Pushing Up Lilies

Tis the Season: Navigating Holiday Hazards

Episode Summary

In this episode of Pushing Up Lilies, we embark on a reflective journey into the shadows that often accompany the festive season. Join me as we unveil the untold stories of accidents and tragedies that cast a somber hue over the holiday cheer. From the seemingly innocuous act of hanging Christmas lights to the unforeseen perils of holiday feasts, we explore the darker side of the most wonderful time of the year. Hear stories of individuals who met their untimely end in the midst of decking the halls or succumbing to the unexpected dangers lurking in holiday traditions. This episode serves as a poignant reminder that amidst the joyous celebrations, a veil of danger can shroud the merriment. Through careful analysis and storytelling, we delve into the often-overlooked hazards that underscore the holiday season, offering a unique perspective on the shadows that linger behind the lights. * Listener discretion is advised

Episode Notes


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Episode Transcription

0:06 Welcome to Pushing Up Lilies.

0:08 I'm your host, Julie Mattson.

0:10 Pushing Up Lilies is a weekly True Crime podcast with spine tingling, unusual and terrifyingly true stories from my perspective as a forensic death investigator and a sexual assault nurse examiner.

0:24 Do I have some stories for you?

0:26 Are you ready?

0:30 Hi from Texas.

0:32 We are going to talk some more about death.

0:36 I was thinking the other day about how many people that we have had die and actually be injured from putting up their Christmas decorations.

0:49 And I've been watching all my neighbors out on their roofs, putting up their own lots.

0:54 And I'm like, oh, it scares me to death because I've had a lot of friends who have broken their neck or broken their back from trying to put up their own Christmas lots.

1:05 And I've had someone install something in my attic before and fall through my ceiling.

1:11 I guess it scares me to death.

1:13 The thought of falling from a roof, especially these big giant two story houses.

1:18 But on average, there are about 200 decorating related injuries every day during the holiday season.

1:25 Most of them are falls, but last year there were around five deaths.

1:31 There's a lot of people that go to the, because of injuries that they sustain while they're decorating their home for the holidays.

1:42These include falls, cuts, electrical shocks, burns.

1:49 There are just so many different things that can happen when you think about all the things that take place here in the holidays.

1:57 I'm so guilty.

1:58 Y'all of like stepping up on a stool to hang something and you know, it not being secure or trying to stand on a rolling chair like I know better, but I mean, I do it myself.

2:12 That's another thing, you know, we're hanging stuff, we're hanging our wreaths and putting everything up and it's just, we're in a hurry and we don't really think about what's the worst thing that can happen if I stand on this stool that has wheels on it.

2:28 It's important to put, you know, ladders on firm level ground and then have a helper there just to kind of think ahead a little bit about what the possibilities are tripping on electrical cords.

2:42 I've done this a million times for real.



Children try to stick, you know, electrical cords in their mouth and suffer burns to their mouth.

2:53 Just kind of little things mostly though it's neurological injuries from falling.

3:02 A lot of these result in death.

3:06 And we've seen so many of these in our office, skull fractures and brain bleeds, chest trauma, spinal and neck trauma.

3:15 And even damage to the lungs.

3:17 People fall from the attic getting their decorations down.

3:21 A lot of these end up with brain bleeds and are in the IC U sometimes for a week or so.

3:30 And they just don't improve, especially in the older population or something else to think about is if they're on blood thinners, their chances of bleeding are much higher.

3:42 Even aspirin can increase that.

3:45 And if you're drinking it thins your blood and so that's even going to increase your risk more.

3:52 It's hard to think about that though because we're celebrating and we're having a drink or having a glass of wine and we're on Lovenox or Coumadin or Heparin and boom, you know, it doesn't take much, you can hit your head on the attic ceiling, you can fall from the attic, you can, this is weird and it's not something that I really thought much about, but you can get injured in the rush of trying to get to a sale.

