Boy, 9, loses eye after Nerf gun injury

The dangers of NERF guns are once again in the spotlight.
The dangers of NERF guns are once again in the spotlight.  Photo: Shutterstock

A nine-year-old boy has lost his eye after being hit by a Nerf gun pellet, six years after a similar "freak" accident left him blind in the same eye.

Taylor-Jay Ravicini of Swansea, Wales, was three years old when he was hit by a toy arrow.  At the time, doctors were able to save his eye, but not his sight.

Earlier this year, however, the little boy was dealt another devastating blow when he was struck in the same eye while playing with Nerf guns.

"A stray projectile hit me in the same eye that I was already blinded in, which then filled up with blood and caused a build up of pressure in my eye," Taylor-Jay writes in a post to a Go Fund Me Account established to raise money for his medical expenses.

"Even though I'm very brave, it was hurting so much that I had to go the hospital to see if i could get some help."

But treatment to reduce the pressure in his affected eye was unsuccessful and Taylor-Jay was referred to an ocular specialist. "He was concerned about my good eye and the sight that I have in it." Taylor explains. "He told me that there was a condition that would look for protein in my good eye and start to eat away at my good eye because it wouldn't find protein in my bad eye."

The nine-year-old and his mum, were forced to make an incredibly tough decision. "I was worried because that would mean I would end up without sight in both my eyes, leaving me completely blind," he writes. "Me and my mother had to make the hard decision there and then to remove the eye that I was having so many problems with the very next day."

Taylor-Jay was then fitted with a temporary prosthetic eye which he wore until the swelling went down following his surgery. "Afterwards, I was given a permanent bespoke prosthetic eye. Unfortunately, [it] doesn't look as good as my temporary one," he says, adding that he is hoping to raise enough money to see a private ocular prothesis specialist so he can have a more realistic eye made.

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Consulting a specialist, however, is an expensive process and will require the family to travel from Swansea to Nottingham. The prosthetic eye is also expected to cost around $3080 (£1750) on top of the consultant's fees. 

"Any donations, no matter how big or small, will go towards me getting my perfect eye and would change the way I look and feel greatly for the rest of my life," Taylor-Jay writes.

His mother, Stacey-Ann Ravicini told Wales Online that her son has been subjected to bullying and cruel taunts about his appearance. "Wherever we go people are staring at him and whispering about his eye. In school he is constantly bullied and people call him, 'popeye'." "That really hurts, why should he be treated different?

"I hope people understand how much he needs this prosthetic eye."

Ms Ravicini also described that the two accidents had taken their toll on her mental health.

"I really don't want people thinking I am a bad mother," she said. "What are the chances of an accident happening twice in the same eye? I am constantly worrying for him and what will happen next, it has just been one big emotional rollercoaster.

"My anxiety is through the roof, I'm depressed but I've got to get on with things."

Last year, doctors warned of the dangers of Nerf guns in an article published in BMJ Case Reports. The popular toy was linked to serious eye injuries in three patients, including an eleven-year-old.

"This case series emphasises the seriousness of [eye injury] from NERF gun projectiles and calls into consideration the need for protective eye wear with their use," the authors wrote at the time, adding that the age limit for NERF gun use may also need to be reviewed.  While most Nerf products are recommended for ages eight and up, others such as the Nerf Nitro Motorfury Rapid Rally are marketed at children as young as five.

As well as recommending the use of protective eye wear when playing with the toys, the authors also reinforced the importance of using branded forms of the bullets. One patient, they noted, was injured when hit by a generic version of the "darts", which are reportedly harder. 

A warning on Hasbro's official Nerf site reiterates this, noting: "Use only with official Nerf darts, discs and rounds. Other products may not meet safety standards. Never modify any Nerf blasters or other Nerf products."

Consumers are also warned not to aim guns at "eyes or face".