CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - As you get ready to celebrate our nation's independence, Dr. M. Lance Tavana, a hand surgeon at MUSC'S trauma center, is getting ready for a long week.
He says each year, people lose their fingers while handling fireworks.
"Patients are left without thumbs, without fingers and its very debilitating in regards to the rest of your life for something that can be very easily preventable," Dr. Tavana said.
Dr. Tavana says most of the people whose hands he tries to save have caused the injuries themselves.
"People are holding fireworks in their hands as opposed to putting them down, and that is really when you get into danger is when you are holding a firework," Dr. Tavana said.
Tavana said severe hand injuries like deep cuts or crushed bones can usually be fixed.
But injuries caused by fireworks are different.
"It's such a great injury to the hand that we can't keep the fingers. We can't keep them alive if they are detached. We can't replace them," said Tavana.
The easiest way to prevent an injury with fireworks is simply to follow the directions on the box. The warning label says "Do not hold in hand." However, people don't always follow directions.
"Putting them together, taping them together, making a big bundle of fireworks not realizing the amount," said Tavana referring to people altering a firework to get a more intense blast.
"You get a lot of the gunpowder out of it and make a bigger explosive," says Michael Washington, a fireworks distributor.
Washington also notes that the fireworks he sells have been designed and tested so that a buyer knows what to expect.
Tavana says the injuries that he has seen on the job have changed the way he celebrates his own 4th of July holiday. He goes to see fireworks displays, but won't handle them himself.