Bloomfield boy overcomes traumatic eye injury - Albuquerque Journal

Bloomfield boy overcomes traumatic eye injury

Gage Mangum is seen after his recovery from eye surgery. (Courtesy of Sarah Mangum)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

A day of playing in the backyard resulted into severe eye trauma for a New Mexico boy.

In Bloomfield, nine-year-old Gage Mangum fell on a stick that went directly across his eye and hit the center of his cornea.

Gage went to his parents saying he couldn’t see and after a trip to Mercy Medical Center in Durango, Colorado, it was decided that he needed specialty care.

Gage was flown to Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora and then Gage had his first surgery performed by Dr. Lucy Mudie.

Mudie completed an open globe laceration to save his eye. Gage’s care was then transferred to Dr. Emily McCourt, chief of pediatric ophthalmology at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

In January, Gage had to have another surgery to remove a traumatic cataract and remove the stitches that were originally placed in October. Although it’s very rare to have an open globe, it’s even more rare to come out of it with 20/25 vision like Gage did.

“I performed just a second surgery, which was when we took the cataract out of his eye, and took out the stitches in his eye,” McCourt said. “The stick went through the clear layer in front of his eyes, called the cornea, and then it went into the lens of his eye.”

When the lens got cloudy, Gage was diagnosed with a cataract.

“We think of cataracts mostly as an older person’s disease but they can happen in children for multiple reasons, and most commonly in my practice is due to trauma,” McCourt said. “So his first surgery was done by one of my partners and Dr. Subramanian and so that went really well”.

Thankfully, McCourt was able to help Gage progress back to normal.

Gage Mangum spent months getting surgery on his eye after an accident. (Courtesy of Sarah Mangum)

“He had an eight millimeter corneal laceration, which is very large, because your corneal diameter is about 10 to 12 millimeters,” McCourt said. “Then I went back into his eyes, to take the cataract out and the stitches from his initial surgery, and allow him to see out of it.”

Though Gage’s physical trauma was obvious, accidents like this can be overwhelming for nine-year-olds.

“Big traumas can happen to good kids and good parents and I remind families of that when I meet them,” McCourt said. “Because there’s the physical trauma, there’s also emotional trauma involved in any accident like this and I think that my patients who address that with their families tend to have an easier time with the physical healing as well.”

For Gage, getting healthy meant getting back to sports.

“I know the cow catcher, and one big thing my dad taught me was do not go down on your back,” said Gage.

The doctors knew Gage’s biggest concern was playing ball again.

“While talking to him it was important to discuss his emotional healing as part of his recovery, and then also understanding his goals,” McCourt said. “He was very clear that he wanted to go back to wrestling, so we spent a lot of time talking about what steps would be needed and what kind of vision I wanted to have before I would OK him going back to wrestling.”

These conversations helped smoothen the process.

“So at least it’s my opinion that understanding the goals of the patient and the family, helps engage them in the process of healing and trying to attain the quality of life back that they aspire to,” McCourt said.

When Gage is not on the mat, you could also catch him on the field.

“I played baseball last year but I got injured in the middle of football season,” Gage said.

Though Gage’s eye will not fully go back to normal, he is able to play again.

“No, he will never be 100% but he’s pretty stinking close, as he sees 20/25 and needs a hard contact lens,” McCourt said. “Yeah, he’s 20/25, which is a beautiful result after the injury that he had.”

Gage also has great vision in his other eye.

“His other eye is 20/15, which is excellent vision,” McCourt said. “I’d say when I talked to parents and families on the night of or the day of the original injury, I often tell them that the first surgery is really just to save the eyeball because it is such a high risk of losing vision and losing your eye from having this type of injury.”

While Gage’s injury was rare, that part of his life is over.

“Open globe injury is exceedingly rare though it feels quite common around here,” McCourt said. “We repair one to two of these injuries every month. I can’t give you like a frequency in the community but considering how many states have children that we take care of. It’s pretty rare to have an open globe injury.”

For McCourt, Gage’s parents were instrumental towards a successful recovery.

“A lot of that is a testament to how wonderful Gage and his family were about doing every single thing I asked him to do the entire time,” McCourt said. “And also probably a little good luck in there too.”

Next fall, Gage can return to the mat.

“My biggest wrestling hint is do not stop, do not stop moving,” Gage said.

Just like in real life, Gage will not stop.

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