Article Date: 1/1/2003

reflections: THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY
Pride Over Matter
An O.D. learns that pride -- and willpower -- can achieve the seemingly impossible.
BY BERNARD ARNOLD, O.D.

Dana came by my office today for a contact lens replacement in his right eye. His prescription was -18D. It doesn't seem as though it's been 13 years since I first saw this patient. At the time of our first visit, he was 30 years old and working for the city of Charleston cutting grass along Interstate 26.

I thought I'd heard everything

During our first visit, Dana expressed an interest in wearing contact lenses. To my amazement, he informed me that he hadn't worn any corrective lenses for about 15 years even though he had been diagnosed as legally blind. I didn't have an autorefractor back then, but I somehow came up with a spectacle prescription of approximately -20.00 OU.

"Let me get this straight," I said. "You're -20 correctable in the range of 20/50 and not wearing contact lenses or eyeglasses?"

He replied, "I was embarrassed about my eyesight and I just learned to live with it."

ILLUSTRATION BY BOB KAYGANICH

Getting by

"How did you cross the street?"

"I'd go to the corner and listen for the sound of the light turning red or green. One click for green, two clicks yellow and three for red."

I went further. "How did you work?"

"That was no problem. My bosses really didn't care. They were too busy doing something about nothing. I cranked the lawnmower carefully and I'd feel for the key with one foot on the brake."

I said, "Okay, Dana, I've got you on this one. How did you catch the bus to work?"

But he had me. "That was easy," he said. "Each bus had a distinctive sound and mine was easy to pick out of the lot. Can you help me see, Doc?"

I assured him that I could, but I was also thinking about how his condition must have changed his life. I had one more question.

"I guess you never played sports while you were in school, did you?"

"Oh, I played street football but I always had to quit around dusk because -- you can guess it -- I couldn't see. I just told my friends that it was time for me to go home."

Escorting Dana home

I had nothing close to Dana's prescription in my office, so he had to leave without any contact lenses. I watched him as he walked out the door and realized that he was going to cross the street. I called after him and offered him a ride home -- he didn't need to get hit by a car after leaving my office. It's bad enough that I had to send Dana home still not seeing -- I didn't want to be charged with manslaughter on top of that.

Always coming out on top

For the next 10 years, Dana wore contact lenses (-16D) without any problems. Then in 1999, he presented with a slight problem in his left eye: He had developed a central macular hole. But he received excellent care from a retinal ophthalmologist, Jerre Chambers, M.D. Later still, a surgeon implanted an intraocular lens for a cataract -- and Dana ended up 20/25 (autorefractor: +1.25-1.25 x 90). Damn, some people have all the luck!

DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH RENÉ LUTHE, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 643-8132 OR LUTHER@BOUCHER1.COM.

 


Optometric Management, Issue: January 2003