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Surgeon, victim warn of firework hand injuries: 'Looked like hamburger meat'

Posted at 8:45 PM, Jul 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-03 23:50:26-04

OLATHE, Kan. — Mike Parker has a permanent reminder of his 2013 Fourth of July celebration.

"All this is all numb," Parker said, holding up a mangled right hand. "You can poke it with a needle, and I can't feel it."

That night, he lined up and lit about five mortar-style fireworks, but one didn't go off. He walked over to take a closer look.

"It exploded in the tube and it got my hand," Parker said. "It kind of looked like hamburger meat. So, once I looked at it, I knew I didn't want to look at it anymore."

The explosion shattered a bone in his hand into several places, requiring emergency surgery and wiring to keep the parts in place.

"I think I was off work for like three month," Parker said. "I'm still paying off the debt I incurred from back then."

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 9,100 firework injuries were reported last year in the U.S. The agency found 28% were to hands and fingers.

Dr. Tom McEwan, a plastic surgeon with Saint Luke's Health System, said the injuries range from simple burns to major explosions.

"When we see those types of injuries, a lot of times it's just damage control, saving what you can," McEwan said, "and it often leads to amputation of multiple fingers or the hand itself."

McEwan showed 41 Action News x-rays from two patients who suffered injuries when fireworks exploded in their hands. Both patients lost parts of fingers, requiring surgery and physical therapy.

With some commons sense, it's easy to avoid a similar accident.

The American Society for Surgery of the Handoffers these safety tips if you're setting off fireworks at home:

  • Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse;
  • Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully;
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire.

Parker has some advice of his own.

"Just take your time," he said. "It took one stupid mistake to keep me from working for three months, so it's not worth it."