Teen learns danger of fireworks the hard way

July 1, 2010 8:52:58 PM PDT
The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that every year about 10,000 Americans are treated for fireworks injuries.

Members of the Maryland State Bomb Squad say even a small device can cause big injuries.

A video shows a homemade M-80 leaves a mannequin's rubber hand severely mangled, much as it would a human hand.

Robby Loder knows. He lost a finger and thumb to a similar explosion.

"I tried to put it out a little bit, and it went out, and then started back up in my hand, and then it just went off," Loder said.

"It was a homemade firecracker made with just black power, and I guess it was going to be used to blow up a stump on our property," Robby's mother Amy Loder-Crouch said.

Robby's brother was also hit by debris, but it was Robby's hand that took a direct hit.

"Oh, I remember everything. I remember my fingers hanging off part of my hand," Robby said.

He was rushed by helicopter to Union Memorial Hospital.

"The thing that is so devastating about fireworks injuries is that they're usually not reconstructable with the parts that they come with," hand surgeon Dr. Jim Higgins said.

But Dr. Higgins, an expert in micro-surgery, offered Robby an option of removing a toe and turning it into a new thumb.

"There's none more serious than a thumb, in that it provides you with prehension grip, all the things that we take for granted, and what separates us from the non-primates. So, restoring grip is critically important," Higgins said.

It took a series of operations for Dr. Higgins to slowly put Robby's hand back together.

After removing a stabilizer pin, Robby could finally put the thumb to work.

"He is so resilient, both psychologically and physically, we have done great things with him, and I would consider him a great success," Dr. Higgins said.

Robby still needs more surgery to remove some of the extra skin used to rebuild the damaged area and he needs more physical therapy to improve his mobility.

But the worst is behind him.

It should be told, 70 percent of fireworks injuries do occur between late June and late July.

Even small ones are dangerous; sparklers cause nearly 1,000 injuries a year.