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Summer sports can result in children suffering eye injuries: 1 boy's cautionary tale

Protective eyewear important

Bonnie Dean remembers the panic she felt on the inside as she and her husband drove their 14-year-old son to the hospital unsure if he might lose the sight in his left eye.

"We were on the inside very panicked, and Terry was on the way to Hurley. He thought for sure he was going to lose his eyesight because he couldn't see," Bonnie Dean said.

Terry Dean plays catcher and first base for the Michigan Bandits and was playing in his first tournament of the season.

"I was up to bat and I had two strikes, and I swung and the ball ricocheted off the bat and hit me straight in the eye," Terry Dean said.

Dean was wearing a helmet at the time.

Bonnie Dean said coaches carried him off the field to the dugout where they applied ice and told them to take their son to the hospital.  She remembers being in the dugout and looking at his eye and said where his eye was normally blue, it was black.

The family lives in Davison and took him to Hurley Medical Center in Flint. From there, they were taken by ambulance to University of Michigan hospital to be treated by experts in pediatric ophthalmology.

Dr. Christopher Gappy, an assistant professor in pediatric ophthalmology at the University of Michigan, was one of the doctors who treated him.

"His eye was inflamed and painful to him. He also had bleeding inside of the eye, which bleeding goes away over time, just like if you have a scab or we bleed on our skin it goes away, but bleeding in the eye can cause long term damage, and so we have to watch that very carefully. It can cause glaucoma, it can cause cataracts and those can cause blindness later on in life," Gappy said.  "He also had some retinal bruising which sounds complicated, but it’s basically a bruise of the film of his eye."

'He could have lost his vision permanently'

Dean's injury was considered serious. He was treated with drops to keep his eyes dilated, seven trips to University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center for checks ups and no baseball for several weeks.

"He did have a serious injury but it could have been much worse. He could have lost his vision permanently," Gappy said.

"It feels good. It doesn't hurt anymore," Terry Dean said.

"Eye injuries are very commonly overlooked part of trauma in sports. Especially in summer there are sports that we play you would think they're safe, baseball, you wear a helmet, you think you'd be safe playing baseball, but (it's) very common to get eye injuries in baseball," Gappy said. "We see soccer players get eye injuries often. Even though the soccer ball is not small enough to injure your eyeball directly, the impact from a soccer ball or an inadvertent elbow or a head butt that accidentally hits your eye can cause eye damage as well. And even something as simple as swimming. We see kids sometimes injured swimming. They get kicked in the eye by someone else who's swimming near them."

Bonnie Dean said before the accident they never would have guessed he would receive this type of injury, but the eye is just as vulnerable as any spot on your body.    

Protective eyewear

Terry Dean got the OK to play baseball again, but he will be wearing a new accessory when he does.

"He does have protective eyewear now. We got it after the injury. He has both sunglass eyewear and then clear, it's like a safety glass," Bonnie Dean said. Her son already wears protective gear when he is playing catcher.

Bonnie Dean says she is relieved her son has recovered so well from his injury.

"There's tremendous relief because you go from thinking he's going to be blind because he couldn't see. You know you play all those things through your mind on that trip to the hospital to the outcome being so amazing so we are blessed, very blessed," Bonnie Dean said.

Gappy recommends protective eyewear for almost anything you're doing from sports to cutting the lawn.  If you're not sure you or your child needs eyewear for an activity, talk to your eye doctor.

He also said parents should be prepared and know what the signs and symptoms of an eye injury which includes redness, eye pain, sensitivity, possibly blurry vision or vision loss. And don't wait to see an ophthalmologist if there is an injury; go right away. 

Gappy also told Local 4 that children should be aware that eye injuries can happen and taught to follow the rules to be safe.

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