Published: Tuesday, April 7, 2015 9:25 AM PDT
By Brianna Vaccari / The Reedley Exponent
Brian Grabowski can relate to Brianna Ramirez’s circumstances living with limited vision, so it wasn’t a hard decision for him to offer to make her a custom prosthetic eye for free.
Ramirez, 16, lost her right eye after being shot on Feb. 12. She was riding in the passenger seat of her mother’s car near Fett and Tuolumne streets in Parlier when a stray bullet from a gang gunfight went through the windshield and struck her in the eye.
Grabowski has lived with a prothetic eye for a number of years. He owns Grabowski and Associates, a business specializing in ocular prosthetics with a location in Visalia. He followed Ramirez’s story on the news and contacted Fresno Sheriff Margaret Mims to offer his services. Mims office is investigating the shooting.
“It’s a great reward just to help somebody out like this,” Grabowski said. “The incident she had was a tragedy in itself, so I thought I’d reach out and say, ‘Hey there’s people who want to help.’ And she’s had a lot of help, from what I understand, which is great. I just want to be the next one in line to help.”
The process to insert the prosthesis for Ramirez will take one day and is scheduled to happen in about a month, Grabowski said. The prosthesis will be sized for Ramirez – using a method similar to a dental impression – and painted by hand to match her eye color. The prosthesis usually costs about $5,000.
Ramirez said she’s thankful for the contribution and is looking forward to ditching the white patch she has been wearing since losing her eye. Despite the tragic accident, the Sanger High softball player said she has already adjusted to living with limited vision.
“I’m already used to it,” she said. “It feels like I’m seeing with both eyes.”
Grabowski, a Tulare native, lost his vision when he was in the eighth grade and had his eye replaced with a prosthetic one when he was about 20 years old.
Having a prosthetic eye did not stop him from playing sports. He played baseball through junior college, Grabowski said.
“It [having limited vision] didn’t slow me down…” he said. “Nothing slows me down.
“I stepped right up and was right back to Little League. I think the doctors and parents took it harder than me.”
Before the shooting, Ramirez played second base for the Sanger High softball team. Since then, her teammates, along with softball teams from across the Valley, have rallied around her and raised money for her recovery. Ramirez said her primary goal is to get back on the softball field, and the prosthetic eye is one more step toward that goal.
“I was going to continue on either way,” she said, “but it does push me to play.”
Grabowski said he treats hundreds of patients every year, including gunshot victims. “As horrible as it is, it’s not uncommon,” he said.
He said receiving a prosthetic eye is another part of the healing process and returning to normalcy.
Said Grabowski: “It’s just kind of a bump in the road. She’s ready to get back to life.”