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Giselle Sullivan (Firework Safety)

Post Date:06/22/2017 2:57 PM

Last July, the Sullivan family celebrated the season and a family event with aerial fireworks. 6-year-old Giselle was sitting on her mother’s lap, far from the set up. After one aerial firework discharged, it tipped over, pointing directly at Giselle and continued to fire the remainder of the shots in the firework. 

Giselle’s mother tried to quickly cover her eyes, but it was too late. Giselle had been hit in the left eye by the firework. She was bleeding around her eye and her skin had been badly burned. They rushed to the hospital and found that the shrapnel of the firework had embedded into her upper eyelid. Giselle couldn’t open either of her eyes and feared she was completely blind, telling doctors “I can’t see anything.” 

Thankfully, her right eye was unharmed, but her left iris was completely gone and her retina was deteriorated.  The cardboard tube containing all of the shrapnel and firework material was impacted into her left eye. The firework had also completely burned her eyelid, including burning off her eyebrows and eyelashes. 

After four big surgeries, Giselle’s iris has been replaced, but she has still lost vision in her left eye. She can see some shapes and movement – she knows something is there, but doesn’t know what it is. 

Often, when we think about firework injuries, we think of children running around or people looking directly over the firework as it’s discharging. This wasn’t the case for Giselle. She was a distance away in her mom’s lap. 

From her mother, Heather: “This whole experience was nothing we expected to happen, obviously. You’re in the backyard having a barbecue, letting off fireworks and suddenly you’re rushing up to Primary Children’s with a child who is screaming in the backseat that they’re blind. A very scary experience for our family and especially for Giselle. It’s just a good reminder of how unpredictable life is - nobody ever expects something like this to happen. But there are things that you can do to prevent this and that’s what we encourage parents to do this holiday season, so that they don’t have to go through a similar experience.”

Giselle’s mother and our Fire Department have great advice for others out there who plan to use fireworks this summer season:

  • Wear protective eyeglasses, especially for children.
  • Double check what type of firework you are purchasing. Many purchase aerial fireworks without realizing it and are not equipped to use them safely.
  • Aerial fireworks are powerful and not toys, even though they are legal and sold all over the state. These are much more powerful that the fountains many are familiar with lighting off in their street.
  • If using aerial fireworks, put blocks or rocks on the side so they don’t tip over.
  • Put fireworks on a flat, even surface to discharge. Make sure there are no pebbles or debris underneath. 
  • Make sure fireworks are discharged far from parked cars, flammable materials, overhanging trees, etc.
  • Leave the fireworks to the professionals  - attend one of the many displays held all over the valley!

How did Heather feel about this experience?

“As parents, you have so much regret…it’s our job to protect our children. We are in our backyard letting off fireworks, thinking this is going to be this fun family experience and then one of our children gets injured because of a decision that we made. There’s a lot of regret that we have. She will always have to live with the consequence of this freak accident.”

“We are so grateful we have Giselle because she is an amazing little girl! She went through a lot - four really big surgeries with her eye. She would go in there with a smile on her face and she was so brave through it all.” 

And after all of this, what does Giselle have to say:

“Be safe around fireworks!” 

 
Check out more of her story in the video interview with Giselle & her family, plus some tips from our Fire Marshal Robert DeKorver:

 

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