Laser pointer blamed for teen's permanent eye damage

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A dangerous device some consider a toy has caused serious damage to a local teenager. The boy is now blind in one eye because of a popular laser light pointer.

The 13-year-old and his parents told Eyewitness News that if people think laser light pointers are toys, they had better think again. They said what happened to this young man is proof.

The small green light that comes from the laser pointer belonging to Ross Vanderpool is the reason the teen must live with a big problem for the rest of his life.

"If I close my right eye and I look straight, I can't see your nose, but I can see your mouth and your earrings," said Ross.

Ross lost sight in his left eye and a laser pointer that looks like a pen is the reason, Ross's doctor said.

"These things are dangerous and you shouldn't mess with them because they could seriously hurt you," Ross told us. He found out the hard way this summer when a friend brought him a pointer back from Italy.

"I thought it was really cool," explained Ross of playing with the laser. That was until the middle school student woke up one morning after shining the laser into a mirror and looking at it.

"There was this black dot in my eye," Ross remembered.

"I really thought it was a detached retina or something from a hit to the head in football," said Ross's mom Jennie. That's what Ross thought too, until doctors saw pictures of his left eye.

"This yellowish kind of spot here with yellow black flecks shouldn't be there," said Doctor Ramana Moorthy, the retina specialist treating Ross. Those spots, said Doctor Moorthy, were burns from the laser.

"The alarming thing is that we're seeing more and more people getting access to these kind of lasers that probably shouldn't and that's because they're poorly regulated overseas," said Moorthy.

"I thought it was a toy that took triple-A batteries, just like most of his toys do," said Jimmy Vanderpool of his willingness to let Ross play with the laser light pointer. Mr. Vanderpool said he didn't know there was even a problem. "I had no clue, no idea the danger," he said.

"It's not a toy. A laser pointer is not a toy," said Doctor Moorthy.

The parents said they know better now. "Throw them away. Don't let 'em have 'em," was Jimmy Vanderpool's message to other parents.

It's Ross, though, who will live with the life long consequences. "I don't want anybody else to get hurt," he said.