January 17, 2012

Elevator Malfunction Causes Woman to Die from Third Degree Burns--Is There Legal Liability?

The death of a Chicago woman who stepped off an elevator in her apartment building--and into a blazing inferno--highlights the need for fire sensors in all elevators.

Shantel McCoy, 32, who was returning to her 12th-floor apartment on Lake Shore Drive, died from third degree burns to her skin plus lung burns after the elevator doors opened and she was hit with 1,500-degree air heated from gas and fire fumes coming from another apartment, according to a Chicago Fire Department spokesman. The fire apparently began inside an apartment on that floor--but although the residents managed to escape the apartment, the front door did not close behind them. This allowed the fire to spread into the hallway and heat the air throughout the floor to deadly temperatures. Nine other residents were injured in the blaze as well.

But the elevator accident never should have happened, says one longtime elevator-industry consultant. Charles Buckman notes that the United States' engineering safety code requires elevators to have fire sensors on every floor and in the motor room. But in this building, Buckman speculates that "they must not have been fitted with sensors."

In fact, the 21-story building, among Chicago's older high-rises, was not required to meet safety codes that were established in 1975, according to the city's building department spokesman. The high-rise was built sometime in the 1950s.

Chicago's city council recently voted to put off until 2015 the deadline for all buildings to comply with a new ordinance requiring building-wide alarm systems that automatically trigger elevators to descend to the ground floor and shut down.

Buckman, who works for consulting firm Doherty and Buckman of New Bern, North Carolina, says that even older buildings should be equipped with fire sensors that automatically shut down all elevators. "The elevator should not have been available to this lady" once a fire started, he says. "The elevators should have closed their doors, returned to the first floor and shut down so that no one could use them" once the sensors detected fire.

Having testified in numerous personal injury cases involving faulty elevators, Buckman has a harsh judgment this time: "In this case, somebody committed murder," he alleges.

The building's management company did not respond to requests for comment.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, 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 strong legal case.

January 17, 2012

Third Degree Burns and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that may occur after the exposure to a traumatic event. People differ in their reaction to trauma; some will return back to normal after an exposure to a traumatic event, others will experience symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. PTSD develops differently from one person to another. Symptoms of PTSD most commonly develop in the hours or days that follow the traumatic event , but can also happens weeks, months, or even years after the incident.

PTSD is some what common. It can affect those who personally experience the trauma, those who witness it, and those who pick up the pieces afterwards, including law enforcement officers and emergency response workers. In the United States, 60% of men and 50% of women experience a traumatic event during their lifetimes. The diagnosis of PTSD was developed by studying soldiers from war, and it was originally called "shell shock syndrome."

Many events and life situations may lead to the development of PTSD, these include:

  • Exposure to severe burns such as third degree burns.
  • Military combat.
  • Sudden death of a loved one.
  • Sexual assault or physical attack in childhood or adulthood.
  • Exposure to terrorist attack.
  • Exposure to natural disasters such as earthquake.
  • Exposure to a serious accident.
PTSD can happen in adults as well as in children. The symptoms may rise suddenly, gradually or come and go over time. In adults, the symptoms may include:
  • Any reminder of the traumatic event will produce upsetting memories and intense physical reactions like rapid breathing, palpitation, nausea, sweating and muscle tension.
  • Having flashbacks, bad dreams (Re-living the events).
  • People try to avoid situations and things that trigger the traumatic event.
  • People isolate themselves from others and may feel emotionally numb, they may be less interested or lose interest in activities that they used to like.
  • People feel irritable, anxious, have anger outbursts.
  • Feeling that they are in constant danger.
  • Having difficulty in concentrating.
  • Having sleep difficulty.
  • Having nightmares.
  • Having depression.
  • Having suicidal feelings and thoughts.
Children may show symptoms of PTSD depending on their age, young children may have nightmares, sleeping problems, fear and upset if the parents are not nearby, regression in a previously trained child such as bed wetting, and toilet training trouble.

Some people will develop PTSD after a trauma while others won't; people will have increased the risk of developing PTSD if:

  • The person was seriously injured as a result of the trauma.
  • The person was the one who was exposed directly to the trauma.
  • The trauma was long lasting.
  • The person was not in control during the event.
  • The person had a previous mental issue.
  • The person had a history of prior severe trauma.
  • The person doesn't get that much help and support after the trauma.
Treatment:
  • Counseling (talk therapy): this is one of the methods of treatment in which the person can get help and discuss his/her feeling that will help to get to normal life activities. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of treatment that helps is promising and is the most effective in counseling. Family therapy may be effective too as PTSD not only affect the patient him/herself but those who are close to the patient, this therapy help the family understand what the patient is going through and communicate better with him/her.
  • Medications: in the form of antidepressant medications.
Other diseases and conditions may occur with PTSD such as depression, panic attacks, drug and alcohol abuse.
  • The earlier the treatment, the better the outcome as symptoms of PTSD may get worse.
  • Seek medical help if you or your child has symptoms of PTSD.
  • Seek help and support from your family or your close friends, they may be able to help and support you.
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.


