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E-cigarette disaster
Man burned, hospitalized from explosion
James Howard-wrapped leg.jpg
James Howard suffered third-degree burns after his e-cigarette exploded in his pocket last month. His right side from groin to foot is wrapped in ACE bandages while he recovers.

Single dad of two James Howard was left with burns along his right leg after his e-cigarette battery pack exploded in his pocket last month.

The second- and third- degree burns were so severe, he was transported to Vanderbilt University Medical Center and required skin grafts to his lower right side.

“I was cooking for my boys when it exploded and at first, I thought it was grease,” explained James. “I realized I was on fire and when I got my pants off, my entire leg was black with the skin rolling off.”

For James, surgery and recovery have been extensive as his straddle all the way to the top of his right foot was injured. He initially spent 12 days at Vanderbilt after the emergency surgery and has been in and out since the incident due to allergic reactions and swelling in his extremities.

“I’m on 13 types of medicines and I don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” said James, passionately. “I’m 51 years old and have had kidney stones, but this is the worst pain I’ve been in in my life.”

His sister, Shelia Boyd, converted her dining room into a sterile hospital-like space for Howard and learned wound care to treat him at home. She, along with her husband Richard, are caring for James along with his two boys.

“It’s been a process and it could take him a year to recover from something like this,” said Shelia. “I have a new respect for my brother because he has been pushing through the tremendous pain and his love for his sons is so evident in how hard he’s pushing his body to heal.”

Added Richard, “James is a mechanic and restores vehicles and the work is dusty so he has to stay in a clean, dust-free environment. He will have to avoid it for quite a while.”

Still, James said he feels lucky he didn’t lose his life. Even though he has been vaping for six years as a way to quit smoking cigarettes, James says he will never pick up another vaping device or be around anyone with an e-cig.

“It’s taken a lot from me,” said James. “I’ve got a 12-year-old with special needs and a 14-year-old. I can’t take care of my children and I’m a burden on my family because they have to take care of my business while I recover.”

To help with medical expenses and basic needs, there will be a benefit for James and his boys at Fairview Community Center on Saturday, Nov. 10 at 5 p.m. There will be a meal and an auction. Any support of this benefit is greatly appreciated.