A 5-year-old Illinois boy cried he was “too young to die” after a freak fishing accident left him with hooks in his left eye — effectively “stitching” it shut, according to his horrified mom.
“I was just praying ‘please, please don’t let him lose his eye,’” Hailey Long, 31, said of the gruesome aftermath her son Luca Bovard experienced when he got his line snagged while fishing Aug. 7 at a local pond with his two older brothers and their grandfather.
The preschooler tried to yank it free, only to have the treble hook dislodge and rocket straight into Luca’s face. As a result, two of the three hooks became embedded in his eyelids while one even pierced both the top and bottom lids, which had the effect of sewing one of his peepers shut.
“My dad had picked him up when it happened because he screamed — there’s snakes there and they thought he got bitten by a snake,” Hailey told Kennedy News. “He said ‘my eye, my eye!’ “
The distraught mama added, “When my dad picked him up the other side of the fish hook got stuck in his t-shirt so my aunt ran and got scissors and cut a square out of my dad’s t-shirt because my little boy was pulling backwards trying to detach from it.”
At that point, Luca’s grandfather rushed the imperiled tot HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital, in Effingham, Illinois, where they met with his mom and her boyfriend Roger Haarmann, 34. There, surgeons used pliers to remove the fake fish lure from the hooks embedded in Luca’s eye — a procedure that left the toddler in agony.
“They had to remove the lure [fake fish] from the hook itself and that was traumatic because they had to use five different sizes of pliers and every time they tried to cut it, it was jarring and causing him pain,” Hailey recalled. “He was crying in the emergency room saying ‘I’m too young to die, am I going to die? What’s going to happen, are they going to pull it out?’”
Hoping to calm her offspring down, Hailey told her panicking progeny, “they’re going to give you some medicine and you’ll go completely asleep and then it’ll be like magic and you’ll wake up okay.”
They were then transferred to SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, for specialist pediatric surgery to remove the remaining hooks. That’s where doctors dropped a bombshell: “They got him back for emergency surgery and the surgeon said ‘hopefully we can get it out and it will be okay but the worst case scenario is that he could lose his eye,” she recounted. The medics added that even if they managed to save his orb, the accident could still affect his vision or even leave him with a lazy eye.
This news devastated Hailey, who started imagining what life would be like for Luca if he had only one peeper.
“When he said he could lose his eyeball I just pictured a little boy with a glass eye and I was like ‘that can’t happen, please no,’” lamented the chef, who feared kids would make fun of her boy’s disability.
Despite her internal catastrophizing, Hailey said she put on a brave face, as she didn’t want to “get upset in front of Luca.”
“Thankfully he didn’t see any of us get upset because his eyes had to stay shut the entire time,” Hailey explained. “His arm kept getting tired while we were waiting because he was holding his good eye shut because it was hard to keep one eye open and the other shut.”
Fearing the worst, surgeons anesthetized Luca and prepped for a two-to-three hour surgery to remove his impromptu eyelid piercing.
Then, the miraculous happened: To the family’s surprise, the surgeon appeared just nine minutes into the op and informed Luca’s parents that the surgery had been successful and his eye had sustained no damage.
She said the hook only “scratched the surface of his eyeball,” and that they were able to remove it and suture Luca’s eyelids with dissolvable stitches.
“They said ‘it’s a miracle — it’s the best case scenario, he shouldn’t have any effects on his vision, because we were also thinking, could this make him blind?” Hailed recalled. “I cried when they told me because I was so relieved. We were really grateful.”
The boy was sent home a mere hour after surgery. However, the parents were told to monitor the boy for signs of infection, and to apply antibiotic ointment to his wounds three times a day.
Thankfully, Luca has completely healed from the freak accident, although his
“scarred” mom has imposed strict rules on the boys should they go fishing in the future. She warned her boys to definitely “wear eye protection, tell them to ask for help if they get stuck and if they need to pull it out, tell them to turn their back and walk slowly away instead of yanking hard on it.”
However, she says this probably won’t be an issue for Luca, who has apparently sworn off fishing for life: “In the hospital Luca said ‘I’m grounding myself from fishing, I don’t ever want to go fishing again,’” the guardian recalled, adding that fortunately her tot has managed to see the humor in the situation.
“Towards the end of the ordeal he joked ‘you know what I did catch? I caught a wild Luca!’ — because every doctor we encountered asked if he at least caught anything before that happened,” she said.
In a similarly freaky fish-related accident in March, a tourist was left in serious condition after a needlefish impaled him in the neck while he was swimming in Thailand.
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