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Oregon man who was left partially blind by 1963 eclipse offers warning: 20 seconds is ‘all it took’

PORTLAND, Oregon —  A Portland man who watched a solar eclipse in 1963 says the experience left him partially blind in one eye, and now he wants everyone to know the warnings about eye damage during the upcoming eclipse are no joke.

Back then, it was a total solar eclipse in Alaska and Canada, but the path of totality did not come through Oregon.

Still, Louis Tomososki remember watching it unfold from the baseball field at Marshall High School when he was 16 years old.

Nobody was talking about safety glasses back then, so he watched it with the naked eye, closing his left eye and leaving his right eye open.

“Oh 20 seconds probably, that’s all it took,” Tomososki told FOX 12. “I’m glad I didn’t go 40 seconds, it would have been even worse.”

He doesn’t remember exactly when he realized there was a problem, but those few seconds burned a hole in his retina, leaving him with a sizable blind spot he’s had ever since.

He describes it as looking at someone and being able see their face – but not their nose.

Tomososki remembers it was discovered during an eye exam when he went into the Air Force right after high school.

In the 54 years since that eclipse, he said the blind spot has stayed the same.

“Every time we go to an eye doctor now for an exam, they dilate your eyes and look in there, the first thing they say is, you looked at a solar eclipse sometime in your life,” he said.

Dr. Brandon Lujan, an assistant professor of opthamology at Oregon Health & Science University’s Casey Eye Institute, said the same damage can be done on any other day if you stare at the sun. But with the eclipse, even when the visible light is reduced by the moon, UV and infrared rays can still damage the retina.

“Some damage occurs pretty quickly, but a lot of damage can take hours to days to really come to bear,” Lujan said.

“Unfortunately there’s not a treatment for it, so once that damage is done you have to wait and hopefully things improve and your body can heal some, but a lot of the damage can be permanent.”

It’s a lesson Tomososki wishes he knew back in 1963.

With Monday’s total solar eclipse on the horizon, he wants you to remember that even a glance at the sun with the naked eye just isn’t worth it.

“A quick look like we did back in 1963, and I’m 71, almost 71 now, that quick look cost us,” Tomososki said. “And it could have cost us a lot more.”