It's not uncommon to find ourselves feeling sorry
for people who have very little. However, do we really know what "very
little" is? Often, we look at a person's financial situation to make this
assessment. However, I had a patient recently who had more than most children
his age, despite his family's financial woes. A patient like A.J. is a reminder
to us all of how valuable determination and family support can be.
When A.J. first came into my office for an
exam, he was 12 years old. His school had referred him to me because his teachers
were concerned that he couldn't see the blackboard. His clothes were worn, and
the knees on his jeans had been patched more than a few times. A.J. was small
for his age, almost fragile looking, which made him seem younger than he was.
He and his family lived in the neighboring town; however, getting A.J. to my
office for his eye exam was still a difficult task. His parents had no
transportation, so A.J. had to take the bus. The trip took him about 2 hours
because he needed to catch several different buses.
Because his parents needed to save money for
A.J. to take the bus, it was usually several weeks between follow-up exams.
Sometimes his brother escorted him; sometimes his parents did. Either way, it
meant they had to take time off from work � a hard hit for a family already
struggling financially. No one ever seemed to mind though.
From the first time I met A.J.'s family, I
could see that they truly loved and supported him. I think they were as excited
about correcting his vision as A.J. and I were.
Making it work
During A.J.'s first exam, I could tell right
away that he had severe microphthalmia in his left eye. The aperture size was 5
mm � so small you could barely see his eye � while his right eye aperture was
normal. Also, he had scar tissue in his left eye, which he was probably born
with. The parents indicated he'd always had this problem and couldn't recall a
A.J.'s right eye was a low correction at
-0.25D, but his left eye had a high correction at -4.00D with cylinder of -3.25D.
He had to use contact lenses of some kind because he'd have no binocular vision
with glasses because of his left eye's condition.
I started him off with soft contact lenses.
However, they didn't work because of the problem with his left eye. So, I tried
rigid gas permeable lenses next. I started with an 8.8 diameter for both eyes,
but then lowered the diameter for the left eye to 8.4. The smaller diameter for
the left eye would help A.J. insert the lens.
It took a while for A.J. to adjust to his
lenses, but his determination to make them work was an inspiration to us all.
So many times, he left my office crying with the frustration of not being able
to get them in. But instead of giving up or lashing out, he was always very
appreciative of everyone's help. After every visit, he always made a point of
giving me a hug before leaving.
A.J. finally became a real pro at putting
his lenses in. He's still wearing them. Most importantly, his vision is
corrected so that he can see the blackboard and has useable binocular vision.
His family still brings him to me for his exams, and I can't help but think of
how fortunate he is to have the greatest gift of all � his family's love and a
determination that just won't quit.
DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D
LIKE TO SHARE? Contact Tobin E. Sharp at (215) 643-8127 or
firstname.lastname@example.org, so we can talk about getting your story published.