January 13, 2012

Third Degree Burns from Scalding Water is Too Common Among Children, Seniors and the Elderly

Back in August 2011, a grandmother's summer holiday at a luxury seaside hotel in Great Britain ended in tragedy when she was scalded to death in a hot bath.

Unfortunately, severe burns from scalding hot water happen too often among children and seniors alike. The worst part is that these incidents are almost always preventable.

Evelyn Cowley, 88 years old, was enjoying her annual family holiday when she took a bath in her hotel room. But for some reason, she immersed herself in water that had a temperature of more than 120 degrees Farenheit. As a result, she suffered third degree burns to half her body, mostly to her lower limbs and her back and arms.

Cowley was no ordinary senior citizen. She was a decorated RAF officer, who served during the Second World War. She died in the hotel room's bath at some point between saying goodnight to her two sons and breakfast time the next morning. Her son came to wake her in the morning and heard the bathtub water still running, then found her dead in the tub.

The water coming into the tub had been heated in the hotel's boiler to 140 degrees-which is much too hot for human contact--and the water came out of the tap at around 125 degrees, said a hotel spokesperson. But he added that heating the water to that temperature was a precaution to stop the spread of Legionnaires' disease--an often deadly form of pneumonia caused by a specific bacteria that grows quickly in stored hot water.

Two days after Cowley's death, an investigator recorded a temperature 130 degrees from water running from the bath's tap. He said: "I could only hold my hand under for about two seconds." The investigation also found that there was not a warning sign for the hot water posted in the bathroom. The hotel did note, however, that this was not a legal requirement.

An autopsy showed Cowley died as a result of extensive burns, which could have been caused as a result of her dementia. The local coroner said: "She died accidentally, and dementia could have caused her misjudgement of immersing herself into the water."

The coroner also said it was possible that she suffered a mini-stroke when she entered the hot water, but tests were inconclusive.

The lesson here is that seniors and the elderly, as well as children, must be closely monitored when they are going to use hot water to bathe or to cook. It is very easy to spill scalding hot water onto the skin when handling it, and the burns can be so severe that skin graft is necessary to heal the wounds--and death is certainly possible too.

If you or someone you know does suffer an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, 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 strong legal case.

January 12, 2012

Third Degree Burns and Infection

Infection remains the most common complication of burn wounds, it's a major cause of death among burned patients. It can happen in the hospital or at home; it can be local (at the site of burn) or systemic (the spread of infection to other areas of the body).

As the skin plays an important role in protecting the body against infection and acts as a barrier that prevents Microbs from entering the body, the risk of infection increases when a burn injury happens.
Risk factors of developing a burn wound infection many include:

  • The extent of burn, burns exceeding 30% of the total body surface area (TBSA) are at higher risk.
  • The depth of burn, full thickness burns (third degree) are at higher risk.
  • The location of burn, burns in the perineum are at higher risk of infection.
  • The age of the patient, extremes of age are at higher risk because of lower immunity.
  • The general condition of the patient, amonge conditions that increase the risk of infection are immunosuppression, obesity, diabetes and malnutrition.
  • The type of organisims, their number and virulence.
  • The quality of wound care provided for the patient.
  • Duration of hospitalisation and number of days ventilated.
The incidence of infection and its mortality has significantly decreased due to the improvements in the techniques of burn wound care and infection control mesures. When infection happens, it can cause the wound to progress from a partial thickness (e.g second degree burns) to a full thickness (e.g third degree burns), can prevent or delay healing, can encourage scar formation and can result in septicemia and organ failure.

Burn wounds should be inspected daily for signs of infection especially in pediatric age group as they sometimes can't express their feelings of being unwell.

