Christmas Decorating May Pose Dangers

by Chris Cato

The tree is now trimmed and the smaller decorations are ready to be put out, but there won't be lights on the outside of the Buchanan household. Not after what happened 17 years ago.

Harold Buchanan said, "Wy wife and I decided to do some early decorating one weekend, and I slipped and fell from a stepladder about three to four feet off the ground."

It may not seem like that big of a fall, but Harold wound up rupturing a vertebra in his back.

"I spent 10 days in the hospital, three months in a cast after the hospital, and was forced into early retirement, which was a considerable loss to us. [I was] 53 at the time, [and] had a great career ahead of me. Just lost it, that's all," said Harold.

Harold was an executive for a large company, but because of his fall, he had to retire. For him, the problem still persists. About every 16 years, he has to have additional surgery to replace a pin in his back.

Harold said, "I just had back surgery again in Houston about two or three weeks ago, and it's an ongoing thing from now on, I guess. Well, there's not a lot I can tell people. People know what to do. Just be careful. You know, one slip alters your life forever."

Harold and his wife now keep their feet firmly planted on the ground, decorating only what they can reach. They even have their Christmas tree put up for them, for fear of another spill. If just a three-foot fall can send a man into early retirement, just think what could happen if someone took a spill from their rooftop.

Decorating dangers don't just exist while you're on your ladder or roof. Christmas lights can also pose a threat. Many people are electrocuted each year from faulty Christmas lighting and other electric decorations.

Emergency room doctors we spoke with say they see several cases of Christmas decoration mishaps every year. Quinn Robinson, an emergency room doctor at Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital said, "[People] injure themselves with electric shock from lights not being hooked up right, so they need to be sure and do that properly."

To make sure that you have a safe season, check all your lights before hanging them up. If you choose to use staples, unplug the lights before going at it. Make sure your lights are approved for outdoor use, and never use any lights or other equipment that may have exposed wiring.