Another Lesson Learned
I recently posted about the time I shot my friend John (not John Wayne) in the eye with a BB gun, and the response of the parents in the neighborhood. Their choice to buy us all goggles instead of confiscating all our BB guns stands in direct opposition to how society reacts today.
I wanted to share another story about eye protection, in the further hope that my readers would vow to always wear eye protection from the moment they begin working with their guns.
WARNING: this post contains some graphic and disturbing language. If reading about a terrible eye injury makes you uncomfortable, GOOD. THAT’S MY GOAL!
One Sunday evening, about 15 years ago, I decided to complete a small kitchen project, which required me to install some small pieces of trim around some newly installed light fixtures.
As I prepared for the project, I gathered all the tools and materials I would need.
Now, as I’ve said before, I’m an engineer, the son of an engineer, and I’ve been around projects and tools all my life. And, anyone who has worked in an industry covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Act knows how workplace safety and protective gear are stressed.
So, I had all my materials laid out in front of me, ready to start – a pair of safety glasses, some work gloves, a trimming knife, sandpaper, the wood trim I would be installing, some glue, and some brads.
But first, I noticed that the blade on the trimming knife was a little dull, and I wanted to be sure it would cut easily, since a sharp knife is the safest knife. So, I clicked out the blade on the knife to expose a fresh disposable blade, and used a pair of pliers to safely break off the old blade.
Only, I inadvertently clicked out two blades.
As I bent the knife blade and broke off the old, dull blade, the fresh section in the middle broke off, too.
And flew straight up.
And hit me in the eye.
At first, I didn’t know what had happened, because the piece of blade, about 1 cm long, flew directly at me, and so fast that I really couldn’t see it.
But, after a few blinks, my sight began to get red.
And I felt a chill that I had felt only a few times before, one being when I had shot John in the eye.
I cried out for my wife, who came running into the kitchen. I didn’t even have to tell her what had happened. One look at my right eye and she knew. It was covered with a layer of blood, to the point where I couldn’t see.
I didn’t feel any pain in my eye, and that calmed me somewhat. So, I went in the bathroom and looked and my eye, and I couldn’t see anything, no cut, nothing. And, the blade wasn’t sticking out or anything, so I thought that was a good thing. I cleaned my hands, and took out my contact lens on that eye, and that’s when I saw that it was cleanly sliced, about 1/3 of the diameter of the lens. That was not good.
So, I decided I needed to get to the hospital, right away.
While I waited to be seen by the doctor, the blood slowly washed away, and I thought I was going to be fine.
First, the doctor checked for what I admit was my worst fear – that the blade had gone straight into my eye, and was floating around in there.
Fortunately, he didn’t see the blade in there, and the cut on the surface of my eye was smaller than the blade had been, meaning it likely hit, made the cut, then glanced off and away.
There was blood in my eye, which meant that the cut had extended all the way through the surface of my eye. That was not good. But the doctor felt that would go away, and I would be fine.
He recommended I go see my optometrist, which I did the next day.
My optometrist, I should note, had done his pre-medical training in Chemical Engineering. He and I frequently talked about safety in the workplace. And his first question to me was “Why weren’t you wearing safety glasses?”
It turns out that I was very, very fortunate. The blade had made a small cut in the conjunctiva, just enough to either cut through, or cause enough bruising that my eye bled a little on the inside.
Had the blade flown 1/4 inch to the left, it would have hit my iris. That probably would have blinded me or required surgery to correct. And, had it flown in some other direction, it was, as Maverick said, a target-rich environment, full of muscles and blood vessels.
My vision cleared over the next couple of weeks, and I didn’t wear my contacts for about a month while the cut healed over. As it turns out, the healing of the eye is an interesting process. The eye doesn’t normally have enough blood vessels on the surface to support vigorous healing, but, when injured, it will create them. Then, once the healing is complete, those blood vessels cease functioning, and they scar over. This scar then slowly erodes over time.
In fact, the doctor told me that I was fortunate, that I would live long enough for the blood vessels to completely erode and for my eye to return to normal. It would probably take 30 or 40 years.
The cut on my eye healed, and I didn’t suffer any vision loss.
Over the next month, the area of the cut became apparent as my eye healed itself. It turned red, and that slowly faded over the next six months, leaving a slightly elevated scar. The location of the scar was such that my contact would slip off the scar, and my vision would go to crap. Then, I would have to rub from the outside of my eyelid to get it back over the scar.
As I have moved, I have told each successive optometrist about the accident, and he has instantly found the scar. But now, as I have gotten older, it doesn’t cause my contact lens to move around near as much as it once did. I guess the scars is eroding, as I was told it would, although it has taken about half the time I was told.
The true aftermath, the reason for this post:
I now put on my eye protection as the very first action of any project, before I even start gathering tools and materials. I’ve had to teach myself to do this, but the memory of how I almost lost my sight makes it easier.
I put on my eye protection as soon as I arrive at the range, if I haven’t worn it on the ride in. And, I make anyone who comes shooting with me put theirs on, and keep it on, as soon as we arrive.
Please, please – wear eye protection, and put it on before you think you need to.