|Christian's eye 10 days after surgery|
In October 2002, my son was playing in a recreational soccer league in the U12 category. On a beautiful, sunny afternoon, his team was playing another team that was coached to be very physical to the point of being dirty. Other parents and I were on the sidelines praying for the game to be over with no one hurt. It happens that way in recreational soccer. In a split second, as my son was running towards a ball that popped up in the air, one of the other team kicked it at eye level. The ball traveled no more than three feet before it hit my son in his left eye with sickening impact. Thus started a three-year odyssey in which he had seven major eye operations and left him functionally blind in that eye.
After it was iced down and we went home, and there were no swelling, bruising or ruptured blood vessels, I thought we got pretty lucky. What we didn't know was the ball hit the eye with such force; upon decompression it ripped a hole in the macula, the nerve center for central vision in the eye. After a day, we knew that there was something not right and a visit to an ophthalmologist confirmed our fears. Although a subsequent visit to a retinal specialist diagnosed a "pseudo" hole, I wasn't satisfied and pulled some strings to get a second opinion at the Casey Eye Institute in Portland, Or. He was in the operating room at the first available time slot for the first of many operations to come.
A vitrectomy is an incredibly delicate operation where the fluid is drained out of the eye, surgical repairs are made and the fluid is replaced with a gas bubble or oil to put enough pressure on the repairs to allow healing. If oil is used, it takes another operation to remove the oil and replace it with saline. Three incisions are made in the eye, one for a light source and camera, another for instruments and a third for suction and fluid replacement. If a gas bubble is used the patient has to lie face down for a period of two to four weeks. The bubble dissipates and the eye will replenish the fluid naturally. Because of my son's age, we opted for the oil because he did not have to be immobile for a long time, as with the gas.
After the first and second operations (to remove the oil), he was diagnosed with injury-induced glaucoma. His ocular pressure jumped to almost 60 and another operation called a trebeculectomy, where they basically drill a hole in the eye to relieve the pressure, was performed.
A few months later, another setback. Residual scar tissue from the first operation had tugged at the retina causing a detachment. Another vitrectomy. Two months later, the retina detached again. The next operation was the most involved yet. In addition to the other problems, a cataract had formed in the crystalline lens. The checklist of items: Vitrectomy for the detached retina, a scleral buckle to stabilize the eye, removal of the cataract and laser stitching to reduce the amount of fluid produced to help control the glaucoma. Two months later, another operation to remove the oil and insert an IOL for the removed cataract.
This operation proved to be the most successful as the eye seemed to stabilize and the glaucoma pressure lowered to a normal level. However, several months later he was hit in the eye again with a volleyball during lunch hour at school, causing another retinal detachment. The last operation was done in February 2005 and to date there has been no further injury or operations. His eye pressure is normal and life, as he now knows it, has been normal as well. Needless to say, this experience has affected his life profoundly and he has virtually no vision out of that eye.
Being in the Eyecare business myself (wholesale laboratory sales), I have been on a personal crusade to promote eye safety in sports. I have developed a seminar for Eyecare professionals approved by the American Board of Opticianry. I have spoken to numerous associations and parent groups. I have sent countless e-mails to different sport organizations in the Pacific Northwest offering low cost eyewear protection and alerting them to the dangers of eye injury. Throughout all of this, there has been one underlying characteristic from all my contacts. Apathy! The sport organizations feel that because there is a statistically low incidence of serious eye injury, there is not much they should do. The parents think that our case is an isolated freak accident and that it could never happen to their child. The kids themselves never give the possibility of injury a second thought and do not want to look geeky wearing protective eyewear. The one question I always ask that sometimes gives them pause is: "How many eye injuries are too many?" My answer is, "One is too many."