4:21 I mean, I don't know if y'all remember but years ago, like Black Friday people were like getting into fights over stuff at the store, like trying to get, you know, the last scooter or whatever for your son or daughter because it was on sale for $49.99.

4:38 And you know, the regular price was $55 you know, and people start pushing each other.

4:45 I know that people have gotten killed from that before.

4:48 People are serious about their sales.

4:51 Y'all.

4:52 Watering your tree with the lights on is a big risk that it's not really one that I'd think about.

4:59 I mean, we don't have a real tree.

5:00 We have artificial trees because we're all allergic, but it's not something that I've ever thought about.

5:06 I mean, if I had a real tree and the lights were on it, I'd probably water it.

5:10 Not even thinking burns from just cooking.

5:14 We're all cooking more or some of us are cutting ourselves while we're preparing the food.

5:20 And then also our pets, you know, we have all these cords, we have lights and pets are going to chew on everything, especially puppies.

5:29 My daughter's going through that now, she just got a new puppy and she's like mom, our shoes are all being ruined.

5:35 They chew on everything.

5:37 Naturally, the cords are on the ground and they're going to chew through the cords and that's going to not only compromise the lights that are on the cord but also injured the dog, potentially smoke alarms, important to check our smoke alarm batteries at this time of year.

5:58 Also those little button batteries that go with a lot of our electronics.

6:04 They're in a lot of children's toys and books and they are covered by safety regulations.

6:12 Many of the toys, as aggravated as we get about having to unscrew the back off to put the battery on, there's a reason for that because it prevents kids from being able to open it and put those darn batteries in their mouth. The flashing Santa hats and all the musical cards, all of these things pose a risk to the kids, those little button batteries that look like buttons, they release a corrosive acid that can burn the inside of your intestines so they can cause major, major internal bleeding.

6:48 And that's not something that you think about on a regular basis, but it's important to make sure that all the batteries are safely secured inside the toys and all the remote controls and the gadgets, if a battery is missing and you think that it's possible that one of your kiddos swallowed it, take him to the,, and just have an X ray done because lithium batteries can kill them within hours and it's not something that you think about a lot things like food poisoning, that's always a little bit of a concern at Christmas.

7:23 There are over 1 million cases of food poisoning every year and that's, you know, not good for the holidays.

7:31 A lot of times we're watching football, and we leave the food out and we've got potato salad and we've got, you know, the turkey and all those things, not taking shortcuts, you know, cooking it the amount of time you're supposed to because if you don't cook your turkey long enough you can get salmonella poisoning.

7:52 And I don't mean to make everyone paranoid, but these are all the things that we see during the holiday season that can cause injury and possibly death.

8:05 Salmonella can be life threatening, especially for really young people or really old people.

8:10 Accidental poisoning.

8:12 You know, grandma comes over and leaves her purse on the floor and kids start going through things.

8:20 Did you know that the berries from Holly and Mistletoe are poisonous to Children?

8:26 It only takes 20 from Holly to kill a child if it's ingested and they're also toxic to cats and dogs.

8:36 Those types of things, the little silica gel that comes in those small little packets that we see inside our new purses and new things that we purchase.

8:46 Those are used to keep moisture out of electrical equipment and clothes and bags and it's toxic.

8:53 If your child eats that rips it open, eats it or your pets eat that.

8:59 The cuts are not only from cooking, but a lot of the cuts that we see are from scissors and screwdrivers.

9:05 People injuring themselves trying to get into the new toys that they purchased.

9:09 I don't know about y'all, but I get so aggravated when I cannot open something, and they make it harder and harder to get into packages.

9:19 You have to get out your scissors, you have to get out your knives and I have come really close to stabbing myself trying to get a toy open for my granddaughter.

9:31 They're so hard to get into and they're probably stolen less too because in the store.

9:36 It's really hard to get something out of a package and make it look like it hasn't been taken.

9:42 I know in the last couple of years we have seen mostly in our office injuries related to the holidays that have to do with the falls, the falling from the attic.

9:55 We've had many people.

