Subhransu Ray was the eye trauma specialist on call for the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. He was home in Brook-line, watching the Red Sox game on television. "In the next 10 minutes, this beeper is going to make a sound," he told his wife.
He was at the hospital within half an hour. Mass Eye and Ear handles about 7,000 sports-related injuries every year. In basketball and football, fingers are poked into eyes on an alarmingly routine basis. Golf balls and racquetballs constantly hit eyes. A month earlier Ray had operated on a rec league player who had been hit by a thrown softball. The player had lost vision in the eye, which was subsequently removed.
The first variable in determining the severity of eye injuries is the amount of damage absorbed by the surrounding small and medium-sized bones. Ray compares the bones around the eye to the "crumple zone" in a modern car. If the bones took the brunt of the impact, the "globe," the eye, was protected. If not, if the globe was struck, the victim could lose his sight. The bones had not taken the impact for the softball player.
Ray's first matter of business was to relieve the intense pressure around Florie's right eye caused by all the bleeding. The pressure could deaden the optic nerve and cause blindness. The operation is called "orbital decompression." Ray made an incision with his scalpel at the lateral can-thus, the point where the upper and lower eyelids meet, to let out the blood.
Florie endured all this in the mind-numbed daze of a trauma victim. He was poked and prodded around his eye, had needles stuck around his eyeball. He was struck by an irony: Two weeks earlier he had been at this same hospital, inquiring about the possibilities of laser surgery to correct his vision.
"Can you see anything?" he was asked.
"No," he said.
"Can you see light?"
"Yes. I can see light."
This seemed to be a good sign.