Doctors help man get his face back after tragic fireworks accident
BY SHANNON MUCHMORE World Staff Writer
Thursday, January 24, 2013
1/24/13 at 7:12 AM
Taron Pounds knows people wonder what happened to his face when they see him. He doesn't mind if they ask. He would rather they find out than just stare at him.
It's from a fireworks accident.
On July 7, the Tulsa resident and jazz guitarist was lighting commercial-grade fireworks with some relatives and celebrating a wedding in Inola when a mortar shell exploded in his face, blowing apart the left side.
Pounds, 23, didn't know what happened at first but then started to feel his face falling apart. He blacked out and woke up three weeks later in the hospital.
"It was scary, but he was alive and we knew that he was going to be OK," said his mother, Tammy Cauthron.
A benefit concert for Pounds is set for Saturday at Cain's Ballroom. Doors open at 6 p.m.
Immediately after the accident, Cauthron didn't know whether her son would have any brain damage or whether he would be able to hear, smell or fully see. He seemed to be able to lightly squeeze his mother's hand and responded when she played some of his favorite music, like Pink Floyd.
She would also read him Facebook posts as either she or his stepfather, David Cauthron, stayed with him.
He had to have numerous surgeries, including one that lasted for 22 hours. Doctors took bone from his left fibula to replace part of his face, and they also repaired his jaw.
Dr. Trinitia Cannon, a microsurgeon with OU Physicians in Oklahoma City, said that when she first saw Pounds after the accident, his face was like a puzzle.
"I didn't know where his nose was," she said. "I couldn't see his eye."
Doctors have put a balloon under the skin just below his shoulder and have been filling it with saline to expand the tissue and create skin that can be used in the reconstruction of Pounds' cheek. His cheek bones also will be repositioned during that surgical procedure, Cannon said.
The surgery after that will be to fix the cleft lip and cleft palette the accident created. Pounds has done well in his recovery but still has a way to go, she said.
"He should experience a tremendous change in his cosmetic look after those two surgeries," Cannon said.
Pounds has gotten so used to having surgeries that he now likens it to going to sleep. He has been patient and is coping well with his injury, but he still has a journey ahead of him, she said.
He can't see out of his left eye and may never recover his vision in that eye. He can tell a dark room from a lit room, like people with regular eyesight can with their eyes closed.
Pounds has insurance, but the medical bills are still piling up along with the costs of traveling to and staying in Oklahoma City.
Tammy Cauthron said her son will eventually return to looking mostly as he did before the accident.
"He's come a long, long ways, but we're probably about a year out from him going back to how he was," she said.
But he's still the same happy and occasionally ornery person, she said.
"He is smiling most of the time, and when he's not smiling he's plotting something," she said.
Pounds has been doing graphic design work and taking some online classes at Northeastern State University. He has designed wedding and birthday party invitations for friends and family, as well as T-shirts.
He also plays the guitar and loves music.
He doesn't feel sorry for himself. He's past crying and wondering why it happened to him. He's learned a lot and wouldn't want to change what he's gone through, he said.
"I know more about who I am from this experience than I ever have in 22 years of life," Pounds said. "I like who I am."
Benefit for Taron Pounds
Original Print Headline: Spirit of a survivor
- Doors open at 6 p.m. and the concert begins at 7 p.m.
- Cain's Ballroom
- Cost: $15-$20
Shannon Muchmore 918-581-8378
Taron Pounds, 23, who was in a serious fireworks accident in July, plays his guitar inside his Tulsa house. The former jazz studies major at Northeastern State University is now studying graphic design online at the university as he continues on his road to recovery. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Taron Pounds is pictured on the day of his accident. He suffered severe injuries to his face, eye, neck and chest when a fireworks mortar exploded in his face on July 7. The accident occurred as the family gathered to celebrate a wedding in Inola. Courtesy
Taron Pounds, 23, had to have numerous surgeries, including one that lasted 22 hours. Doctors took bone from his left fibula to replace part of his face, and they also repaired his jaw. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World