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‘A Person Warned is Half Saved’

UPMC Mercy Burn Center Team Reiterates the Dangers Fireworks Pose to the Public

PITTSBURGH, June 29, 2012 – With 4th of July celebrations next week, the UPMC Mercy Trauma and Burn Center team wants to remind the public of just how dangerous fireworks can be. These explosive devices pose a serious injury risk to anyone attempting to use them. Even sparklers can cause devastating injuries and should be kept out of the hands of children.
 
"Each year we see many people, especially children and teens, injured around the 4th of July celebrations. Many of the injuries involve an amputation of a limb or loss of vision,” said Jenny Ziembicki, M.D., medical director, UPMC Mercy burn services. “It should be remembered that no consumer fireworks should ever be considered safe and that all fireworks should be left to the hands of trained professionals.” 
 
Ms. Coleen Gedid is a 53-year-old woman from the Allentown section of Pittsburgh who was injured in March 2012 when she lit what she thought was a red, white and blue candle that she found in a junk drawer. It turned out to be a firework equivalent of a quarter-stick of dynamite. She experienced catastrophic injuries to the left side of her body, including the loss of her hand. She wants to get the message out, especially in light of the upcoming 4th of July celebrations, that unless you are absolutely positive what you are lighting is harmless, don’t do it! Ms. Gedid also fervently believes that no one but professionals should be using fireworks.
 
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were three fireworks-related deaths and 1,900 people were injured using sparklers, bottle rockets and small firecrackers in the 30 days surrounding July 4, 2010. Hospital emergency rooms saw 8,600 consumers in 2010 with injuries from legal and illegal fireworks.
 
Recovering from these devastating injuries can be a long and arduous process. Once a patient has been stabilized, acute care management of the traumatic wounds needs to take place. There is a period of time that needs to elapse before reconstructive surgery can take place. “An important thing to remember is that these wounds are devastating and forever,” said Guy Stofman, M.D., F.A.C.S., chief, Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, UPMC Mercy.
 
Rehabilitation after burns and amputation is necessary to optimize function and prevent complications. For example, burn treatment rehabilitation focuses on stretching, range of motion, strengthening and skin mobilization. Significant advances in prosthetics make it possible for a patient to regain some function due to amputated limbs. “Severe burns and amputations can be life altering, but continuing rehabilitation is an essential part of returning to all previous activities,” said Maria Twichell, M.D., director, UPMC Mercy General Rehabilitation Unit. “UPMC Mercy provides a multi-specialty continuum of care for these patients, from the Emergency Department to surgery to rehabilitation.”
 
Alternative to Sparklers—Annual Glow Item Giveaway
As part of an ongoing effort to discourage the use of fireworks and sparklers, the UPMC Mercy Burn Center team will once again provide glow items to more than 30 local area EMS agencies for distribution. This year, the items are glow necklaces and bracelets. Please note that these items are not suitable for children under 3 years of age.
 
Due to the increasing popularity, the number of glow items being distributed this year has been increased to 10,000. Community members are encouraged to contact their local EMS department for availability.

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