A few days after the Fourth of July, a loud boom startled Theresa McNair as she arrived home from work. She assumed it was neighborhood kids playing with fireworks left over from the holiday.
The Fort Lauderdale woman didn’t realize until later that it was her own child who was involved, and that the giant explosion was a grenade-like firework that had blown off her son’s right hand and blinded him in one eye.
A year later, 14-year-old Javonte McNair is still struggling to overcome his emotional and physical injuries. He can no longer play football, his favorite sport, and is blind in one eye.
"It has been very hard," his mother said in an interview with local media.
Firework Was Already Lit
McNair said Javonte had been riding his bike through the neighborhood when he found an onion bomb, a highly-explosive firework legally sold in the state of Florida with parental consent.
He picked it up not knowing that it had already been lit. The bomb exploded in his hand, severing his right hand from his arm and blasting him in the face. The bomb shot hot debris into his eye, penetrating his cornea and lens, and causing severe damage.
He was rushed to the emergency room but a team of physicians could not reattach his hand.
Saving Javonte’s Eye
Doctors at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami managed to save what was left of Javonte’s eye. Ophthalmologist Ajay Kuriyan, M.D., and a team of physicians, including Tayyeba Ali, M.D. and Brian Tse, M.D., performed hours of emergency surgery in an effort to restore Javonte’s vision.
But, the eye damage was extensive.
The globe of Javonte’s eye had ruptured and the retina was detached. As with many traumatic eye injuries, Javonte developed a cataract that had to be removed and also underwent a corneal transplant surgery. Dr. Kuriyan was able to save the eye itself. He remains visually impaired but will be undergoing more surgeries in the near future to try to restore more of his sight.
"The firework that hurt him, it’s like a grenade, essentially," said Dr. Kuriyan. "It’s just a tragedy that this happened. Unfortunately, working in the ER we see injuries like this each year around the Fourth of July."
Fireworks Hurt Thousands Yearly
Theresa McNair and her son Javonte, 14, visit Ajay Kuriyan, M.D., at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. Javonte continues to be treated there after a firework exploded in his hand in 2015, taking his right hand and the vision in his left eye.
There were 10,500 injuries from fireworks overall treated in American emergency room in 2014, according to a 2015 report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The commission reported 1,300 were eye injuries. The American Academy of Ophthalmology again issued a warning to the public advising them to avoid using fireworks at home due to the risk of catastrophic injury, particularly to children.
According to a paper published this June in the journal Nature, nearly 40 percent of fireworks injuries treated over a decade at a Seattle hospital happened to children under age 18. The data also showed that nearly a third of the fireworks accidents treated injured the eyes.
"Playing with consumer fireworks around the Fourth of July has become such a beloved tradition that it is easy to forget the dangers they can pose, particularly to the eyes," said Philip R. Rizzuto, M.D., ophthalmologist and clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. "We hope people will take the safest route to celebrating by leaving fireworks to the professionals."