9:57 I know last year we had one that fell.

10:00 I think they're only in their fifties, not old y'all and just fell from the attic trying to get decorations down.

10:08 I can't stress, and I know we talk mostly about true crime but during holidays, I just feel the need to discuss a little bit the risks and kind of use this as an educational tool, the risks of doing these things when you're home alone or, you know, when you don't have help.

10:29 I know we all like to surprise our family and get up in the attic and get everything down.

10:33 It's very dangerous.

10:35 Many people though, end up with brain blades and they're in the hospital for sometimes a week or so before the doctor determines that there's really nothing that can be done.

10:48 And at that point, they are many times sent home and put on hospice because they want to die at home.

10:57 We do see a lot of that.

10:59 Again, I had mentioned the man that was fairly young and fell from his attic and again, he was home alone.

11:06 He was on the floor for quite some time on the ground in the garage.

11:11 And so when you're falling on your head on concrete, it's never good.

11:17 The chances of an injury are so, so high at this time of year again, I've had several people that have broken their neck in their back trying to put up Christmas lights and even the professionals get injured.

11:31 Something to think about.

11:33 Even the people who do it all the time that have all these different safety mechanisms in place can get hurt mark in the extension cord so that they're visible and avoid overloading the electrical outlets.

11:50 And I'm personally so guilty of doing that.

11:54 I will plug in one of those surge protector strip things and literally use every single one of them.

12:02 And I mean, I know that they're there to be used.

12:05 I don't know if the purpose is to use them all at once, but overloading those circuits is not a good thing.

12:11 And in the cold weather, you know, a lot of times we're running heaters, I have a little floor heater under my desk at work and those are, you know, going to be at risk too.

12:23 A lot of them have the safety mechanism where they shut off if they're turned over, which is great.

12:29 You know, back in the day they didn't have that.

12:31 I know I have kicked mine over before and it goes off.

12:34 Thank goodness for that.

12:36 But plug in your lights in the outlets that are protected by the ground fault interrupters, the GFC I, we've all tripped those before and tried to find that one plug that has that one button where we can reset it.

12:52 But using those is important because that protects us from injury or for plugging something in that can't be used with that amount of electricity, inspecting lights and cords for damage and exposed wires is important because again, if you have dogs that might chew on them, then that could be dangerous if the wires are exposed, or the bulbs are cracked or different things like that.

13:22 I know my daughter called me last night and she's like mom, I'm so mad.

13:26 The lights on the very top of our tree are not working, you know, do I restring them all?

13:32 And no, she went on Amazon and bought the bulbs and was checking each one of them and of course, to check, to see if they're working, you have to have the lights plugged in.

13:43 Not very many people are going to unplug them, change out the bulbs, plug it back in.

13:48 I'm sure that she changed them out while they were plugged in, which is not a good idea, but we get in a hurry, and we're annoyed by the fact that we have to do it at all.

14:00 Although I love my pre strung tree, it would be a pain if the lights weren't working on a section of it.

14:09 I like the ones where the lights work.

14:12 Even if one goes out.

14:13 That's the one you want right there.

14:16 Keep the cords clear of water and snow.

14:19 You know, we don't get a lot of snow in Texas.

14:21 I know we've talked about that quite a bit but in areas where there is a lot of snow and even ice, you know, I guess I never really thought about it, but your chance of injury is even more.

14:33 Because if you get ice or snow on the ladder and you're climbing down and you slip and fall or, you know, you've got your lights plugged in and the end of the plug is wet, and you plug it in.

14:47 That's something to think about.

14:48 I never even really thought about that.

14:50 Use wooden or fiberglass ladders because metal ladders are going to conduct electricity.

14:57 It puts you even more at risk.

14:59 Ladders should go taller than the house.

15:02 Not right against the roof line, but it should go about 3 ft past the edge of the roof.

15:09 You can kind of walk out on it instead of having to step down onto it.

15:14 And then of course, stay clear of power lines.