Warning signs of infection may include:

  • Increased or persistant pain.
  • Increased redness in or around the wound.
  • Increased swelling in or around the wound.
  • Increased drainage from the wound.
  • Change in the color of drainage (green discharge or puss).
  • Foul smell from the wound.
  • Increased warm feeling from the wound.
  • Bleeding from the wound between dressing change, or soaking the bandage with blood, unless there has been a trauma (remember that bleeding at the time of dressing change itself may be expected).
  • Chills or fever greater than 101.4 degrees. Burned patients should check their tempreture daily.
  • Complete loss of appetite.
  • Persistent vomiting or diarrhea.
Helpfull tips in preventing wound infection:.
  • Keep the burned area clean.
  • Look for any signs or symptoms of infection during dressing change.
  • Follow a strict sterile protocol during wound dressing change (see home wound care).
  • It's important in infants to observe any change in the appearance of wound or change in activity level (not playful, fails to hold eye contact, lethargic) children can't express what they feel. Contact the doctor immediately if you observe any sign or symptom of infection.
  • Topical antibiotic ointments may be prescribed as a prophylactic (preventive) measure in burned patients.
  • Infection delays wound healing, encourages scarring (as a result of collagen deposition in reaction to the infection) and may result in bacteremia and organ failure (systemic infection).

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.

January 11, 2012

How to Care for Your Child After Being Discharged Home (Part II)

Itching:
Itching occurs with healing and newly healed burned areas. Itching can be a major problem for some children when they are in the hospital as well as after being discharged home. Itching is caused by the overlapping tissues formed by the scar itself. This tissue lack the nerve endings that is present in normal skin but due to the surrounding normal tissue that still has nerve endings, they become stimulated by scar tissue thus the characteristic itch kicks in. Itching should decrease as scar tissue matures. Itching can disturb or even prevent your child's sleeping. Although it's hard, try to prevent your child from scraching the burned areas as these areas are still raw (immature) and may bleed easily or get infected with continous or vigorous scraching.
Among the things that help in decreasing your child's itching are:

  • Keeping the burned area lubricated by applying cream and massage the burned areas on a regular basis.

  • Wearing loose clothes made of natural materials such as 100% cotton with light colors.

  • Avoiding clothes or elastics over the clothes like waistbands.

  • Avoiding your child of prespiring and becoming hot.

  • Encourage your child to wear compression garments as prescribed. Compression (pressure) garments must be worn 23 hours a day and taken off only when bathing your child.

  • Clip your child's fingernails regularly, there are certian gloves that your child can wear to prevent him/her from scraching the burned area.

  • Tell your child whenever possible to elevate the affected area.

  • If itching becomes severe or prblematic for your child, please call your doctor as he/ she may prescribe medications that can help with itching.


  • Applying lotion or cream:
    Healing burn wounds as well as skin grafts, donor sites and scars all require creaming on a regular basis to prevent these areas from becoming dry, becoming sore and cracking. The reason for that is because the healing and newly healed skin is unable to lubricate itself in the same way as the normal skin does.

    These are some helpful tips regarding applying lotions or creams on your child's affected areas:

  • Apply the lotion or cream as often as needed, follow the instructions given to you, this should be repeated 2-3 times a day. It may be needed more often if the your child's skin is particularly dry.

  • Use enough lotion or cream to lightly lubricate your child's skin. Gently rub and massage the cream until it disappears, the skin shouldn't feel greasy after putting the lotion rather it should feel moist and soft.

  • Massage involves firm pressure in circular waves over the scar.

  • Avoid using lotions or creams recommended by your friends or family, also avoid using lotions or creams containing chemicals or perfumes as healing and newly healed skin is very sensitive and can be damaged by the wrong lubricant.

  • It's important that you cleanse your child's skin every day as the build up of lotion or cream may cause skin irritation and clog the skin pores. Excessive lotions or creams can also damage pressure garments


  • 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.

    January 10, 2012

    Fire in Stores or Malls Can Cause Deadly Smoke Inhalation

    Here's a story that provides a very good lesson for all of us on the need to think about fire safety not just at home, but also when walking around in stores, malls, and other public places.

    In early January in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, four people had to be treated for smoke inhalation after a fire broke out in a store. A clothing shop caught fire at about 8:15 p.m. on a Friday night, and firefighters were called away from a small fire in another neighborhood to fight the shop fire.

    On arrival, fire crews found the fire was already extinguished. But even so, there were people in need of medical treatment, so paramedics were called in. Two ambulances and a rapid response vehicle were sent to treat three females who suffered smoke inhalation. They were taken to Peterborough City Hospital for further care.

    Now, it is unlikely that many people think about where the nearest public exits or emergency exits are located when they enter a store, or a mall, or a sports arena, or another public place. But if you do not know where the exits are located, you have shortened the amount of time you have to escape and survive if a fire does break out.

