Saturday, August 26, 2006

Seeing is Being

Anyone that has perfect vision without enhancement by glasses, contacts, lasik surgery, implants, etc., is indeed fortunate. I am envious. But I will say that you have missed one of the truly amazing examples of medicine and the physical sciences working together to accomplish what was surely considered impossible as recently as my youth. When I was about in third grade it dawned on the rest of the world that I could not see the blackboard. It mattered not much because I couldn’t see to write either. After a flurry of doctor, optometrist, and ophthalmologist visits, I was equipped with two pairs of glasses, one for distance (the blackboard) and the other for close-up.

When I had my physical for the army, we stood in line wearing the official physical uniform (nothing). One by one, we were asked to cover alternate eyes and read an eye chart with each eye. Since, as we waited our turn, the eye chart was right there to be read with both eyes, I easily memorized it and passed. Proud that I had cheated my way into the service, I since have long suspected the army knew what it was doing all along. Hey! I got an expert marksman medal in training.

By the early ‘80s it was time to worry about my fast forming cataracts. The basic operation had been developed, but still entailed a three-day stay in the hospital and four weeks out of work. They wouldn’t put in an implant because “they didn’t yet know how long the implant might last”. By the time I was ready to brave the second eye being done I was very tired of the contact lens that substituted for the real lens they removed. I insisted on an implant. More hospital time and no-work rest time. Today, it is a zip-ZAP-zip process and “stop at the deli and bring home something for dinner”. Measuring for the implant in the old days took up to an hour of the ophthalmologist staring through a telescope. Today you rest your chin on a support and look into a magic device. There is a click and the technician says “Thank you. Good bye.”

Thursday when we came down from the ophthalmologist’s office, the valet parking guy asked how I was doing. I told him my eyes had tested well and I didn’t have to come back for a year. He said I was lucky because his contact lenses were driving him crazy with all the perspiration involved in his job. He was planning to go for lasik surgery so he could go without any lenses. Miracles happen.


Archana said...

I hope you are safe from all the storms and hurricanes in Florida!

I know - I never knew how big a difference contact lenses could make in my life till I started wearing them! LASIK will be the next step.

Way to go, Science :-D!

KDunk said...

I love your stories!

Oestre-Bunny said...

i have perfect vision myself but a lot of my friends dont, its amazing how much yo take it for granted

Marilyn said...

So true! About 30 years ago, I worked with an older lady (she was probably in her 60's at the time) who told me that for her first pair of contact lenses (in the 40's??) they'd pinned her eyes open and created casts for them by putting Plaster of Paris on her eyeballs!! My eyes are terribly sensitive. I've been wearing glasses since I was 10, but I can't stand to even put eye drops in them--so contacts were never an option. Having grown up in the era of hard contact lenses...and having had assorted female relatives pull their eyelids down in front of me and say, "I've lost my contact--can you find it?"...and feeling nauseated at the thought of having to look for can imagine my horror at hearing her story! Even if it wasn't true (and she swore it was), it made for a frightening tale. :)