Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye

I've learned quite a bit about eyes while working in eye surgery here in Salt Lake. I've found it all really interesting and it's useful for me to know since I'm married to an almost-ophthalmologist. Maybe one day we'll go into business together and open our own eye clinic. Peter will be the brains and the dexterity behind the outfit and I'll be the one making eye-shaped cookies and taking care of the eye clinic cats. (It will probably be called Peter and Leslie's Eye Surgery Extravaganza and Bakery.)

By far the most common thing we see is cataracts- an opacification and hardening of the lens. You will probably develop a cataract if you live long enough but they are very easy to fix and usually have no complications. We also see a variety of other eye conditions and diseases that require surgery. Occasionally, maybe once a week or so, there is a trauma case. Some of these are not preventable- like a pipeline exploding into your face or some such freak accident. Some might be preventable- like getting into a bar brawl. Some are not preventable. But there are a few types of injuries that I have recurrently seen over this year that have led me to believe that there are three things that you should avoid or take precautions while using if you want to preserve your eyes:

1) bungee cords
2) exercise bands
3) BB guns

Bungee cord injuries are some of the worst eye injuries. Just don't use those things unless you're wearing goggles. Seriously. If it snaps back into your face in the right way the hook on the end is perfectly positioned to rip open your eyeball. It's usually not a pretty outcome. And if it doesn't rupture your eye it will probably rip open something else on your face. It's just better not to have elasticized hooks propelling towards your face. Peter's boss once said that when he uses bungee cords he turns around so that the hook is behind him. To which one of the students replied "you're going to get something else ripped doing it that way." Indeed. Beware of the hook/elastic combo.

It's the same story with exercise bands. I only saw one example of an exercise band injury. I doubt they're very common. But the patient had to have multiple surgeries and she had no sight in her injured eye except for light perception. Wear goggles.

Finally, BB guns. I've seen several children and a few adults who have come in to have BB's removed from their eye sockets. Surprisingly these usually turn out pretty well. In the cases I've seen the patients have retained their vision. The BB's seem to mostly go around the eyeball and lodge in the socket as opposed to penetrating the eyeball. Regardless, who wants to go to surgery to have a BB removed from his/her face? So, put the BB guns down and just play duck hunt on Super Nintendo.

The good news is that people do really well with only one eye. That's another thing I've learned this year. Hopefully none of us will have to face that scenario. But even if you have vision in only one eye there's almost nothing you can't do depending on your vocation etc... Also, really excellent prosthetic eyes are available these days. Sometimes I can't tell if someone has a prosthetic even if I'm right in his face given him eye drops. So, that's comforting! But still, wear goggles.


Vanessa Rogers said...

This post made me queasy.

Peter and Leslie said...

Sorry Vanessa! I know you have a thing about eyes (right?). I hope the post doesn't gross too many people out...

Beth said...

Yeah, this is a pretty queasy-inducing post! I remember at our college hearing about one of the dining hall workers having a run-in with a bungee cord, and his eye lost.

I'm not generally queasy with medical stuff, but eyes do it for me.