    So, always find the nearest public exit or emergency exit as you enter any building. Why? Because fire smoke spreads quickly, and is so poisonous with carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide that inhaling just one or two breaths of fire smoke can make a person unconscious and unable to escape. And even if an unconscious person is rescued by someone else, damage to the lungs, heart and brain from smoke inhalation can be permanent, forever changing a person's life.

    If you or someone you know does suffer an injury such as third-degree burns or smoke inhalation, 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 strong legal case.

    January 10, 2012

    How to Care for Your Child After Being Discharged Home (Part I)

    Burn injuries are not only devestating for the patient but for the whole family. A common question the parents ask, is for how long their child will be hospitalized in the hospital. When the time comes, the Burn team will begin planning for discharge. The case manager or the social worker assined to the patient will assist with coordinating discharge plans. Among the things discharge plan deal with is, caring for the child at home, potential complications , follow up appointments and refferals if the child need them.
    Caring for your child at home involves the following:

    Medications:
    Mnay burned children are discharged home with several medications. Before leaving the hospital make sure to ask any question you have about the medication of your child, you should know how to give these medications, when and for how long, what are they used for, and what are the side effects that may happen as a result of using these medications. Continue giving these medications as described by the treating physician even if you think that your child is feeling well and if you have any concern or question, don't hesitate to call the treating physician.

    Diet:
    A well balanced diet with a lot of fluids is necessary for the healing process. Start your child with small frequent meals. See also nutrition and burns.

    Activity:
    An important part of well being and recovery is to help your child engage in light activity as soon as possible. It's normal for your child in the begining to feel weakness and fatigue as he/she has been in the hospial for a period of time without using the muscles but this will improve with time. Activity help in increasing the circulation (blood supply), decrease scaring, improve contractures, and prevent the loss and improve muscle strength. Follow the instructions given to you by the burn team. Some chilren may need to be reffered to physical therapy and/or occupational therapy as needed, they may get these services at home. Make sure that your child aviods all strenuous activities and contact sports until cleared by the treating physician. See preventing and dealing with scars.

    Changing dressings:
    An important part of the burn care is dressings as they protect the burn wound from injury, keep ointments or creams on the wound and absorb any fluid or discharge drawn out of the wound. You play an important role in observing dressing condition and dressing change. The burn team before discharge will teach you how to change your child's dressing, how often and for how long. Dressing change may be frightening and painful for your child, it's better to give pain your child pain medication 30 minutes before dressing change.

    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.

    January 7, 2012

    Fire Prevention Tips for the Winter Season

    Winter is the time of year when home fires are more prevalent, and the Elgin, Illinois Fire Department offers excellent tips on how to stay safe as people try to stay warm in their homes.

    "Winter storms can interrupt heating and electric service, and many times people attempt to heat their homes using alternative means, increasing the risk of fire," said Elgin Fire Chief John Fahy. "What's more, even cooking or trying to generate additional heat from traditional sources can also increase the risk of fire."

    The United States Fire Administration reports that each winter, more than 108,000 residential building fires occur in the United States, resulting in 945 deaths, 3,825 injuries and about $1.7 billion in property loss.

    Cooking is the leading cause of residential fires, followed by heating. And space heaters account for about one-third of home heating fires, plus about 80 percent of deaths from home heating fires, according to the USFA. And nearly 70 percent of these deaths are from smoke inhalation, and not from severe burns. Even a small kitchen fire that is contained to the stove top can produce enough smoke to kill occupants of the home--one or two breaths of poisonous smoke is all it takes!

    Fahy recommends the following to keep you and your family safe this winter:

    -If you are cooking anything on the stove, do NOT leave the kitchen while it cooks. Using the stove to fry, grill, or broil food creates an opportunity for something to catch fire. If you must leave the kitchen, turn off the stove!

    -Give a space heater some space--keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from a space heater.

    -Check electrical cords for cracks or exposed bits of wire, and replace those cracked or damaged electrical or extension cords. Do NOT try to repair them!

    -Never use your oven or stove-top to heat your home. This is a fire hazard because they aren't designed to heat a home, and the carbon monoxide gas emitted from the burning gas could kill people or pets.

    -Don't leave Christmas trees, wreaths, or cut flowers too long. Do NOT keep these items in the house longer than two weeks. And keep the tree stand or the flower vase filled with water. Dried-out trees, wreaths, and flowers burn very easily and quickly!

    -If you use candles, place them in a sturdy candle-holder with a wide base, and which will not burn. Do NOT leave a room that has a burning candle in it--if you must leave the room, blow out the candle!

