stories. "When you hear a story, it's not only healing for the person telling it," George says, "it's also healing for those that are listening, because a lot of them have been through similar circumstances."

The burn conferences have helped Sharon meet other challenges. She's no longer uncomfortable when going out to restaurants and shops. She's no longer preoccupied with people staring at her.

She's still bothered, though, when a child sees her and is visibly upset. She doesn't like it when an inquisitive child is quieted by a parent. "I would rather people ask than wonder. Especially children. I make my answer very simple - 'I was burned, but I'm fine now.' I don't want them to worry about me."

She acknowledges sometimes feeling discouraged. Recovery, she has learned, is a lifelong process. "I have to look at this face in the mirror every day," she says. "Most days, that's fine, I can deal with it. But there are days I get down."

But she knows that nobody goes through life unscarred, whether emotionally or physically. She tells other survivors: "You're going to have a bad day. Don't let that become your way of life. You'll get past it. Your life may be changed, but it's not over. And in some ways, it's going to be better than it was before."

Eleven years after the fire, Sharon volunteers weekly at the hospital's burn clinic, where she visits patients that need someone to talk to. She also volunteers at her church and does gardening and takes takes dance lessons. And "I'm really enjoying my grandchildren," she says.

If you or someone you know suffers a burn injury of any type, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, NY so that they can determine whether another party is legally liable for your injuries, and if you have a solid legal case.

September 20, 2011

Man Suffers Third Degree Burns After Dust Explostion in Factory

On September 13, 2011, a 46-year-old man working at an alloy plant in Ottawa, Canada, was rushed to a hospital with second degree burns and third degree burns over 30 percent of his body, after being caught in a dust explosion and fire.

Local firefighters evacuated a warehouse at Masterloy Products Co. following an explosion that occurred in the plant's dust collection unit, near a door. A burnt-out forklift was located next to the door at the time of the first explosion, and could have been the source of a second explosion. While a hazardous materials unit was dispatched to the blaze, no toxins were found at the site, which is fortunate for other workers who possibly were exposed to smoke inhalation.

The injured worker suffered second degree burns on his torso and third degree burns on his legs and back, said a paramedic team spokeswoman. He was taken to the trauma unit at The Ottawa Hospital, where his condition was listed as serious. The man was scheduled to be transported to a burn unit shortly thereafter. The paramedic spokesman added that the man may have also suffered a blast injury, which could have caused internal injuries to the man's organs.

Damage to the building is estimated at $50,000, while damage to the contents is estimated at an additional $50,000, plus $10,000 for the destroyed forklift. The incident is under investigation by Ontario's Ministry of Labour.

Injuries at work as a result of dust explosions are more common than most people think. If you or someone you know suffers a burn injury of any type in the workplace, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, NY so that they can determine whether another party is legally liable for your injuries, and if you have a legitimate case.

September 16, 2011

Fire Safety Education and Fundraising Helps Kids Who Suffered Severe Burns, and Prevents Future Burns

In Mountain View, CA, a year of fund-raising led recently to the moment where a check was presented to the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation (AARBF), during the annual Peninsula Firefighters Burn Relay.

"This is a major support for us, besides the work of the volunteers and their coming to the Champ Camp," said Sarah Burton, director of programs for the foundation. Champ Camp is one of many residential burn camps nationwide that help kids ages five to 16 who have suffered severe burns. "It goes beyond the monetary donation," she added. "The support of the Mountain View Fire Department through money and time has been phenomenal."

Members of MVFD's Engine 2 and the MV Fire Associates gathered on August 18 to present checks totaling $13,600 to the AARBF. According to a department spokesperson, the funds are raised from the annual MVFD pancake breakfast and through individual donations.

The AARBF provides support to survivors of second degree and third degree burns, as well as their loved ones. The group started after 8-year-old Alisa Ann Ruch died in an accidental fire during a barbecue, 30 years ago. Her parents, local firefighters and medical professionals created AARBF shortly thereafter to prevent severe burn injuries by teaching Stop, Drop and Roll.

