Issue 4 » Dr. Craig J. Helm Takes a Closer Look at Summer Eye Injuries

A Conversation with Stephen K. Peeples

“I’ve seen everything from ice picks to drills, weed- whackers to blow darts, broken Christmas ornaments to gunshot wounds – the whole gamut.”

Summer’s here and the time is ripe for – accidents, including mishaps involving our eyes and eyesight. We take our vision for granted until we, or a loved one, suffer some traumatic injury.

Fortunately for Santa Clarita Valley residents, Dr. Craig J. Helm is an expert in treating severe eye trauma, so help is not far away.

Dr. Helm earned his B.S. in biochemistry from UCLA, graduated from Tulane University Medical School in New Orleans and completed his residency at the renowned UCLA/Jules Stein Eye Institute.

After fellowship training in cornea and refractive surgery and uveitis at UCLA, Dr. Helm served three years in the U.S. Air Force, based at the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Virginia.

In 1996, Dr. Helm opened a private practice in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, specializing in laser vision correction, corneal transplantation and cataract surgery.

When he and his family moved west in 2001 and established a state of the art practice in Valencia, Dr. Helm brought all that knowledge and expertise to the SCV.

Today, he and his highly qualified colleagues and staff provide university-level eye care of all kinds, from vision checkups and eyeglasses to major surgery – including emergency surgery.

Wealth | Wisdom | Wellness visited Dr. Helm at the expansive, bustling Helm Vision Group office on Tourney Road in Valencia to find out more about the emergency side of his ophthalmology practice.

3W: When it comes to treating eye trauma emergencies, you’re well-known in your field and in our valley for your surgical expertise. What kinds of eye injuries are the most common?

Dr. Helm: Most often they are related to a motor vehicle accident, a physical assault or an accidental fall. Those are probably the top three.

It’s shocking the variety of ways I’ve seen eyes injured since I began my training in 1999. I hope you’re not squeamish, but
I’ve seen everything from ice picks to drills, weedwhackers to blow darts, broken Christmas ornaments to gunshot wounds, the whole gamut.

3W: What’s a recent example?

Dr. Helm: We had a two-year-old patient who had severe trauma due to one of those toy propeller launchers. It looks like a pencil with a propeller at the end, and you just twist it and the propeller takes off flying.

Well, the edge of the flying propeller lacerated the cornea, the front part of one of this poor little boy’s eyes and damaged the lens inside, and the iris, the colored part of the eye. So, we took him to surgery and did a successful repair.

3W: And how long, typically, would something like that little boy’s injury take to heal?

Dr. Helm: Months. And you never know if the person’s vision will be restored to normal. Sometimes it’s surprising that someone can go through something so traumatic and come out with normal vision. And other times, the results are disappointing, visually. But some vision is better than no vision.

We’ve had two patients here who had nail gun injuries during the construction boom back in the first decade of the 2000s. In both cases, the nails went fairly deep, in through the face, through the eye socket, and into the brain. They’re lucky they didn’t die.

One of them ended up with 20/20 vision, but the other suffered a loss of central vision because the nail damaged the central part of his retina.

Those surgeries took a team approach of a neurosurgeon, myself, and in another case a head and neck surgeon as well since the nail went through the sinuses. So, the surgeries can be very extensive.

Before I came to the Santa Clarita Valley in 2001, there was nobody here who would do that type of surgery. Those cases were sent either to County-USC downtown or to UCLA.

3W: We’re certainly happy you chose our community when you moved west from Virginia.

Dr. Helm: Yes, it’s been nice to be able to provide that trauma capability here in town. We always hope our neighbors will take care of their eyes so there are fewer accidents. But we’re here to help if traumatic eye injuries occur.

Don’t gamble with your vision.
Helm Vision Group
27420 Tourney Road, Suite 100
Valencia, CA 91355
Phone: 661-259-3937

Read more articles from Issue 4