Article Date: 2/1/2012

A Little Magic …
reflections
THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY

A Little Magic …

Goes a long way when examining children.

Steven R. Stanek, O.D.
Shalimar, FLA.

The three year old was crying, wailing really. He didn't want his eyes examined. His mom apologized for his behavior, as she plunked him in my exam chair. I reassured them all would be fine.

I got my D'Lites out of my desk drawer and put them on my thumbs. (A D'Lite is a plastic thumb tip with an LED, battery and spring inside. Upon pressing a wire, it lights up, like in the movie E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.)

I drew an “H-pattern” with a D'Lite in front of my little patient. In two seconds, I accomplished three things: (1) I stopped his crying, (2) I performed the first test (ocular motility testing), and (3) I had gained his undivided attention.

An epiphany in Atlanta

When I first started attending the Southern Council of Optometrists (SECO) International trade show, I frequently walked past a magic store between the hotel and where the continuing education classes were held. Often, a small crowd gathered to watch the magic tricks that the store's salesman demonstrated. In watching how these tricks commanded the crowd's full attention, I realized magic could serve as a tool in examining children.

It doesn't all have to be magic

With this three-year-old patient all I needed to keep his attention for the rest of the exam was to sprinkle in a few magic effects. The young boy didn't know what was going to happen next, so I could perform most of the tests normally. Stereoacuity testing for pre-schoolers, for example, is sort of magical by itself. Before using the phoroptor, I always wipe the cheek rests with a tissue. After doing that for this particular patient, I made the tissue “disappear.”

You may want to infuse a little magic into your exams.

A lie that tells the truth

Some argue that the use of magic is manipulation — it's deception. Sometimes, a doctor must be creative to get the job done. I am reminded of 1942, when the great magician Harry Blackstone, Sr. was performing for a packed house of 3,200, including many children. The stage manager warned him that the adjacent building had caught fire, and the theater may go next. To prevent panic, Mr. Blackstone calmly informed the audience that the next illusion was so spectacular that it would have to be performed outside. The audience exited the theater without incident. What he said wasn't a total lie: The building next door really did vanish.

An elevated profession

Magicians used to dress in colorful robes until 1800's French magician Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin. He started the trend of magicians dressing in tuxedos and presenting a more professional image. (American magician Erik Weisz was so impressed with Houdin, he borrowed but modified his name — Harry Houdini — for his own stage name.) Houdin reminds me of Optometry's Charles F. Prentice who, a century later argued that optometry should be an elevated profession with societies, standards of care, peer review and journals rather than merely the selling of eyeglasses in jewelry shops.

At the exam's end, I told the three-year-old patient that if he came back next year, I would do more magic for him. He eagerly agreed. A couple years later, his mom came to see me for an eye exam. “You are the guy who did magic for my son,” she said. “He's still talking about that.” OM


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

Optometric Management, Volume: 47 , Issue: February 2012, page(s): 72