    -If you smoke cigars, cigarettes or pipes, smoke outside the house and make sure all ashes and embers are extinguished by pouring a small amount of water on top of them. Many times, using your foot to put them out does NOT work!

    The fire chief also made this very important point: "Most fires are preventable."

    For more information about fire safety, go to the USFA website (see link above) and also visit the National Fire Protection Association.

    If you or someone you know does suffer an injury such as severe burns or smoke inhalation, 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 strong legal case.

    January 6, 2012

    Severe Burns Can Cause Kidney Injury and Kidney Failure

    Here is an informative article for anyone who suffers injuries from severe burns--not just soldiers who are burned in combat:

    Many American soldiers who suffer burns during combat develop acute kidney injury--an abrupt or rapid decline in kidney function that is potentially deadly. That's the finding of a study that looked at acute kidney injury among 692 U.S. military casualties who were evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan to burn units.

    Using two different classification systems, the researchers found that rates of acute kidney injury were 24 percent and 30 percent among the casualties. What's more, those with acute kidney injury were much more likely to die than those without it. Death rates among patients with moderate forms of kidney problems were 21 to 33 percent, while severe forms of the condition were made the death rate a whopping 63 to 65 percent. In comparison, the death rate for patients who did not have acute kidney injury was 0.2 percent.

    Among those with kidney injury, 58 percent were diagnosed when they were admitted to hospital, which suggests their injury was caused by combat-related factors. But here is a key statistic: Complications from hospitalization were the likely cause of acute kidney injury among the 18 percent of patients who developed the condition after the first week in the burn unit.

    "Our research shows that if a wounded warrior develops kidney damage, he or she is at an increased risk of dying," Captain Ian Stewart, U.S. Air Force physician at the San Antonio Military Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, said in a news release. "By preventing or modifying kidney injury, we may be able to improve survival in personnel with burns and/or other traumatic injury," he added.

    The full study appeared online as of December 8 in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. For more information about the effect of burn injuries on the kidneys, visit the web site for the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

    If you or someone you know does suffer any type of injury due to severe burns or smoke inhalation, 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.

    January 5, 2012

    Space Heaters and Burn Injuries

    As the winter season is progressing with the temperature falling and as the heating cost is rising, more people are using portable space heaters to help lower the bills paied for energy. There are many models of space heaters including those that are electric, those that burn kerosine, propane and other fuels. Many homeowners chose the electric model as they don't produce an open flame and don't produce noxious fumes therefore they appear safer. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), many homeoners exhibit a false sense of security related to electric space heaters and appliances which can, infact, be very dangerous when used improperly. The CPSC warns that although space heaters don't produce an open flame, they do produce enough heat to ignite flammable objects near by such as clothing (see flammable clothing), furniture rugs, papers, as well as the risk of electric shock and electrocutions.

    According to the U.S. Consumer safety Commission, more than 25,000 residental fires, 300 deaths, and 6,000 burn injuries every year are associated with the improper use of portable space heaters. If you are you are using an electric space heater, consider these safety tips:

    • Shop for heaters with safety certification. Portable space heaters that are listed by Nationaly Recognized testing Laboratories (NRTLs) have been certified after being tested and proven to meet specific safety standards.
    • When purchesing a heater, purchase one with a guard around the heating elements.
    • Make sure to read and follow the instructions for operating and maintaning a space heater before using it.
    • Plug the heater directly into an outlet. If you have to use an extension cord, make sure that this cord is a heavy duty cord make with No. 14 gauge or larger. Using an inappropriate cord increase the chance of over heating, fires, burns and electrical shock and burn injuries. Never run the heater's cord or the extension cord under the carpet or rug
    • Shut off and unplug the heater when leaving it un attended. Turn off the space heater and unplug it when you leave a room or going to bed.
    • Do regular inspection and cleaning of the space heater (annually) to make sure that they are safe to operate as contaminants and dust can become fuel for fire. Never operate a defective heater.
    • Keep portable electric heaters away from water to aviod electric shock and electrocutions, and never touch an electric heater with a wet hand.
    • Never use an electric heater to dry clothes by placing placing clothing over it.
    • Always place the space heater on an even surface and never place it near areas where children may play or where people may bump into or trip over.
    • keep children, pets, any flammable or anything that may ignite at least three feet away from all heating equipment.
    • Try purchesing space heaters that will automatically shut off when knocked over or when they are too hot.
    • Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors on each floor of your home. Test these detectors at least once a month to make sure they are in a good working condition.
    • Make sure when using fireplaces that they are properly vented to the outside as inproper ventelation may lead to smoke accumulation that they lead to smoke inhalation injury.
    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 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.