AURORA, Colo. - It’s been a very long week for Gregory Ingram and his family.
Ingram has spent a week at the Burn Intensive Care Unit at University of Colorado Hospital and a week away from his two young children following Christmas.
“We were supposed to get my oldest a fish for the fish tank that Santa brought this week; I haven't been able to do that. We were supposed to play with all of the presents; I haven't been able to do that either," said Ingram.
Ingram said as he was going to work on Dec. 26 when the battery of his e-cigarette blew up in his pocket without any warning.
Unlike many reported e-cigarette battery explosions, there wasn’t anything else in the pocket with the battery at the time of the accident, said Ingram.
"My pants caught on fire and the flames shot out and got my thumb, and then I went to try to pat that out and then my whole pocket just erupted,” said Ingram.
Now, second and third-degree burns cover Ingram’s upper leg and hands, leaving a permanent reminder of the accident and also leaving him and his burn surgeon with one message to others:
“Be extremely cautious or if not just don't use them at all. It's very dangerous," said Ingram.
“A lot of people have turned to e-cigarettes as perhaps a safer method of smoking, but cigarettes don’t explode in your pocket, so it actually turns out to be not a safer method of smoking, and we still don’t know the effects on the lungs,” said Dr. Arek Wiktor, who’s a burn and trauma surgeon at University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora. “Beware, because we really don’t know what’s causing this. We really don’t know how to prevent it, and I really hate to see people come into our ICU one or two a month with these explosions and I can’t really tell them why or not, I guess the key is don’t smoke.”
Ingram isn’t the only one who has had this happen.
Burn experts say more and more people are getting hurt like this at an alarming rate.
According to the University of Colorado Hospital, 15 people have been treated for burns stemming from e-cigarettes in 2016. That’s compared to two people treated for the same injury in 2015, and none reported at the hospital in 2014. A hospital spokesperson told Denver7 they didn’t track these types of burns before 2014 because they were so rare.
Dr. Wiktor said, fortunately, the e-cigarette burn injuries they see cover five to seven percent of the patient’s body, which is small.
Meanwhile, Ingram is just glad his injury wasn't worse, and he can still walk out of the hospital just days after his accident.
Dr. Wiktor notes that the burn unit at the University of Colorado Hospital is the only American Burn Association verified burn center in Colorado and our broader five-state region.