Prince George's woman hurt in explosion at home

Doctors work to save eyesight, left hand

February 19, 1999|By Richard Irwin | Richard Irwin,SUN STAFF

Doctors in Baltimore were working last night to save the sight and left hand of a Prince George's County woman who was injured in an explosion in her apartment.

In the explosion, the woman's right hand was blown off, and her left hand and eyes severely damaged, said a Prince George's County fire department spokesman.

The victim, 41, underwent hours of emergency surgery yesterday afternoon and last night at the Raymond Curtis Hand Center at Union Memorial Hospital.

The woman, whose name was not released, was in critical condition early today, said Dr. Vinod Lakhanpal, head of the hospital's Department of Ophthalmology who operated for five hours on her eyes, which had been severely perforated by material from the device.

After he operated, Lakhanpal said, hand specialists began their work at 5 p.m. and were still operating at 11 p.m.

According to Mark Brady, spokesman for Prince George's County Fire and Emergency Medical Services, a resident of an apartment complex in Landover Hills called 911 about 1 a.m. yesterday and reported an explosion.

"When firefighters entered an apartment in the 6900 block of Alison St.," Brady said, "they found a woman sitting in a room, bleeding from serious face wounds and burns. Her left hand was severely mangled and her right hand gone."

Brady said residents of at least three apartment buildings were evacuated to a nearby school while bomb squad police and firefighters searched for explosive devices. Residents were allowed to return at 7 a.m.

In the woman's bedroom, Brady said, firefighters and police found what appeared to be parts of a large firecracker.

"Whatever it was," Brady said, "a fuse had to be lit by someone in order for it to explode."

Brady said the woman was first taken to Prince George's Trauma Center in Cheverly, where she was stabilized and taken to Union Memorial.

Lakhanpal said the woman's face and head suffered serious burns. Her corneas -- the outer transparent portion of the eye -- and lenses -- the part of the eye that helps to focus light onto the retina -- were severely damaged, he said, and it was not certain if her sight could be saved.

"It will be a matter of time before we know for sure," Lakhanpal said.

Lakhanpal said that when the woman entered the hand center, her eyes were the main concern, and that eye surgery took place early yesterday afternoon.

After eye surgery, he said, physicians who are expert in the repair and reattachment of hands began their work on her left hand.

"Her right hand was beyond repair or reattachment," Lakhanpal said.

The fire department is investigating the incident.

Pub Date: 2/19/99

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