All these years later, the program has several events, such as a young adult summit, support services, and Champ Camp.

To support these efforts, each year the MVFD hosts its annual pancake breakfast where they teach fire prevention and also raise money for the foundation. Two of the volunteers with MV Fire Assocates help coordinate on-site rehabilitation services for firefighters who suffered severe burns or smoke inhalation in cases of fires that have at least two alarms. They came with a check for the burn foundation too.

"As part of the fire community, it's our way to show appreciation to the fire departments in the county," said one volunteer. "This is our way to pay back, and also through volunteerism too."

If you or someone you know suffers a burn injury, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, NY so that they can determine whether another party is legally liable for your injuries and if you have a case.

September 13, 2011

Third Degree Burns and Dehydration

The two most important problems encountered clinically with burned patients are infection and dehydration. When a person is burned and depending on the severity of burn, the blood vessels including the capillaries may be affected. Combined with the release of chemical substances into the blood, this will lead to increased capillary permeability to fluids, leading to the leaking of fluids from the blood vessels into the tissues. The higher the percentage of burned skin, the more severe the loss of fluid will be and the greater the dehydration will be.

In a third degree burn the entire thickness of skin (epidermis and dermis) is involved and nerve endings have been destroyed. The body's barrier against water loss is no longer there. When the protective covering does not exist, fluid seeps from the burned area causing dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Unless fluids are replaced immediately, renal shut down and hypovolemic shock will occur. Skin is both a physical barrier, preventing water loss, and also a chemical barrier, preventing the growth of bacteria.

Fluid replacement is one of the important objectives in the initial treatment of burned patients. The amount of fluid needed and the method of fluid given depends on the surface area of the skin burned as well as other factors. There are many formulas used to calculate the amount of fluid needed for resuscitation; one of them is called the Parklund Formula in which after the amount of fluids is calculated, it is given through an IV route and the type of fluid is usually Ringer Lactate because it's composition is simillar to the extracellular fluid.

Dehydration can be a life threatening complication that may even lead to death. Urine output (0.5 ml/kg/hour in adult and 1 ml/kg/hour in children) is one of the methods used to evaluate adequate fluid resuscitation. Over resuscitation may lead to compartment syndrome. Patients with minor burns can be resuscitated with oral rehydration therapy. You have to make sure that you are taking enough fluids, not vomiting and is producing a satisfactory amount of urine.

Edema (accumulation of fluid in bodily tissue or body cavity) may become worse after fluid resuscitation and if this edema is in a compartment (closed space of nerves, muscle tissue and blood vessels) covered by dead tissue as a result of the burn which is inelastic and can't expand, this edema may lead to compression of the blood vessels in the compartment leading to compression of circulation in which escharotomy may be needed to release that pressure. It is advisable to watch the burned areas, especially in the extremities, for signs of decrease blood flow to the affected area.

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.

September 13, 2011

A September 11 Survivor Uses a Positive Attitude to Regain His Health and Life

Over the past month, there have been so many stories about people who died in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. But here is a story that appeared in the New York Daily News recently that is an excellent example of a survivor who is getting on with his life, and all burn victims can learn from him as they fight to get through their physical and psychological injuries.

Tax lawyer Harry Waizer was ready to get to work when he took the elevator up to his World Trade Center office just before 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2001. Harry was 50 years old at the time, and the father of three children. If he had been just two minutes later to work that day, he would have been able to go home that night and tell his family how he escaped. Instead, he became a victim of severe burns that affect him 10 years later, and which will affect him his whole life.

Harry managed to get out of the building a few minutes after the first plane struck his building, but he was severely injured by fire across his entire body. When the plane hit the top of the building, the elevator he was riding in suddenly went into a freefall and burst into flames--not once, but twice.

Harry suffered severe burns over most of his body and face, including lung burns. He would spend the next seven weeks in a coma. Still, Harry was one of the very few people in his entire office to survive.

