Local News

Black Dot a Permanent Reminder of Solar Eclipse

Posted March 4, 1998

— Last week's eclipse was a rather routine event for astronomers. But for one little boy, it is burned permanently in his memory. He was one of a group of students using special equipment to view the eclipse. But something went wrong. Now, he may be scarred for life.

We do everything we can to protect our children from getting in harm's way. So imagine how you'd feel if one of them lost part of the vision in an eye? It happened to the son of Chapel Hill resident, Darcy Berger.

"It's extremely upsetting," says Berger. "His vision is clearly impaired, and we're not sure what will be recovered and what will stay as it is."

David Berger-Jones does his homework without much trouble, even though the sight in his left eye is obscured by a small black dot. David's 20/20 vision is now 20/50. David says the trouble began after he attended an eclipse viewing session outside UNC's Morehead Planetarium last Thursday.

David's doctor says he suffers from solar retinopathy, which basically means sun damage to the retina. Dr. David Wallace says the 11-year-old boy's vision may improve: Typically the vision ends up in the range of 20/20 to 20/40, but often the central scitoma or blind spot in the area of center vision can remain.

The Morehead Planetarium director says most of the devices supplied to view the eclipse didn't require people to look directly at it. But some of the 200 or so participants did share homemade viewing contraptions.

"We haven't figured out how he got it yet," says planetarium director, Lee Shapiro. "Based on all the reports we have at this point, it's an ongoing review."

The planetarium plans to call the schools that had classes visiting during last week's eclipse. There's a concern that any kids experiencing eye problems may not have told their parents. David waited two days before he said anything to his mom.

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