Article Date: 9/1/2011

A Second Chance
reflections
THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY

A Second Chance

A LASIK candidate recently reminded me that our patients are more than just their eyes.

Linda A. Morgan, O.D., F.A.A.O., OMAHA, NEB.

Eye exams can become monotonous, making it easy to run through them without fully realizing there's a person behind the eyes. A recent encounter with a LASIK candidate, however, reminded me that patients are people who can have a profound effect on our lives.

The paralegal

Shon, a 35-year-old male, who presented for a LASIK evaluation said he was a paralegal applying to a variety of law schools. I was quite impressed when he said he was accepted at the University of Washington School of Law and put on the waiting lists at Yale Law School and the University of Virginia Law School.

Through several exams, the LASIK surgery and follow-up appointments, Shon told me about his responsibilities as a paralegal—preparing Supreme Court briefs—his great passion for the law and how he wanted to establish a large pro bono practice, where he could help those who can't help themselves. His fervor for and dedication to the less fortunate made me think there was more to his story, and indeed there was.

Shon Hopwood recently spoke at Fordham University School of Law about obstacles certain litigants face in trying to advance a case.

Bumpy road

At Shon's final appointment, I asked him when he became interested in the law, and he told me it was when he was in prison. Shon confessed he'd spent 10 years in jail for five Nebraska bank robberies in the 1990s. He said he robbed the banks because he was “bored,” “depressed” and “lacked direction.” But, Shon was quick to add that none of these reasons excused his actions.”

Shon further explained that he got a job in the prison's law library, where he was motivated to conduct research after he'd heard about a Supreme Court case whose outcome could potentially reduce his sentence. That never happened, though the side effect was a newfound love of researching and writing about the law, he said. In fact, he crafted and submitted a Supreme Court brief on behalf of a fellow inmate, which helped lead to the inmate's early release. (Incidentally, the Supreme Court receives thousands of petitions a year and agrees to hear just a handful.) By 2005, the Supreme Court granted a hearing on a second petition Shon prepared. In total, he helped fellow inmates file between 50 and 100 appeals, motions and other legal documents, allowing many to achieve sentence reductions, or at the very minimum, new perspectives on their cases—all by the time of his release in 2008.

The last time I saw Shon, he said he'd be attending the University of Washington School of Law on a full scholarship. Also, he said that after The New York Times published an article about him, his phone had been constantly ringing off the hook with movie and book offers. He's working on a book with a co-author.

Remember that your patients are more than just their eyes. They are people. So, step out from behind the phoropter to find out more about them. They'll appreciate it, you'll find your job more enjoyable, and you just may learn a valuable life lesson, like second chances do exist. OM


DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH JENNIFER KIRBY, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 628-6595, OR JEN.KIRBY@WOLTERSKLUWER.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.


Optometric Management, Issue: September 2011