"I was seconds away from joining my friends on the 104th floor and those seconds were the difference between my survival and my death," says Harry, who is now 60. "I feel lucky."

Harry and a woman were going up towards the tower's 104th floor when the elevator started to shake. Then, without warning, it plummeted and erupted in flames. "Everything seemed to be in slow motion," Harry says. "There were flames on the floor, carpeting, on the walls." He said he frantically stamped out the fire with his canvas briefcase.

The elevator stopped short, but then started gliding down toward the elevator bank on the 78th floor. For a moment, Harry thought it would be all right. But a few floors above him, a fire swept down and engulfed the elevator once again. "A fireball came in the gap of the door and this one caught me square in the face," he says.

The fire disappeared quickly and then the elevator doors opened to the 78th floor. Harry and the woman joined the flood of shell-shocked workers marching down the emergency stairs. "At such a moment, you're not thinking deep thoughts. You are reacting," he says. "What went through my head is, 'I have to get down and find help.' That's all I thought about it. I had no thought about how injured I might be."

About 25 floors down, an emergency worker spotted the badly burned man and cleared the path down for him. He was rushed to New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center's burn unit and placed in a medically induced coma for eight weeks.

Harry awoke to the news that he had suffered third-degree burns across his face, arms, hands and legs. Then he learned that terrorists had slammed a plane into the tower. And then, while lying in his hospital bed with his wife standing over him, he got the worst news of all: Most of his coworkers were dead.

Harry underwent intensive rehabilitation for months, and actually returned to his company in March 2004. But he only works about three days a week, and has constant back pain plus nerve damage that reduces the strength in his left hand. Still, Harry counts himself fortunate. "I recognize how close I was," he says.

Going back to work for his company was one way that Harry could feel that he had overcome the difficult circumstances that life put in front of him. And although he will have pain for the rest of his life, Harry knows he has the support of his coworkers, in addition to the love and support of his family.

If you or someone you know suffers a burn injury, please call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, NY so that they can determine whether another party is legally liable for your injuries and if you have a case.

September 9, 2011

Lawsuit Filed for Severe Burns Suffered from Exploding Gas Can

A lawsuit has been filed by the parents of a Texas teenager who suffered severe burns that were allegedly caused by a defective gas container.

The lawsuit was filed by Kenneth and Pam Crouch on behalf of their daughter, Brooke Crouch, on July 29 in the Eastern District of Texas, against Blitz U.S.A. Inc.

According to the complaint, a friend of Brooke attempted to reignite a campfire by pouring gasoline on it from a Blitz gas can. When the vapors outside the can ignited, it caused the can to explode, causing Brooke to suffer third-degree burns.

Burning gasoline sprayed out of the exploding can, dousing the girl on her legs and hands and under her skirt, causing severe burns in several areas. Brooke had to undergo surgeries, physical therapy, and even skin grafts to heal from her injuries.

The family alleges that the gas can explosion and the girl's injuries could have been prevented if the product had been sold with a flamer arrestor or other safety device. The lawsuit accuses the company of manufacturing and marketing a defective gas can, strict liability, failing to adequately warn consumers of the possible risks and negligence.

Gas can flame arrestors are an inexpensive safety feature, usually costing under 50 cents. They have small holes within the gas spout, which prevents flames from entering the container. Arrestors are currently found on a number of different products, including certain bottles of rum.

If a similar incident has happened to you or someone you know, please contact Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, NY to see if someone else is liable for any injuries that were suffered.

Lastly, this story should be a warning to everyone to NEVER pour gasoline onto a fire, regardless of whether the container has a flame arrestor. It is simply too dangerous.

September 6, 2011

Saving Victims of Smoke Inhalation from Poisoning and Death


Paramedics in the Buffalo suburb of Tonawanda, NY have a new tool to help them save victims of smoke inhalation.

In late August, the paramedics announced that their ambulances will now carry supplies of the drug Cyanokit, which works to help those suffering from smoke inhalation by counteracting the chemicals in toxic gases and smoke. Other ambulance units around the country will likely do the same thing over time.