15:16 I know a lot of the power lines now are buried and underground, but in many areas they're not, we want to stay clear of those.

15:24 Always avoid again, overloading the outlets, make sure the cords aren't pinched to avoid damaging the insulation of the cord because that can cause problems.

15:36 Always unplug the power before replacing bulbs, which we talked about that a minute ago with my daughter and I'm sure she didn't.

15:43 I'm sure she changed those out one at a time while it was plugged in something that we struggle with.

15:49 Because during the holiday season, we want to be festive, and we want to leave our lights on and it's not a good idea to leave all of the lights and decorations on before you go to sleep or before you leave the house.

16:04 I know we all want our house to look beautiful and lights are expensive.

16:09 I mean, we are paying upwards of $1000 I think to have lights put in our house and on our house.

16:18 I'm sure the main expense of that are the lights themselves, but we do get to keep them.

16:23 Thank goodness and they'll be taken down and then stored and put up again next year for half the cost still.

16:30 You know, we want to be festive.

16:33 I always want to leave them on when we're gone because you know, it's such a big expense.

16:38 It's like I feel like you should enjoy them as much as you can and let your neighbors enjoy them.

16:43 But it's not a good idea.

16:45 I'm going to have to force myself to unplug the lights when we leave.

16:51 Candle fires are super big too.

16:55 And we have had many of those, we've had many house fires related to candles.

17:01 I guess people put them near the drapes or even in a tree.

17:06 I know it used to be popular.

17:07 Thank goodness, we have battery-operated candles now and I have a funny story to tell you all about that.

17:14 But, you know, that helps a lot.

17:17 But even those are a little bit of a risk because they get warm.

17:22 But it's a much better idea than a lighted candle in your tree.

17:27 But I have a battery-operated candle at my med spa, and I put it in one of the bathrooms because I don't know, it just looks cute.

17:35 I put it in one of the bathrooms and the other day, my husband was like, I kept trying to blow out that candle in the bathroom and he never really looked down into the candle holder.

17:43 He just was blowing and he's like, I couldn't figure out why I wouldn't go out, but it was battery operated.

17:49 I thought that was kind of funny blowing candles out before you go to sleep is important.

17:55 Many, many different risks again.

17:59 And I know this happens a lot.

18:00 But back in 2010 in British Columbia, there was a fire that killed three men and injured another one.

18:09 Of course, it's being blamed on a faulty extension cord connected to an old set of Christmas slots.

18:17 But the fire broke out just around midnight.

18:20 Chances are these guys were sleeping and left them plugged in.

18:26 There were seven people, the house was not that big, but there were seven people in it.

18:31 At the time of the fire, three people made it out on their own.

18:35 Four were pulled out, one was injured and three were deceased.

18:41 It looks like it was attributed to a short circuit in the electrical system caused by the faulty extension cord connected to that old set of lights.

18:50 There were smoke alarms in the house but it's unknown if they were working.

18:54 Again, that's important to be sure that all your smoke alarms are working.

19:00 The interesting thing is the fire department had responded to this house 21 times in the previous three years between 07 and 2010.

19:12 The calls to this residence were mostly medical emergencies but some of them were fires caused by different things in the house.

19:20 I saw a picture of the house.

19:21 It doesn't look like it's very well cared for.

19:24 It was being rented out as a low-cost rooming house to these seven different people.

19:30 And these guys were not all members of the same family, but a lot of the people that are killed in incidents where they're hanging.

19:38 The lights are younger people.

19:41 I think it's important to remember that it's not just elderly people who are at risk of slipping and falling.

19:47 A lot of the people are in their thirties, forties and fifties and have even fallen while putting lights in like large trees.

19:58 I found an article that's kind of interesting and it was like a 10-year study of Christmas related injuries.

20:05 It's interesting because it breaks it all down by, like, male and female and it does say that women are injured by decorating more often than men.

20:17 Over a 10-year period, there are a little over 76,000 women who visit the ER, because of injuries related to Christmas compared to a little over 57,000 men.

