When I was in the 7th grade, a kid threw a Chinese star down a crowded hallway of my middle school and I just so happened to be at the “perfect” angle for it to whiz by and slice my left eyeball wide open.
Y’all. That. Happened. To. Me. You can’t even make stories like that up.
I was 13 years old and a 7th grader at Vanston Middle School in Mesquite, TX. It was just a week after my birthday and I was wearing teal “skorts” and a matching white and teal polka dot shirt. This was before you could wear shorts to school and I was super excited to push the envelope with my SKORTS. Is it shorts? Is it a skirt?
The bell had just rang to dismiss for lunch and the halls flooded with crazy teenagers in their first 6 weeks of middle school. My friend Brook and I had just left our lockers and were heading to the lunch room when something… got in my eye. That’s what it felt like. Like a piece of fuzz or a hair or something just got in my eye. I couldn’t see out of it and it just felt weird.
I turned to Brook and said, “Is there something in my eye?” At that point, she turned white and just said “We need to go to the nurses office.”
I remember it all. For whatever reason, our brains… at least mine… remember all the details of traumatic events. Not saying I was traumatized by this… but my life was changed. It shaped my teenage years. And I’d bet it shaped some of my adult years. I mean, I did get hit in the eye with a Chinese star. Whilst NOT fighting in a battle!
Brook just led me into the office. I don’t think she could even speak. There actually weren’t many words spoken during the next few minutes. I’m pretty sure no one knew what to say. The secretary called the nurses name. The nurse called the principals name. And then one of them said “call an ambulance”.
I’m 13. In skorts. And all I know is I can’t see out of my left eye and they are calling an ambulance.
I hear the nurse calling my parents. This is before cell phones of course. My mom wasn’t home so she left a message on our answering machine and then called my dad at work.
This is the call my dad got, “Mr. Mackaly, this is the nurse from your daughters school. She’s been in some sort of accident. We aren’t quite sure what happened but an ambulance is on their way.”
Can you imagine? CAN YOU IMAGINE?
This next part my be where some trauma came in… the paramedics show up in about 3 minutes. The school was literally located directly behind a fire station. The nice men, whom also don’t know exactly what to think or say, wrap my entire head in white gauze. My whole head. They explain that they don’t want me to move my right eye because when I do, my left eye follows, and they don’t want me moving my left eye.
They then strap me to the gurney, head completely wrapped in white gauze, and………….. wheel me through the lunch room out to the ambulance.
THE LUNCH ROOM!!!! The very crowded middle school lunch room!
I remember the paramedic that sat in the back with me. I was so nervous, as you can imagine. But even at that age… I was keeping my cool. We talked about what I got for my birthday. What my favorite subject was in school. And then we arrived at the hospital. Again, no one really knew what to do. They unwrapped my headdress, took a look, wrapped it back up and left the room.
I’m 13. In skorts. Alone in an emergency room. With both eyes covered.
And then. AND THEN. I hear my dads voice. Y’all, I HEAR MY DADS VOICE!
A familiar sound. The most familiar sound.
At the time, he worked in Addison, a good 30 minute drive to Mesquite. And he made it there in 15 minutes. The guys he worked with told the story best… he got a phone call and he was gone.
The hospital said they couldn’t treat me and didn’t know the severity of the injury yet so they were waiting for a transfer to a hospital in Dallas where an eye specialist was available. Next thing I know… we are in my dads 1988 Trans Am headed to the hospital in Dallas! Screw the ambulance… we are on our way! Me and my dad, in the Trans Am driving at a high rate of speed and I am in the passenger seat with my head completely bound with white gauze. Y’all.
We ended up in the specialists office just a few blocks from the hospital. He confirmed that my eyeball had been sliced open by a foreign object. The fluids in my eye were beginning to leak out and I needed emergency surgery to stitch my eyeball back together. They were unsure if they could save my eye, unsure if I’d have vision in it after the surgery, unsure about a lot of things.
This entire time it was just me and my dad. No cell phones so my mom didn’t even know. My dad had left a series of messages with people she may see during the day and messages on our answering machine.
And then she arrives. All she knows is, she dropped me off at school and now I’ve been in an ambulance, my dad is with me, we are in Dallas and they are prepping an operation room for me.
Can you imagine?
She was a little less pulled together than my dad. Ha! But finally, they were both there.
I’m 13. In skorts. And my parents are with me.
That’s all that mattered. They would make sure everything else was ok.
I had surgery at Doctor’s Hospital off Garland Rd a couple of hours later. My parents were there, our pastor, a slew of friends and family. I remember everyone praying over me right as they wheeled me into the operating room.
They operated for over an hour and put 8 stitches in my eyeball. I stayed overnight and the next morning, the room was filled with people. The paramedic from Mesquite came to check on me. Our friend Brenda came and brought me McDonalds breakfast. Friends from church came, from school, from the neighborhood. All to support my parents and I.
I missed school for 8 weeks. The principal said they found a Chinese star that someone had made out of tape and razor blades in the hall where Brook and I were standing. They never figured out who did it but they had a few names they’d really really hoped I’d pin it to.
The school took up a fund for me… to help for medical bills. $330 in ones and fives.
My parents could have sued the crap out of that district. A kid made a weapon in class with school materials. And it sliced my eyeball open.
But instead, they took the $330 and thanked the Lord that I still had an eyeball and eyesight.
Oh yea, I still have an eyeball! And eye sight!
I wore an eye patch for weeks. The stitches were removed one by one as the swelling went down in my eye. The stitch would start to scratch my eyelid and that’s when I knew to tell my mom it was time to take me in and have that one removed.
Through the 8 weeks that I missed school, my mom and I would eat fried potato sandwiches, canned tamales with crackers, frozen pizzas… and watch all the Soap Operas.
My pupil is disfigured in that eye… you can see that in the picture I posted 😉 I occasionally have some blurriness in it. But other than that, it’s fine. I’m fine.
The school treated me like royalty when I came back that year. I’m sure they were so afraid of my parents. All the kids wanted to ask me questions and see my eye. They had heard I got stuck in the eye with a pencil, with a ruler, even with a Dorito chip! They all had suspicions as to who had done it.
One boy even told me the most sincere story of how he could not believe it was me they wheeled through the lunch room that day… because the girl on the gurney… looked a lot skinnier than me.
Ok. Thank you 13 year old boy. I appreciate you. 😉
My friends, a few things… some crazy stuff happens to people. The reason that crazy thing didn’t affect me us much as it may have someone else is because I felt secure. I felt safe. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that my parents were going to take care of me. And guess what? They knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Lord would take care of me. And that their friends and family would stand in the gap when they needed it.
Things are going to happen. It’s how we react, it’s who we have, it’s how we decide to move forward that affects the future. And I don’t know if you’re the one that needs the support or the one that can offer the support… but surely between all of us, there’s enough of both for it to all work out.
Support your family. Support your friends. Maybe even offer to support a stranger. And you know what else you can do? Ask for support. Ask for prayers. Ask for positive vibes. For lunches or dinners or just some company. Build your army! And build it with people that can get you through your eyeball being sliced open with a Chinese star.
My mom always says, “If you don’t know what to do, just show up.”
Let’s show up for our people. And let’s promise to let our people know when we need them.
I love you friends. And I hope you have a great Sunday… and also, I will definitely show you my eye next time I see you 😉