SATELLITE BEACH – After the nose of Storm Portman's surfboard sliced open her left eye, Dr. Gary Ganiban ranked her injury as a "10 out of 10" on the severity scale.
"I told her mom that there was a good chance she'd lose that eye," said Ganiban, an ophthalmologist at The Eye Institute for Medicine & Surgery in Melbourne.
"In the 17 years that I've been here, I've had three similar accidents where surfers have had the point of their surfboard lacerate or rupture their globe. It's pretty uncommon — but obviously, it can be devastating to a patient," he said.
Ganiban performed emergency surgery Jan. 15 on Portman, the reigning Eastern Surfing Association girls champion, at Holmes Regional Medical Center. Now, after undergoing a second surgery in Miami, the 14-year-old Indialantic girl is healing better than Ganiban initially expected.
"She's come a long way since her eye was repaired. I'm so hopeful now. She actually has improved her vision, and she's probably not going to lose her eye. There's still a lot of healing to do, but the prognosis is much better than the first day I met her," he said.
The Space Coast surfing community has rallied with a variety of fundraising activities. This weekend features an Eye of the Storm surf contest, a 50-mile casual bike ride and a party at Baroos Beachside Bar in Indialantic. That's where Portman's mother, Toye Hall, works as a bartender.
As of this morning, an online fundraising drive for Portman's family's expenses not covered by medical insurance had generated $13,425.
Portman stopped wearing her plastic eyeshield Sunday. Under doctors' advice, she wears sunglasses to help ward off objects from touching her eye.
"I'm doing a lot better. I see shadows. And I was able to see color (Monday)," Portman said during an interview at Pelican Beach Park, the site of the accident.
Portman's pupil remains enlarged, so her eye is sensitive to light. She applies eyedrops every four hours.
"Some mornings I wake up and it has kind of like a toothache pain. A pain resonates in it. And then other times, it itches from the healing," she said.
Portman said she is taken aback by the "crazy" amount of attention her accident has received. News outlets as distant as Australia have chronicled her plight.
During the Locals Only SurFest earlier this month in Satellite Beach, Portman said a little boy she did not know said he was writing a report about her for school.