Putting up Christmas lights? See this first

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by JANET ST. JAMES / WFAA

WFAA

Posted on December 6, 2012 at 9:31 AM

Updated Thursday, Dec 6 at 2:56 PM

FORT WORTH — Every year, hospital emergency rooms treat more than 12,000 people for injuries related to holiday lights and decorations, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

While Christmas may be the most wonderful time of the year, it is also among the most dangerous — thanks to all those decorations.

A neck brace, drainage tube, and hospital room are proof to Lewis Schwartz that no good deed goes unpunished.

"The odd thing is, I never put up lights before because I'm Jewish," Schwartz said, trying not to laugh because of the pain in his gut. "But my wife is not, so I put the lights up for her."

Schwartz was hospitalized after falling 10 feet off a ladder while hanging Christmas lights at his Fort Worth home.

The only thing strung now is a tube through his chest. He has four broken ribs and a punctured and collapsed lung.

"We have people that break their legs, break their pelvis', break their arms, and frequently break their ribs," said Dr. David C. Smith, a trauma surgeon at Texas Health Fort Worth. And he said that's just a sample of the injuries he treats during the holiday season.

"About three or four years ago, we had two people that fell from ladders while decorating," Dr. Smith said. "Both of them ended up paralyzed."

When working with a ladder, experts recommend always working in pairs, and never climb a ladder alone or if it is unbraced or improperly positioned.

Experts also say anyone who isn't accustomed to working on rooftops should hire someone who is, and who has the proper training and equipment. It's a lot cheaper than a trip to the hospital.

Lewis Schwartz didn't finish putting up his lights, but he already has a New Year's resolution.

"Next year, I hire somebody to put the lights up," he said.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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