Norman man’s eyes permanently damaged after looking at sun during 1974 eclipse

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NORMAN, Okla. – Stephen Starling was in the 4th grade at Jackson Elementary in Norman.

The year was 1974, and his class was excitedly outside to watch the partial eclipse.

“They had us create the boxes with the pinhole. Of course, there were no glasses. I’m that old. There were no glasses back then,” Starling said.

But, Starling said he couldn’t see the shadow in his box and he got frustrated.

“So, I turned the box around and I thought, if I looked through the pinhole, then I might be able to see it okay and I might be protected. I think I thought that. I was a kid. And, so, I looked through the pinhole with both eyes,” Starling said.

And, it was shortly after that Starling said his vision became blurred both close up and far away.

He said he had perfect eyesight before that.

“It was fairly quick. I didn’t really pick up on it as much as my parents did. My parents started noticing that I couldn’t see things properly,” Starling said.

“It doesn’t take very long to have any exposure, director exposure from the sun to cause damage,” said Dr. George Shields with Shields Family Eye Care.

Shields said, while he thinks the eclipse is a great educational opportunity, he is worried about safety.

“Love our teachers, but it would be really tough to watch every single student while they’re out there watching the eclipse,” Shields said.

Starling said his son won’t be watching the eclipse.

“He is going to go outside with the class, wear the glasses, but we’ve had a discussion about it and he’s not going to actually look up,” Starling said.

Luckily, Starling’s vision is correctable with contacts.

Shields said, as long as you are using approved protective eye wear, you should be just fine watching the eclipse.

He hopes he doesn’t see any issues after Monday’s eclipse but said it could be a very real possibility.

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