Cole Reisdorf’s Story

Youngster’s Eye Injury Inspires Entrepreneurial Fundraiser

Since the Spring of 2012, Cole Reisdorf will never see some of his favorite toys – skateboards and NERF® guns – in the same light.

Cole, then 11, was inspecting a friend’s freshly modified NERF gun, which had been adjusted to make the dart go faster and farther. Unexpectedly, the gun went off from a foot away and the dart hit Cole in his right eye. The local emergency room sent him to the closest pediatric hospital in Winston-Salem where he received the first in a series of treatments designed to save his eye.

Shelley and Chris Reisdorf, Cole’s parents, brought Cole to the Duke Eye Center not long after the injury for a second opinion.

“This staff was exceptionally efficient and accommodating. Dr. Freedman and the team laid out a clear plan of action and explained the reasoning behind every step of treatment. We felt confident that the expertise of the Duke Eye Center team would provide Cole the most favorable outcome. We are impressed with their unique combination of outstanding bedside manner and professionalism – it’s rare to find both.”

“The damage to Cole’s eye was tremendous,” says Sharon Freedman, MD, chief of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus Service at the Duke Eye Center.

"The force from the blow and shock wave of liquid inside the eye caused bleeding in front of the iris (called a hyphema) and also in vitreous gel which fills the space behind the lens and in front of the retina. In addition to the bleeding, there was evidence of damage to the pupil, the lens, the optic nerve, and the drainage system of his eye. Unfortunately, this kind of complex injury is not uncommon with a severe blunt impact to the eye,” she said.

Cole’s eye soon began to drift out of alignment with the uninjured eye, since his brain was not receiving a clear image from that eye any longer. With so many complex issues, Duke Eye Center’s capacity to provide multidisciplinary expertise meant he received treatment from Freedman, a glaucoma and pediatric expert, and Prithvi Mruthyunjaya, MD, a retinal expert.

It’s been a long journey for Cole, with five surgeries, and more on the horizon. “This kind of injury is absolutely disruptive to Cole and his whole family. And the Reisdorf family has been at the top of the curve with how they’ve dealt with all this,” says Freedman.

“We’ve always taught our kids that life events can define them in a positive way that offers the world something even better,” says Shelley. Not long after the accident, Cole said he was glad it happened to him instead of to a child in Iraq who didn’t have access to good medical care.

Cole wondered if he’d need to wear a monocle for his injured eye — he now wears a contact lens and glasses, and takes glaucoma drops in the morning and anti-inflammatory drops at night. And when playing sports, he wears goggles to protect his eyes.

Unable to ride his skateboard during his recovery, Cole revitalized his interest in making skateboards. With his new perspective, he decided to design and sell them for something worthwhile. “There are a lot of kids who go to the Duke Eye Center who are in need of glasses or contacts but can’t afford them. So I created Monocle Boards and am donating a portion of all sales to Duke Eye Center’s Needy Children’s Fund. Between skateboard sales and a charity golf outing, we’ve about raised $350 for the Fund so far.”

Freedman notes, “Cole is a brave young man – he’s making the best of everything that happened. His future is bright, and the Duke Eye Center team does our best to make the future of his eye bright as well – even though he may face more surgeries. We’re impressed that Cole turned this misfortune into something good. He realizes that there are others in need and that he can make a difference for them through the Fund.

“Our hope is that we never have to treat these kinds of preventable injuries,” she adds. “In one split second a person’s life can be permanently altered by an eye injury. Things that don’t seem dangerous can cause severe injury, such as a pencil, a sushi fork, a twig. But when an eye injury does happen, our team is here to provide outstanding care for the most positive outcome.”

This story originally appeared in the summer 2014 issue of Duke Eye Center’s newsletter, Sightlines.