Fireworks can be dangerous, even for professionals

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

If you’ve ever been or lived with a small-town volunteer firefighter, you know how it goes.

You’re about to take the burgers off the grill, and the pager goes off. Just before the second bite of your hot dog, the town siren sounds.

Yep, that’s the Fourth of July in rural Middle America.

Factor in the number of volunteers who, ahem, may not be available for duty, that Independence Day can be the longest day of the summer for those who respond when a roman candle is mis-aimed or a dumpster catches fire from fireworks disposed of before they were completely extinguished.

Leave the displays to the professionals goes the mantra, and that’s definitely a good idea.

But even the pro’s know that fireworks, when it comes down to it, are dangerous explosives.

Euclid, Ohio, Fire Captain Jay Northup knows, in a story shared by the American Academy of Opthalmology.

A 23-year veteran of the fire department, he was well-trained and experienced when he decided to put on a safe pyrotechnic display for is family and friends.

With children and adults safely on the other side of his home, he prepared to light up $600 worth of fireworks.

The first of three mortars went off as intended, but the fourth was silent. After about 10 minutes, he cautiously approached the dud. It exploded just as his face was about 12 inches above the cylinder.

“It felt like something was pouring out of my right eye, and I just had no idea what was going on,” Northup said. “I thought I was dying.”

His wife, an ER nurse, managed to calmly rush her bleeding husband to a Cleveland hospital, where doctors immediately began treating his life-threatening injuries.

The results of the explosion?

A subdural hematoma — bleeding of the brain, the deadliest of head injuries — wounds requiring 35 stitches on his forehead, burns and bruises.

His right eye took a direct hit, burning off his eyelashes and skin around the eye. It deformed the front of the eye, damaging the cornea and bruising the retina, and caused internal bleeding that increases pressure and can lead to blindness.

The injury also created a traumatic cataract, typical of such injuries, and Northup had to have surgery 10 months later.

Although he made a full recovery and is back on the job as a firefighter, the pupil in Northup’s right eye is paralyzed, no longer able to adjust to changing light conditions.

You can view photos and read Northup’s original story here: http://bit.ly/2KkjueB

Of course, eye injuries are only one possible consequence of fireworks accidents. According to the latest U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireworks caused approximately 10,000 visits to emergency rooms in 2016, about 9,000 of which were eye injuries.

Even innocent-looking sparklers, a favorite for small children, burn at 2,000 degrees, enough to cause serious injuries.

Fireworks stands will soon be open and pyrotechnic fans of all ages will soon be clamoring for this year’s versions of the flashy, fiery, noisy devices.

But let’s take care to give firefighters, ER medical staff and ourselves a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July.

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