Paramedics are calling it a life-saving treatment. "It's to benefit the citizens of our town and the firefighters who put their lives on the line, should anyone be overcome by smoke and the toxic effects of cyanide that's in smoke," said one paramedic.

The drug has been used in France since 1996 and has recently been FDA approved.

Cyanokit (hydroxocobalamin) is a form of vitamin B-12. It is used as an antidote to cyanide poisoning. Cyanokit works by helping cells in the body convert cyanide to a form that can be removed from the body through urination.

Cyanokit is given as an injection through a needle placed into a vein, most often in an emergency situation. The medicine must be given slowly through an IV infusion, and can take about 15 minutes to complete.

Cyanokit is usually given only once. However, you may receive a second dose if needed.
Cyanide poisoning can occur if a person is exposed to smoke from a house or industrial fire, if they swallow or breathe in cyanide, or if they get cyanide on the skin.

Cyanokit is usually given in an emergency, so you may not have time to tell your caregivers about any drugs you take or medical conditions you have. However, you will need follow-up medical care after receiving this medication. Tell your doctor if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, or congestive heart failure.

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

You may develop an acne-like skin rash from 1 week to as late as 4 weeks after you were treated with Cyanokit. This rash should go away without treatment. Call your doctor if you have a rash that does not clear up on its own.

This medication can cause you to have unusual results with certain medical tests. Tell any doctor who treats you that you have recently received a Cyanokit injection.

September 2, 2011

Families Must Be Proactive to Keep Relatives Safe from Nursing Home Fires


On August 5 in a small Ohio town, a 64-year-old woman died after a fire started in her apartment within an 11-story senior apartment complex.

The woman lived in a seventh-floor apartment, where investigators believe the fire originated from a candle in the living room. Firefighter responded at 10:38 p.m. after the building's fire alarm went off. When engines arrived, there was smoke visibly coming from the seventh floor. The fire was contained to the woman's apartment and was knocked down quickly. Firefighters found the unconscious woman in the apartment and carried her down a ladder, witnesses said. "It's very tragic. The guys are pretty broken up about it," said the fire department's chief.

An autopsy determined that the woman died of smoke inhalation. What's more, numerous other residents of the senior complex were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, with a few taken to a hospital. The American Red Cross found shelter for up to 30 other seventh-floor residents displaced by the fire. But many stayed with relatives instead.

Some of the building's residents from other floors exited when the alarm sounded, but many were told to simply go to their balconies. One seventh-floor resident said the hallway was filled with smoke when she evacuated. "We've had a lot of fires, but nothing this bad," said the tenant, who has lived there five years.

One other resident said that other fires had occurred in the past after people fell asleep while cooking. Three people were treated for smoke inhalation following a kitchen fire on the fifth-floor of the building on May 16.

The local fire chief said the 232-unit building pre-dates sprinkler systems, but has a "state-of-the-art alarm system" that gives sound, visual and voice cues so that the hard of hearing and other handicapped residents can get adequate warning in an emergency. He said fire crews train at the building often, so they are prepared to deal with the challenges of working in a high rise and evacuating hundreds of elderly residents.

A similar story took place in Pennsylvania just days before this incident. There, a fire forced the evacuation of a nursing center and sent five residents to area hospitals with smoke inhalation.

The local fire marshal said firefighters were dispatched to the center at 1:30 a.m. When they arrived, they found smoke coming from one of the hallways, but the fire had already been extinguished by the building's sprinkler system.

The staff at the facility quickly reacted and got all residents out of the building. It turns out that the fire occurred in a bedroom.

"The residents' injuries were not life-threatening," said the fire marshal. "The staff did a very good job of getting the residents out safely."