20:31 I don't know if that means women spend more time decorating or that we're more careless.

20:37 Anyway, that's just what happens.

20:40 The smaller injuries are more common.

20:42 Falls are not as common as lacerations and cuts again, we're cooking more.

20:49 The risks of those types of things, sprains or strains from tripping, bruises, fractures, food poisoning, internal injuries from falls or battering ingestions, nerve damage, punctures.

21:08 It's kind of scary when you look at all the different things that can happen again, not trying to make everyone paranoid, but I mean, it goes over like lip lacerations from two-year-olds biting into glass Christmas tree ornaments, bruises to the scalp from a box of Christmas decorations falling on someone's head.

21:31Five-year-old hit in the face by a Christmas stocking holder.

21:35Those suckers are heavy; those are heavy to keep the stocking on the hook.

21:42 It's like a weight literally falling on your head.

21:47 An 83-year-old that was killed when she tripped over a Christmas train and hit her head on a concrete floor.

21:55 I'm just kind of looking through a lot of these striking their head on the basement corner, getting out decorations, rib fractures from falling off ladders.

22:08 Another stocking, those stocking holders are vicious.

22:11 I mean, there's a lot of people injured from the stocking holders.

22:18 I want to talk a little bit about electric shock because we're talking about all the Christmas Lot ordeal.

22:26 I've done it before where I've like caught my fingernail in a plug and it's like gotten stuck in the actual outlet, but it can be life threatening, and it just depends on the strength of the electrical current and then how long you're exposed to it.

22:42 This is just the current traveling through your body.

22:45 Electricity has to find its way out.

22:48 Once it enters your body, typically, it passes through someone's feet.

22:54 And so if someone's been electrocuted many times, we'll see a point of exit where the current left the body.

23:02 If multiple parts of the body are in contact with the electrical source, then it can pass through your arm or different parts of that.

23:12 Now, we've always kind of wondered at what point should we go to the doctor?

23:17 Now, if an electrical current passes through your chest, it can cause an abnormal heart rhythm and it can even cause you to go into cardiac arrest.

23:28 Again, those different things and safety measures that we talked about are super important.

23:35 A minor symptom is, you know, when you get shocked, you might feel a poke or a little twinge when you come into contact with electricity.

23:44 If someone around you experiences electric shock, you have to kind of determine different things.

23:52 Like have they lost consciousness?

23:54 Was it difficult for them to let go of the power source on their own?

23:58 You want to make sure they're not still touching the cord and turn the power off to that outlet before you approach them.

24:07 Because if you touch them, guess what's going to happen now, electricity can also travel through water and metal objects.

24:14 If the floor is wet or whatever, I mean, you want to use rubber gloves or a wooden object to push someone away from the source of electricity.

24:23 You don't want to grab them and pull them away because you will also get shot if someone's unconscious and it is needed.

24:32 You can also, of course, I would call 911 and do CPR if you need to, a mild electrical shock doesn't really cause any major symptoms or any tissue damage.

24:45 And that's around 50 volts that's unlikely to cause any major damage or death.

24:50 Sometimes even those low voltage electrical circuits can cause injury.

24:56 You know, I've thought that before when I've gotten shocked, it's like, oh, should I go to the doctor?

24:59 Like, is this going to be a big deal if you don't have any symptoms but have underlying heart problems or you are pregnant, you should definitely still see a doctor just to have an EKG done naturally.

25:14 If you have a seizure, or you lose consciousness, or your heart rhythm seems irregular.

25:21 You should go to the, right away.

25:24 Mild electric shocks don't really require medical attention, especially if you have just like a mild burn.

25:33 It can cause ventricular fibrillation, it can cause arrhythmia, it can cause cardiac arrest and heart damage may not be obvious right away.

25:43 It's important to watch anybody who's been shocked for signs of heart trouble.

25:48 And again, if there's a history of heart trouble, they should probably be checked out.

