WESTFIELD — The scars covering Kristi Anema’s right hand and arm tell a story of determination after a firework accident changed her life.
“This one is kind of shaped like a heart a little bit, so I like that one,” the small business owner from Westfield said. Pointing to another scar, she added, “One was a cross for the longest time, and I was hoping it stayed a cross, but it didn’t.”
Anema’s weeks for the past nine months have consisted of intense and frequent physical therapy. The mother of four was re-learning simple tasks with her own mother by her side the entire time.
“They’re hoping 80%. I’ll never be able to make a fist, but I’m pretty darn close to it and I’m hoping one day to prove them wrong,” Anema said.
Last summer, the unthinkable happened.
“I’ve learned now that looking at things I can’t do, looking at the things I can do. I couldn’t even wiggle my fingers or dress myself, and now recently I learned to tie my shoes again,” Anema said.
While holding a firework, it malfunctioned and split her dominant right hand in half. It was her youngest son who called 911 that September night.
“One of the guys was holding the tube up in the air and he asked me if I wanted to do it and I didn’t hesitate. I held the tube like this with my right hand and the mortar never left the tube and it exploded and left the bottom and basically blew my hand in half,” Anema said.
She continued, “When I went to hold the tube, my son-- I’ll never forget that -- he said, ‘Mom, I don’t think that’s a good idea.’ And I said, ‘Oh, Mommy will be fine.’ ”
Anema was rushed to the ER with 15 broken bones, six dislocations and a compound fracture. She underwent two surgeries over her eight days stay. She had pins, hundreds of stitches, and now, four plates and cadaver bones.
Originally, doctors told her they may need to amputate two fingers, but all five were saved. Once discharged from Ascension St. Vincent Level One Trauma Center, she had three more surgeries, and another is planned for this fall.
“It was so stupid, and it changed my life. My everyday way of living and it will never, ever be the same,” Anema said.
Before the accident, Anema said she never thought twice about using fireworks.
“I mean Fourth of July was my favorite holiday. I just always loved fireworks,” she said.
Almost a year after her accident, she's joining medical experts in asking Hoosiers to take firework safety seriously.
“Fireworks, although they’re a lot of fun, can be dangerous, just be careful with them,” Dr. Lewis Jacobson, Director of Ascension St. Vincent Level One Trauma Center said.
Among several safety tips, Jacobson advises, “If you’re setting off fireworks, obviously alcohol and something like that doesn’t mix, and just caution people that just the way that you have a designated driver, that doesn’t drink, a designated fireworks person, that does the same thing.”
As Anema’s recovery continues, she said she is determined to check things off her bucket list, like fishing earlier this month and bowling soon.
“That’s my goal is to be able to cut my own food again. I can’t do that yet. My husband and son do that a lot for me. Sometimes it’s embarrassing to me, but I will cut my own steak again one day,” Anema said.
Here are more firework safety tips from Ascension St. Vincent:
- Never let children play with or be near fireworks.
- Teach children to respect the dangers of fireworks.
- Set a good example. Children are great imitators of adult behaviors.
- Offer child-safe alternatives such as glow-in-the-dark wands, noisemakers or fireless fireworks.
- Never light fireworks in your hand or near your face.
- Never ignite fireworks in a glass or metal container.
- Keep a bucket of water close by to douse “duds."
- Never attempt to relight a firework.
- Sparklers can burn at 1,200 ºF and are not made for children.
- Put all used sparklers in a bucket of water as they remain hot for a long period of time.
- Never modify fireworks or use homemade fireworks.
- Do not carry fireworks in your pockets.
- If clothing catches fire, stop, drop and roll until it’s out. Then cool with water and call 911.