Disabato: Jameson Lamb forges on despite fireworks accident
By Pat Disabato email@example.com Twitter: @disabato May 23, 2013 9:30PM
Homewood-Flossmoor pitcher Jameson Lamb at Homewood-Flossmoor High School in Flossmoor, Illinois, Monday, May 20, 2013. , Lamb lost some vision in his right eye after a fireworks accident last Fourth of July. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
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Updated: June 25, 2013 6:08AM
Moments after finishing a summer league game on July 3, 2012, Homewood-Flossmoor coach Todd Sippel gathered his team, as he does after every game, to discuss the players’ performance.
However, before allowing his team to depart, Sippel had an additional message for his players on the eve of Independence Day, knowing the potential pitfalls Fourth of July celebrations can produce.
“Be careful,” Sippel said to his players.
Jameson Lamb remembers those words all too well.
“I remember it clearly,” said Lamb, who is just days away from completing his junior year at H-F. “He also told us to be safe and not to be stupid.”
We’ve all been warned, at one time or another in our lives, of the dangers of fireworks. Lamb, unfortunately, is living proof of it.
He and some friends were celebrating the Fourth at his family’s cottage in Michigan. The boys decided to light some Roman candles which, from a tube, light the sky with a series of colored balls of fire and a shower of sparks.
Jameson and his friends decided to hold the Roman candles in their hand, instead of placing them on the ground, while the fireworks shot into the air.
One of Jameson’s friends thought his Roman candle had emptied. It hadn’t.
As his friend was bringing his arm down, another firework released, hitting Jameson square in his right eye.
“I think I went into shock right away,” Jameson said. “I could feel the burning in my eye. There wasn’t any blood. I held my eye and ran into the house (cottage).”
At the cottage were Jameson’s parents, Sean and Renee.
“We were in bed and all of a sudden, we heard Jameson screaming and hollering in the house,” Sean Lamb said. “My wife went in the kitchen with Jameson. I walked in a few seconds later and Jameson had his back to me. He turned around and I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ There was a black hole in his one eye. It was like the ‘Terminator’ movie.”
Jameson lost complete vision in the eye.
What he didn’t lose, however, was his love for baseball and the faith he one day would see again.
“The first thing running through my mind when the firework hit me in my eye was if I was still going to be able to play baseball,” Jameson said. “You always hear about fireworks accidents, but you never think something like this can happen to you.”
Those are words for everyone, especially teenagers who consider themselves invincible, to remember as Fourth of July approaches.
In an instant, Jameson’s life was severely altered. He’s endured four surgeries and at least 50 trips to the doctor’s office. Forget the baseball aspect. Jameson had to learn to read, walk and drive with the use of only one eye.
And, yes, play baseball, too.
Two weeks after the incident, Jameson and his father started playing catch. Initially, it was tough going. Jameson, though, continued to work at it.
He’s progressed to a point where he’s pitched in 12 games for H-F this spring.
“All I see out of my right eye is some light,” Jameson said. “At the beginning, my left eye was adjusting to taking on the workload of my right eye. I would get fatigued a lot. It’s been time-consuming. It takes me longer to do some things, like reading. I’ve adjusted to it, but it’s still hard to read and to drive.”
He’s also adjusted to pitching with one eye. Reacting to a come-backer is tough enough with two eyes. Imagine the difficulty with one eye.
“It was hard to see the signs the catcher was giving me,” he said. “I’ve had plenty of comebackers and I’m comfortable with that now.”
Despite the injury, Jameson is having a solid season for H-F. Pitching strictly in relief, he’s 1-1 with a save and a 3.20 ERA. He’s allowed 17 hits and struck out 12 in 192/3 innings.
“Jameson’s pitched well,” Sippel said. “He’s gone through a lot. The fact that he’s even out here is amazing. He’s very determined and is a great teammate. He’s definitely someone to look up to.”
An injury such as Jameson’s can suffer consequences beyond the physical. The wonderment of “Why me?” or “Why didn’t I listen to coach?” can cause as much psychological damage as physical to an impressionable teenager.
Walking around with a disfigured eye would cause some to retreat from public view.
Jameson, however, never has felt that way. He’s persevered. He harbors no ill-will toward the friend who was holding the Roman candle that exploded in his eye.
“I was never mad at him,” Jameson said. “It was an accident.”
The loss of vision hasn’t had an adverse effect on his school work. Jameson boasts a 3.88 grade-point average (on a 4.0 scale) and ranks No. 17 in a class of 685.
Jameson’s story has a real possibility of producing a happy ending. Sometime in July, he will undergo a Limbal Stem Cell Transplant at the University of Illinois-Chicago Hospital, where Dr. Ali R. D’Jalilian, a pioneer in the field, will move stem cells out of Jameson’s left eye into his right eye. He’ll also have to undergo Ocular Surface Reconstruction — more or less plastic surgery — and the possibility of a cornea transplant. The cosmetic surgery, which will be performed by Dr. Peter Setabutr, will require two to three years of recovery before the eye looks normal.
“The doctor says I should get my vision back,” Jameson said. “If everything goes well, the first thing I’m doing is going swimming. That’s the one thing they haven’t allowed me to do. I’ve definitely learned to appreciate things more. I won’t be going anywhere near fireworks anymore.”