Saturday, December 22, 2012

Injuries Resulting From Getting Stuck in a Chimney

What injuries might be sustained if a man playing Santa became trapped while sliding down the chimney?
Yes, Virginia, Santa Claus has gotten stuck in a chimney.

Despite sometimes appearing large on the outside, the inside of a chimney isn’t very big, usually has an offset course (ie, not straight up-and-down), and typically narrows at the flue. Individuals become trapped at variable distances. Rescue generally involves the fire department extracting the victim from above.

From a medical standpoint, cuts, scrapes, and bruises are very common, and broken bones aren’t unusual. Depending on the length of time before discovery, dehydration may be a factor. The chest may not be able to fully expand, and muscle fatigue can set in if the victim is trapped and not discovered for an extended period. Environmental concerns may also come into play—hot or cold weather.

Without timely rescue asphyxiation (suffocation) can occur, leading to death. As you can imagine, in this case it’s necessary to disassemble the chimney to free the body.
There are bizarre reports of skeletons discovered in chimneys—none in Santa suits to my knowledge.

Moral of the story: leave a couple of footprints on the hearth for the kids, but don’t try sliding down the chimney.

Questions? Comments?
Kelly has worked in the medical field for over twenty years, mainly at large medical centers. With experience in a variety of settings, chances are Kelly may have seen it.

Sometimes truth seems stranger than fiction in medicine, but accurate medicine in fiction is fabulous.
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  1. I've read several reports of this, usually thieves! One was in the 1930's, I think. He was fleeing from police and scrambled down a chimney, then got stuck. More recently, a bank owned the property and discovered the skeleton in the chimney. Those knowing of the young man thought he'd just run away from home and never came back. What a sad way to end a young life.

    I saw another on one of those rescue 911 episodes or another cop show and they had to take apart the chimney to get him out. Shaking head.

    1. Yeah, it's one of those funny/sad things.
      Those that get out alive we wonder what possessed them in the first place. I came across one guy that lost his keys and decided to try the chimney to avoid paying a locksmith--turned out to be waay more expensive.
      Those that die in chimneys are especially sad.
      Thanks for reading, Terry.
      Cheers, Kelly