Now, the difference between these two incidents should serve as a lesson to families who are looking to move older relatives into senior housing and nursing homes. In the first incident, some residents were told to move to their balconies rather than leave the building. But if those residents received severe burns or smoke inhalation while on the balcony, the facility operator might have incurred legal liability for burns or smoke-inhalation injuries. Also, while it may be legal for an older building to not have fire sprinklers, families might want to ask a lot of questions of the facility's staff--and then think hard before placing a relative in such a facility.

On the other hand, the actions of the staff in the second incident meant that these employees knew what they were doing, and were able to get all residents out of the building quickly. This facility had a system in place that surely brings peace of mind to the residents, and to their relatives too.

In short, families must investigate in detail what fire-alarm systems and fire-suppression systems are in place at a facility, and also understand the evacuation procedures that are used there. Families should also review the fire history at the facility, to see if residents are careless with candles, or cooking materials, or other items that can start fires.

These types of information could be a matter of life and death for a loved one who needs some attention and assistance from caregivers each day.

August 31, 2011

The Sun Can Cause Severe Burns Even in Late Summer, So Take Precautions

Here's a story that provides more than one lesson in why you need to protect yourself with the best sunblock to avoid severe burns as you enjoy the late-summer sun.

In Texas, a man was hospitalized with second-degree burns when he fell asleep while outside in the sun without his shirt on. Police say it is likely that the man was intoxicated by alcohol or another substance, which is why the pain from his sunburn did not wake him up. And when he did finally wake up, his pain was so severe that he jumped into the lake next to the pier he was sunbathing on--and then had to be rescued!

Police officers were initially called by someone who saw the burning man on the pier, but by the time police arrived the man had jumped into the water. The police notified the local EMS/ambulance service, and that team successfully pulled the victim from the water. But they immediately noticed the severity of the victim's burns, which included blisters all over his body from the 100-degree heat.

"Sunburn doesn't normally rise to this magnitude because people tend to remove themselves from that environment before such burns happen," said an EMS spokesperson. In fact, he described the severity of the burns to what paramedics normally see during house fires and car fires.

But "it was clear that something else was going on with the victim. His sunburn was the clear consequence of other behavior."

So before you skip using the sunblock because we are now in September and the sun does not seem as strong as it was a few weeks ago, take this advice: Use sunblock anyway! The sun is still strong enough to burn your skin.

Lastly, do not drink alcohol or take controlled substances and then go into the sun. Taking intoxicating substances not only makes you less aware of how much sunburn you are getting, but it also could cause you to pass out while in the sun. And you surely don't want to end up with severe burns like the man in the story above, do you?

August 25, 2011

Planning Alternate Fire Escape Routes From Your Home


In Nashua, NH in mid-August, a 48-year-old man was transported to a hospital following an unusual incident. It seems that a fire broke out not in his apartment, but rather just outside the entryway to his apartment, around 11 p.m. By the time firefighters arrived, the fire had been partially extinguished by residents. Furthermore, the fire was extinguished even before it could spread beyond the entryway.

Nonetheless, the man was trapped in his apartment because there was only one door that led outside, and the fire in that doorway caused smoke to fill his apartment, resulting in the man suffering poisonous smoke inhalation.

In any situation where there is only one door out of a building, windows should be considered as alternate fire escape routes, and rope ladders or some other means of getting out that window and onto the ground should be stored within reach of that window. Also, all occupants of a dwelling--including children--should know about these alternate escape routes and how to use the nearby items to get out of windows safely in case the doors are blocked by fire or smoke.

Now, if that first story was not enough to push you to plan more than one fire escape route from your home and your office, then consider this story: In Northern Virginia this week, a resident at an apartment complex had to climb onto the roof to escape flames--which is as dangerous as being inside the building!

Firefighters received multiple alarms starting at 6:21 p.m., arrived on the scene, and got the fire under control by 6:38 p.m. But when they first arrived, firefighters found smoke streaming from second-floor windows, and that a man had climbed onto the roof because he could not get out his front door in time. This is a dangerous act, because heat and smoke rise--the man might soon have been trapped on the roof in unbearable heat and smoke, and unable to escape injury or death. Luckily, the man was finally able to get down once firefighters knocked down the flames and then conducted a search of the second floor.

