‘I thought I was invincible;’ Utah man breaks back, suffers concussion in Christmas light accident
Sydney Glenn, KSTU
SALT LAKE CITY — Thanksgiving is over and the Black Friday shopping madness has come to an end. Many people are now gearing up for the holiday season and for some, that means putting up Christmas lights.
While holiday light displays can be beautiful and loved my many, the process of putting the lights up can be dangerous.
“Ladders, falls from roofs, you name it, it happens,” Dr. Shane D. Lewis, System Medical Director of Safety and Risk for Intermountain Healthcare said. “Even electrocution can occur while people are out there doing these beautiful decoration hanging.”
Every holiday season about 15,000 people are hurt while decorating, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
“We see a large variety of injuries during this time from the decorations,” Dr. Lewis said. “A lot of them are broken bones, we see even rib fractures, punctured lungs. So, they will fall, break some ribs, and those ribs then penetrate the lung so they have a collapsed lung, and these could be really severely life-threatening in the moment.”
A few years back, Jared Rohatinsky was putting up lights on a house when he took a horrible fall.
“I was just trying to finish up the lights really quick,” he said. “I was trying to get it done before it got dark and I was almost done, had most of them up and I just kept on jumping back down to the road and back up on the roof to fix something, go back down to the road to see how it was and that’s all that I remember.”
Next thing he knew, Rohatinsky woke up in a hospital room. He suffered a concussion that caused him to forget what happened and broke four vertebrae in his back. It was a long three-month recovery, he said.
“It happened right before Thanksgiving that year and that was a Thanksgiving I won’t ever forget because I was literally grateful for my life, grateful that I wasn’t paralyzed,” Rohatinsky said.
Now, Rohatinsky wants to warn others of the risks
“A lot of people hear stories like this and assume, ‘oh, that’ll happen to my neighbor or someone else, but that’ll never happen to me.’ It happened to me even though I thought I was invincible,” he said.
Hanging Christmas lights is a different experience these days,
“I make sure that I have all the right equipment, I bought a better ladder, I am tethered to the parts that I need to be tethered and I make sure that I never do any of it alone, even if it’s the safer parts,” Rohatinsky said.
Rohatinsky had all of his lights hung on his house before the winter storm hit. All that was left to do Friday was add some lights to the bushes.
Paying attention to the forecast is important, Dr. Lewis said.
“We’ve got a lot of snow fall predicted and already on the ground and certainly it’s on the roofs, on the rooftops already and so people are out there trying to get their decorations up if they haven’t done them already, so this is a time of significant risk,” he said.
Ladders seem to be at the center of most decorating injuries, Dr. Lewis said.
Intermountain Healthcare suggests people take these safety precautions:
- Check the weather
- Check your ladder
- Work with someone
- Check your lights
- Wear proper clothing
- Know your limitations
- Be Patient
- Don’t drink and decorate
- Don’t delay treatment