25:52 Electrical shock can damage your brain, especially if the current goes through it.

25:57 If you have headaches or memory loss or confusion, those are reasons to be seen.

26:04 Most people cannot talk while they're being shocked that electrical current interrupts the signals from your brain and nervous system.

26:14 And so you can have muscle spasms and you can't control your mouth enough to communicate.

26:20 Technically, when they use the word electrocuted or electrocution, that refers to someone dying of electric shock.

26:28 But it can also refer to somebody that's been seriously injured from it.

26:33 Death by electrocution is painful because the current causes all of those involuntary muscles to contract.

26:42 It burns you and ultimately causes you to have a heart attack.

26:47 Of course, how painful it is going to depend on how strong the current is and how quickly you lose consciousness.

26:54 If someone passes out, you know, they're not going to seal anything at that point.

26:59 The main cause of death due to electrical shock is the heart rhythm.

27:04 Some people's heart stops entirely while others just have an irregular rhythm or even a lethal arrhythmia.

27:13 But even if the heart doesn't stop beating, the person can still die from other injuries such as the burns or damage to other internal injuries.

27:22 Shocks are scary.

27:24 Like I said, I don't mean to make everybody paranoid, but sometimes this time of year, I really like to use the podcast as an opportunity to educate, to prevent me seeing people in my office.

27:39 Sometimes it's easy.

27:40 Sometimes the prevention is common sense, and we may do things that we know are wrong and do things in a hurry and it can cause injury or even death.

27:54 Anything I can do to prevent that I am really not excited about being busy when I'm at work.

28:01 I just think we should put a little bit of thought into things before we do them.

28:06 Especially during the holidays.

28:09 It would be a terrible time.

28:11 Any time is a terrible time to lose a family member.

28:15 But especially during the holidays and especially because of an accident because we didn't take all the steps to stay safe anyway.

28:24 I'm trying not to be a Debbie Downer.

28:27 I don't want to see anybody in my office.

28:29 It's not a fun place to be.

28:32 I want everybody to be safe and hopefully I know we're having our lights put up tomorrow.

28:41 I know better than to try to get up on a ladder.

28:43 I am not going to do that.

28:45 I am clumsy.

28:47 I know that my husband would not be excited if I bought a big string of lights and asked him to get up there.

28:52 So that's not going to happen.

28:55 I have decided, even though it does seem expensive, I am going to leave it to the professionals and let them do it because I don't want to take them down either.

29:07 I don't know.

29:07 I just think that that's probably the better idea in my case.

29:11 Hey, I wish I had the skills and the time to get up there and do it myself because I would love to save that $1000.

29:18 Have a lot of other things I'd like to spend it on.

29:20 But I want to be festive because our kids are coming in this year and so that's exciting.

29:26 Please, please, please be safe.

29:28 I look forward to talking to y'all next week.

29:31 I hope that everyone has an amazing rest of your week.

29:36 If you would like to be on the podcast, we are working on a way for you to sign up on our website as a guest host.

29:48 If there's anything you want to talk about even regarding this, if you have fallen off a roof after you've put up Christmas lights or if you have a family member who has been unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident that resulted in injury or death, anything that you might want to talk about, you can actually sign up to be a guest host.

30:10 That'll be coming soon on the website.

30:13 We can talk about all different kinds of things.

30:15 I'm kind of excited about maybe having some guest hosts.

30:18 I need to get some officers that I work with on here to talk about some cases that we've done, and we'll be talking about cases again next week.

30:27 But I just kind of wanted to take the opportunity again to just reemphasize how important safety is and just make sure that, you know, your smoke detectors are working and all those things and just take that extra time to make sure that we're being safe during the holidays.

30:48 I hope y'all have a great week, talk to you next week.

30:51 Thank you so much for joining me today on Pushing Up Lilies.

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31:02 This helps to make the podcast more visible to the public.

31:06 Thanks again for spending your time with me and be sure to visit me at PushingUpLilies.com for merchandise and past episodes.