The fire started on the stove in the kitchen of a second-floor apartment and then extended into the cabinets. The cause was found to be a pan of grease left unattended on the stove. Investigators also found the smoke alarm in the apartment had no batteries and was not functioning. Also, fire extinguishers there were out of date, exit lights were burned out, and electrical panel boxes were blocked. These are all serious fire hazards--and they expose the apartment complex's management company to legal liability if someone is injured in a fire.

The fire damage was confined to that one apartment, while another sustained smoke damage. The estimate for the damage is $15,000. The American Red Cross was assisting the families who had damage.

Please consider these incidents as you prepare your fire escape plans for your home and your place of work. Remember: A door may not be a possible escape route in case of fire, and you must be ready to get out another way to avoid severe burns or smoke inhalation that can kill you.

August 23, 2011

Potential Legal Liability of Third Parties in Recent Burn Cases

A case is making its way through the Iowa civil courts this month that involves the potential legal liability of a day-care center where a toddler suffered severe burns.

The parents and grandmother of the severely burned toddler have sued the owners of an Ankeny, IA child-care center, accusing the couple of "willful and wanton disregard for the rights or safety" of a boy whose diaper was changed within reach of a crock pot filled with very hot water.

Polk County court papers filed earlier this week accuse Bryan and Sue Jansen, owners of a company doing business as Ankeny Christian Child Care, of negligence for leaving the container within reach of where Seth Brown was having his diaper changed on Aug. 20, 2009.

The lawsuit says that Seth, while in the care of the Jansens' employees, "pulled a Crock Pot with scalding hot water over and on top of himself, causing severe burn injuries over 25 percent of his body." Court papers also say that Ankeny Christian Child Care violated several state rules and procedures in 2009, including steps that should have been taken to limit the crock pot's temperature and also to keep the cord out of reach of the children staying there.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Seth, his grandmother, and his parents Amanda and Aleksander Brown, seeks money for past and future medical and hospital expenses, past and future pain and suffering, loss of future earning capability and past and future permanent injury, disability and disfigurement.

Owner Bryan Jansen said Friday that his insurance company had just received a copy of the lawsuit, so he had no comment at this point.

A website for Ankeny Christian Child Care says the daycare center, which shares an address with Ankeny Christian Church, has been in business since 1997 and owned by the Jansens' company since 1999. The business has been actively involved in the community for many years, according to the website. Additionally, it says that "most of our staff are active in their churches, whether they attend in Ankeny or in another area church."

In order to prevent such an incident from happening rather than having to respond to it with medical treatment and a lawsuit, parents should take a detailed tour of any child-care facility where they are considering placing their child. Hazards to look for include unguarded electrical sockets in addition to possible sources of burn injuries such as hot-water faucets and electrical appliances that are not well protected from the wandering hands of small children.

In another incident involving a burn injury at a business, top professional tennis player Rafael Nadal received serious burns to some of his fingers while out to dinner at a Japanese steakhouse on August 19. The restaurant Nadal went to is one where skilled chefs cook dinner on a steel grill in front of seated patrons. There were a number of plates placed in front of Nadal, but one of them had been recently moved from the surface of the hot grill surface. Nadal did not know this, and when he reached out to grab the dish he burned his fingers immediately.

When Rafal told his companions he burned his fingers, they thought he was joking--until blisters started forming a few minutes later, which is a classic sign of second-degree burns. It turns out that Nadal had scalded the index and middle fingers on his right hand. He was forced to play tennis the next day with bandages on his hand, and he lost his match.

As anyone who has gone to this type of restaurant can attest, some of the surfaces being used by chefs are located within reach of patrons, and can get extremely hot and also make the plates and utensils nearby very hot as well. Because of this, patrons should pay close attention to the cooking activity and also to any children sitting at the table to keep them safe.

It is not known at this time if Nadal will begin a civil case against the restaurant regarding legal liability for his burn injuries.