EXCLUSIVE: The mother of a Sydney woman whose daughter almost lost an eye in an accident at Kmart is calling on the retail giant to make its stores safer for children.
Six-year-old Cecilia Chan was shopping with her grandmother at Kmart's Chatswood store last Wednesday when the horrific injury occurred, mum Jill Huang told nine.com.au.
"Cecilia wanted to get a pink T-Shirt and she reached up to get it off the hook. Her grandma was right next to her looking at the sizes," Ms Huang said.
WARNING GRAPHIC IMAGE BELOW: An image showing the full extent of Cecilia's injuries has been included in this article at the request of her mother who wishes it to serve as a warning to others.
Ms Huang said her daughter then lost her balance and fell directly onto another metal clothes rack below.
The metal rack, which was pointing upwards at the end, pierced Cecilia's eye socket.
"It was so sudden. It all happened in less than a second. Cecilia wasn't running around or doing anything silly. No matter how careful her grandma was, she could not have prevented it," Ms Huang said.
Ms Huang said another customer helped her mother by calling an ambulance. Ms Huang, who was at work at the time, rushed to the shopping centre to meet the ambulance after receiving a panicked call from her mother.
Cecilia was taken by paramedics to the Sydney Children's Hospital in Randwick where she underwent a four-hour operation the same day to repair her eye.
While Cecilia's eyeball escaped injury, some of her muscles, nerves and the lacrimal gland in her right eye socket were damaged and the eyelid torn off.
Doctors were still not sure if Cecilia would suffer any permanent damage to her nerves and muscle, her mother said.
"Right now we are most worried about Cecilia's recovery. But her right eye lid will be lower and smaller and never look the same," Ms Huang said.
Same hook caused Target injury last year
Cecilia's injuries come after nine.com.au reported last year on a spate of eye injuries caused by metal clothing racks at popular retail stores, such as Kmart and Target.
In May, five-year-old Saad required emergency surgery after he collided with a hook on a clothing rack at a Target store in Parramatta, Sydney.
The hook which caused Saad's injury is the same type which impaled Cecilia's eye socket and is known in the industry as a "blouse arm" or "apparel arm".
In July 2018, a 20-month girl was impaled in the eye socket with a metal prong at a Kmart store in Coffs Harbour.
The girl's mother Hayley Skye Smith said her daughter Amaia had blood pouring out her eye and nose after the prong went into her eyelid.
A spokesperson for Kmart Australia said Hayley's injuries were caused by a metal peg, used to hold smaller items, such as accessories, and not an "apparel arm".
After a safety review of the incident, Kmart removed 120 degree pegs from rack ends that were lower than 1.2m from its stores.
The same type of hooks were also removed from Target stores after a similar 2018 review.
Ms Huang said when she visited the Kmart store on Saturday, nothing had been changed at the site of her daughter's accident.
"I was angry because it was all the same. The hooks and the display are still there, there were no signs," she said.
Ms Huang said she was moved to speak out about her daughter's accident to raise public awareness about the dangers of the hooks, but also to put pressure on retail stores like Kmart to make changes to protect its smallest customers.
"If they don't make changes then Cecilia will not be the only one injured," Ms Huang said.
"I didn't know the dangers before. The hook is very sharp. There are still kids running around in the school holidays, so it can happen again."
A Kmart Australia spokesperson said the company was aware of the incident with Cecilia and was currently reviewing it to look at "various options to reduce the risk of this happening again".
"At Kmart Australia, the safety of our customers and their families is our highest priority. We have processes in place to review any injury sustained by customers or team members in our stores," the spokesperson said in a statement to nine.com.au.
"We are in contact with the customer's family directly in relation to this incident and our thoughts are with the family and Cecilia as she recovers."
Dr Michael Jones, who is the head of ophthalmology at Sydney's Westmead Children's Hospital, told nine.com.au at the time that placing metal hooks at the same height as children posed a significant risk of injury.
"It would just be a common sense statement that if there is something at a little kid or a toddler's height where they are likely to be unstable anyway, then it's probably not a good idea for safety," Dr Jones said.
"I wouldn't see any reason why you would be having hooks or anything like that at that height. I think the best thing would be if they were at a different height or not there at all."
Dr Jones said there was a potential for the metal hooks to do permanent damage.
"You can literally lose an eye or have life-long vision loss. Anything where there is a direct trauma, whether it is from a sharp object, or it doesn't necessarily even have to be that sharp, just a bit of metal with an edge to it, could do it," Dr Jones said.
Contact reporter Emily McPherson at email@example.com.
Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/national/dangerous-kmart-target-shopping-hooks-sydney-girl-almost-loses-eye/3d04689f-82cf-409a-89a8-66e8e810b970