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Decorating Injuries Show That Hanging The Holly Isn't Always Jolly


Flipping through O Magazine this month, we saw a blurb that read reckless decorating.


And we laughed and thought, like, what does that mean, mixing tinsel and garland?

SIEGEL: White lights and colored lights?

MCEVERS: A star and an angel and a dove on top of the tree?

SIEGEL: But it's not about that kind of recklessness. This is serious stuff.

ANN MARIE BUERKLE: It's something that so many people are doing, and there's so many potential hazards.

SIEGEL: And potential injuries, says Ann Marie Buerkle. She's the chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. And she's concerned about people getting hurt while decorating.

BUERKLE: Lacerations, back strains, falls off of ladders.

SIEGEL: Buerkle told us decorating accidents account for 240 emergency room visits per day during the holidays.

MCEVERS: And these accidents can happen quickly even to people with a lot of experience like Kurt Farmer of Alexandria, Va.

KURT FARMER: Howdy, Sir. I'll be open on Sunday.

MCEVERS: He's one of those extreme Christmas decorators. His home is the kind that people look forward to seeing every year, lights and decorations jammed onto every inch of property.

FARMER: Not quite done yet - about 80 percent done. Thank you.

MCEVERS: It takes Farmer weeks to get things just right. Thousands of visitors will stop by.

FARMER: They call me Mr. Inflatable for some reason.

SIEGEL: There is a reason. It's the fortress of cartoon characters surrounding his lawn.

FARMER: There's the Grinch, Mickey, Tigger, Pooh, Bart and Homer, Cat in the Hat. I actually have less than my father did. I've cut back to probably between 80 and 90 now.

MCEVERS: Yes, this is a family tradition going back 40 years, so there are vintage pieces in the mix, too - painted plastic Santas and snowmen and penguins. Some of them are anchored to his roof, glowing and swaying between strands of lights. And there are so many lights in so many colors.

SIEGEL: They practically drip from his house. And they wind around a big maple tree. There are lights strung between huge plastic candy canes and polar bears, lights draped behind the army of nutcrackers standing at attention on his porch.

MCEVERS: But this Christmas wonderland comes at a physical price.

FARMER: Oh, the incident...

MCEVERS: It happened two years ago. He was putting some finishing touches on the extravaganza when he saw it - an off-kilter candy cane on the edge of his roof. He was in a rush to get to work, but he had to fix it. Kurt Farmer took one bad step and fell from his roof to the concrete below.

FARMER: I shattered my pelvis. Somehow I came down 15 feet and landed literally on my right leg - shattered that into 32 pieces and then collapsed and landed on my rotator cuff and shattered that.

SIEGEL: It took several surgeries and nine months of rehab to recover. The next Christmas, he was back at it with the lights and the inflatables.

MCEVERS: Farmer says he's in pain every day. He has found ways to make decorating easier, though, like using a mechanical lift.

FARMER: I added another 10,000 lights on my tree this year because I could go so much higher. I had never been that high before because I was doing everything off a ladder.

SIEGEL: He's also more careful, he says, and more deliberate when he puts up his decorations. One holiday in the hospital was enough.

FARMER: Take your time. And patience is always a virtue because it's not worth what might happen to take the extra 30 seconds to do it the right way.

MCEVERS: Good advice from Kurt Farmer, extreme Christmas decorator of Alexandria, Va.

SIEGEL: Stay safe, everyone. And happy holidays. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.