Scott Fiscus works on an artificial eye at his Nashville, Tenn. offices on June 24.(Photo: Sanford Myers, The Tennessean)
NASHVILLE -- Scott Fiscus, an ocularist from Nashville would rather not fit any children with artificial eyes after the Fourth of July this year.
"Usually, anywhere between six to eight weeks after the Fourth of July is when I start to see people who have injured their eye or lost their eye and had to have it removed because of fireworks," said Fiscus.
That's usually how long it takes for the surgery to heal. One of every six eye injuries from fireworks results in permanent vision loss or blindness, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. The association, citing reports from the Consumer Safety Product Commission and the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said approximately 45% of the more than 9,000 fireworks injuries in the U.S. each year occur in children 15 and younger.
Fiscus has fitted people of all ages. He wishes more people would wear safety glasses.
"It could be a child that is standing off at what you would consider to be a very good distance and an errant bottle rocket goes off and hits the child in the face or the eye," he said. "Or it could be the person who is actually shooting them off."
An errant bottle rocket blinded the right eye of his employee, Kamber Clemmons. She wasn't even near the action and had simply walked out on the front porch to check on the family fun.
"It was a freak thing," said Clemmons. "I went out and it did this loop and popped me. I never even saw it coming."
Fiscus also fits people with prosthetics to replace fingers injured by fireworks. And that's not the only danger. Hearing loss and burns also occur, said Purnima Unni, who coordinates trauma prevention for Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt University.
"People may not know, for example, that the tip of a sparkler burns at a temperature of about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit," said Unni. "This is hot enough to cause third-degree burns."
An eye can become discolored and shrink after vision loss because of injury. Surgeons can create an orbital implant that a prosthetic eye can be affixed to. The cost of fitting someone with an artificial eye runs between $1,800 and $2,000 and is usually covered by insurance, Fiscus said.
Fireworks safety tips
• Wear safety glasses and ear plugs
• Don't let small children play with fireworks
• Clear area of all flammable materials
• Have water handy
• Do not shoot fireworks from metal or glass containers
• Do not re-light a "dud" firework
• Soak fireworks in water before disposal
Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Tom Wilemon, The Tennessean