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Garage sale aids boy who lost eye in BB gun accident / July 24, 2013

A garage sale fundraiser is planned this Saturday in South Hill to aid the family of a 12-year-old boy who lost an eye in a BB gun accident.

Proceeds from the sale, to be held at Lake Country Indoor Flea Market July 27 starting at 8 a.m., will go to help pay the medical bills of young Michael Maitland, whose aunt, Linda Parham, lives eight miles outside South Hill, just over the Lunenburg County line. (In case of rain, the event will be rescheduled sometime in August.)

Michael, a rising sixth grader in Dinwiddie County, underwent his third surgery on July 8 after an April 2 accident left a BB pellet lodged in his eye. The latest surgery was to remove the eye, which had “pretty much shriveled up and died,” according to his aunt.

Linda Parham, part of the family that operates Parham’s Grocery on Route 138, said her nephew has received a donor eye, although its purpose is purely cosmetic, not functional. The transplanted eye has no iris, but Michael’s medical providers are working on a new iris to match that of his good eye as closely as possible. The implantation will require further surgery, adding to the family’s financial woes.

Brenda Maitland, Michael’s mother and Linda’s sister, is struggling to pay some $3,500 in medical bills as a result of the accident, according to her sister. She had health insurance which covered most of the costs of surgery, but the policy has not covered co-pays and other expenses, including travel back and forth to the hospital. The family lives in McKenney; Brenda Maitland was unemployed and unable to find a job for a year before recently landing work in Midlothian, said her sister.

The accident has traumatized the family and friends — including the child who accidentally shot Michael, a young boy who lives next door.

The friends were playing in Michael’s yard when the accident happened. They were shooting at metal cans when Michael’s friend took aim, fired and hit his target. The BB ricocheted off the can and struck Michael. Witnessing the accident was Michael’s eight-year-old sister, who ran into the house to get their older sister, a teenager. Maitland, the mom, was out of town at the time, at work. Michael was badly bloodied by the shooting; he was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. The children — Michael, his friend, his younger sister — each were devastated by the accident, Parham said.

“They weren’t aiming at each other,” she said of the two boys. Michael, who owned the gun, is an avid hunter, with his own license; yet while the shooting was a freak accident, it points up the potential dangers of a BB gun, which tend to go unacknowledged.

“A lot of times a BB gun is not seen as a weapon but as a toy, even though it says clearly on the case that it’s a weapon,” said Parham. The BB entered Michael’s eye at an angle. Doctors have told the family that Michael could have died if the pellet had been a straight shot. “The ramifications could have been so much worse than just him losing an eye,” said Parham.

“A lot of people think it’s BB gun, it’s not going to hurt you. But it can,” she said.

Michael, always a shy child, has become only more withdrawn after the injury. “We’re hoping all that gets worked out as time goes on,” said Parham. The family is similarly hopeful that Michael will regain a normal appearance after his surgeries are complete, although he will never have sight in his transplant eye.

In the meantime,Parham said she has been deeply moved by two things: by her nephew’s selfless concern for his sisters and mother, and by the help that friends and perfect strangers have offered to the family.

Of Michael, Parham said, ”When he got out of the hospital after his injury, he asked his mother if they could stop off at a gift shop on their way home.” The reason? “He wanted to purchase a gift for [his sisters] because they were so upset by what they had seen.”

During his recovery at the hospital, added Parham, “He asked his mom, ‘How are Rebecca and Courtney, are they okay?’” Michael also “worries about his mom, and how she’s going to pay the bills. He never asks for anything himself, ever.

“He is just an awesome, awesome kid.”

Parham also said the family has been buoyed by the offers of help that have poured in, through Facebook (a page has been created to assist the family), and from members of the McKenney community, including its churches. (It would have been next to impossible to hold the garage sale in Dinwiddie County with the large volume of items that would need to be transported there, said Parham, so she decided instead to hold the event in South Hill, where she and her husband have many friends. She is a Dinwiddie native.) Along with money to pay the family’s medical bills, Parham is hoping the sale does well enough to cover the cost of a new tablet computer for Michael. His mother bought him a tablet to help with his schoolwork after he lost sight in the eye, but Michael bumped into a wall and dropped the device, ruining it. “It was because of his eyesight,” said his aunt.

Parham called the outpouring of support for her nephew “amazing.” “Seeing how kind people have been, with so much hatred and ugliness in the world … to see how people have come and given, it has been so touching.”

Donated items will be on sale during the day Saturday, with all proceeds going to help the Maitland family. The garage sale starts at 8 a.m. at Lake Country Indoor Flea Market at 935 West Atlantic Street, South Hill. For more information about the event, contact Linda Parham via e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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