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Friday, January 14, 2000

Teen who lost
eye to fireworks
hopes to get back
to baseball

Her father's insurance
doesn't cover a good part
of the medical costs

By Gregg K. Kakesako


Fourteen-year-old Sherri-Lyn "Sherri" Kalama, an all star softball player at Kailua High School, is hoping to get back on the baseball diamond and start practicing, once the bandages come off.

Sherri lost her right eye on her birthday, Dec. 26, when a bundle of sparklers exploded in her hand in the street fronting her Waimanalo home.

Until Wednesday's operation by Dr. Steve Miller to remove the eye, "her spirits were high," said her mother, Aileen Kalama.

"But just before the surgery we talked," Mrs. Kalama said. "I wondered if she was afraid of the pain ... but she said, 'I'm just sad because I don't know what is going to happen to my life without my eye.' "

Recuperating at home, Sherri is still concerned about what other people may think of her and what she did.

Sherri's mother said her family never knew it is dangerous to bundle sparklers together.

"We never knew sparklers would explode. We only bought sparklers because we wanted to get into the New Year safely."

In addition, Mrs. Kalama said, her family bought sparklers that used wooden handles instead of metal because they thought those would be safer.

On Dec. 26, Sherri had just finished opening her birthday presents with her family."I was cutting her cake when she went out and said she would be right back," her mother said."She wanted to surprise us by creating a fountain of sparklers."

Apparently, Sherri had bundled the sparklers together with duct tape to keep them from falling apart. "She never realized that it was going to explode," Mrs. Kalama said.

Doctors at Kaiser Moanalua Medical Clinic at first tried to save Sherri's right eye, but the retina was damaged too severely, and the eye had to be removed.

That operation, as well as future reconstructive surgery on her cheekbone and her nose and a lens replacement for her right eye, aren't covered by her father's medical insurance. The family estimates that medical bills for those operations will be between $3,800 and $7,800.

To help the family with donations, call 259-9207 or send them to: 41720 Bell St.; Waimanalo, HI 96795.

Despite her loss, Mrs. Kalama said, her daughter still wants to pursue playing softball, a sport she has excelled in since she was 8 years old.

And the Kalamas now favor banning fireworks.

The debate over the legality of fireworks has increased at City Hall and the Legislature in the aftermath of the seizure of nearly 15 tons of illegal fireworks, Sherri's accident and the death of a 25-year-old Waialua man when a skyrocket exploded prematurely in a pipe, sending shrapnel to the back of his head.

"We were in the middle until now," said Mrs. Kalama, who suffers from asthma, "because of the enjoyment it brought to my children and the traditions here. We never opposed fireworks, except for aerial fireworks.

"But we wanted to have a safe New Year's, and that is why we only bought sparklers. In fact, we bought a case, and we still have half of it left in the garage."

E-mail to City Desk

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