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Your head may look like a bowling ball, but ...

How are your eyebrows? That's the " burning" question I was left agonizing over one Friday. The morning had dawned beautifully, and I had decided to take leave so I could work on my truck. I needed to shave down all four brake calipers to fit my new rims--a job that I knew wouldn't be easy.

After a good breakfast, I donned my coveralls, safety glasses, gloves, and closed-toe shoes. It was about 0830 when I started to work. I figured it would take about six hours, with breaks, to finish.

Every time I took a break, which was often, I removed my goggles and gloves, then rolled my coveralls to my waist and tied them. I also washed my hands with soap before every break. It was about 1330 when my wife asked me how much longer I would be working on my truck. "I need another 30 minutes," I said. Sure enough, it was 1400 when I started putting away my tools and cleaning up the area.

About 1430, I headed for a shower, feeling very happy that my truck finally was ready to drive. I had shampooed my bald head and was washing my body when I first felt a burning sensation in my left eye. Not long afterward, I felt a similar burning sensation in my right eye.

I got dressed, then went downstairs and told my wife I was ready to get out of the house. The burning sensation kept getting worse, so I asked my wife to put some drops in my eyes before we left. En route to the store, my vision kept changing, and the sunlight really hurt. I had to put on my sunglasses to alleviate some of the pain. Even then, I constantly was rubbing and blinking my eyes to get them to focus.

At the store, the pain grew worse. Besides the burning sensation, both my eyes now felt like dust was in them. I bought more drops at the store and had my wife put some in both eyes--but the pain remained. In fact, it was getting worse, and my vision was blurring. To keep my balance, I had to squat on the floor. My wife checked my eyes and noticed small, black particles in them. The iris of my right eye looked especially bad.

I figured if I went to the bathroom to rinse my eyes, the particles would wash away, but they didn't. I even used my fingers to rub my eyeballs as the water was running, but that also didn't work. By this time, my eyes were bloodshot, and the pain nearly was unbearable.

My wife suggested we should go to the hospital. Before we could do that, though, we had to go back home and drop off our children with my in-laws. The emergency-room staff immediately had me see a physician. My wife and I got a good laugh when the ER admission nurse asked me what had happened. I told her I had shaved some metal, then jumped into the shower, where my eyes had started burning. Not looking at me while writing, she said, "Maybe some metal particles in your hair washed into your eyes."

When she finally looked up, I asked, "What hair, ma'am?" The receptionist, the nurse, my wife, and I all became teary-eyed from laughing so hard about the comment.

In the optometry room of the ER, the attending physician examined my eyes with a special machine [called a "slit lamp"]. He identified at least seven particles in my right eye and nine in my left. He also noticed that one of the particles on the cornea of my right eye had developed a ring around it [see accompanying photo for sample of what it looked like]. He even let my wife look into the machine so she could see it. The physician explained that the metal particle was just under the surface of the eyeball, and exposure to the oxygen of my eye already had begun causing a rust ring to form.

The physician administered anesthetic eye drops to both my eyes, which immediately caused an awful burning sensation. Both eyes, though, quickly were soothed. While the pain was gone, the gritty feeling still existed. The attending physician was able to remove 15 of the 16 metal particles using Q-tips and saline flush. The only particle he couldn't remove was the one imbedded into the cornea of my eye. He tried scraping off the particle with a tool that resembled a file [probably a "curette"] but with no success. Two-and-a-half hours later, he suggested calling in a specialist eye doctor [an ophthalmologist] on call. The attending physician said he was afraid he might cause more harm than good to my eye if he continued.


Within 45 minutes, the ophthalmologist came to my rescue. He checked my eyes with the same machine the physician had used and confirmed that the only particle he saw was the one embedded in my cornea. He then administered more anesthetic eye drops and moments later used a tool similar to a cordless Dremel [called a "corneal burr" or "corneal-burr drill"] to polish my eye. In just a few seconds, it was over. The ophthalmologist had polished off the metal particle, as well as the rust ring. He then administered some antibiotic eye drops and told me to repeat this procedure every six hours for the next five days. I also received a tetanus shot and was instructed to do a follow-up with him in 48 hours at his office, so he could monitor my progress.

The specialist explained that, although I didn't have hair on my head, metal particles likely had collected on my eyebrows and had washed into my eyes while showering. He told me it was a good thing I had worn safety gear, or even more particles probably would have embedded into my eyes.

At the end of this ordeal, I had to question myself. Here was a person trained to use proper safety equipment whenever it's needed, and I had used it. However, I didn't give any thought to the fact my eyebrows would catch so many metal particles. How many more particles would have entered my eyes if I hadn't been bald or hadn't worn any PPE? In retrospect, I realize that proper PPE always is critical for the job being performed. I should have used a full face shield or goggles that would have covered my eyebrows, instead of the safety glasses.


* Eye Safety,

* Corneal abrasion (scratch): First aid,

* Corneal Abrasions, healthy/firstaid/basics/205.html

* Corneal Foreign Body,

By AD2 Jeffrey Quichocho,

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Title Annotation:wearing the right protective gear can reduce the risk of injuries
Author:Quichocho, Jeffrey
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2008
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