Why I Work in the Eyecare Industry

Michael O. is Sr. Technical Writer for Eyefinity/OfficeMate

Michael O. is Sr. Technical Writer for Eyefinity/OfficeMate

I love working in the eyecare industry because I am so deeply indebted to it.

Most people don’t believe me when I tell them that I have worn hard contact lenses since I was a month old. You see, I was born with cataracts, and after undergoing four corrective surgeries as an infant, I am now aphakic. For those of you who follow this blog but are not doctors, aphakia is the technical term for having the natural crystalline lenses in one’s eyes surgically removed. While contact lenses are still the standard method of optical correction, these days, a cataract patient’s natural lens may be surgically replaced by a synthetic intraocular lens (IOL) Thirty years ago, IOLs were far too risky and expensive, thereby making contact lenses my only option.

Many people take sight for granted. You have no idea how precious sight is until your contact lenses are accidentally thrown out on Christmas Eve, or you can’t drive because you dropped a contact down the drain. Work can be interrupted. Vacations can be ruined. The possibility of suddenly not being able to see, which probably doesn’t occur to many people, keeps me on my toes.

The miracles of modern medicine and advances in eyecare have afforded me the opportunity to live a normal life. Of course, normal to me involves cleaning and securely storing my contact lenses every night and fussing with reading glasses everywhere I go. These are small prices to pay, however, considering that in past eras, my sight couldn’t have been saved at all.

It pleases me to write documentation for a company that supports what I would consider to be a noble industry, and I am proud to work with optometrists and ophthalmologists who have helped improve the daily lives of millions of people like me.

8 Responses

  1. Hi michael,

    I wanted to know what type of sports did you get into when you were a kid. Now my son is 5 years old, he likes to play soccer. We play together sometimes without his contacts and he does well. So Im just curious maybe you would remember what you were like back then.

    • Hi, Sheryl.

      I was probably a little older than your son, but I also played soccer for a few years. I couldn’t have played, however, without contact lenses. I think soccer is a great choice since the ball is large and doesn’t travel too quickly. I’m not very good at baseball because the ball is much smaller and is very fast. Since I don’t have a natural depth perception, it takes me a little longer to calculate where the ball will be and get my glove up in time.

      When I was a toddler, I would descend stairs backward while gripping the banister. Stairs were scary places. Since I didn’t have depth perception, it was difficult for me to gauge the distance of each step, and I took the stairs backward for balance. As I grew older, I learned to compensate for not having depth perception, which is why I was able to play soccer, and I’m now able to drive. (This isn’t to say that my mother wasn’t incredibly worried when I began driving.) When it came to sports, I was good soccer player, but I wasn’t the best. It was much more important to me that I made friends and felt like I fit in.

      About the time I started playing soccer, my contact lens prescription must have changed to accommodate seeing objects that were a little farther away. This is also when I started wearing bifocal glasses for reading. Maybe wearing glasses in class isn’t the stigma it once was, but the glasses didn’t go much to help me feel like I fit in. (Don’t tell my parents, but there were several years I secretly didn’t wear them.) I still wear glasses over my contacts for reading.

      I liked playing soccer. Toward the end of elementary school, I enjoyed playing street hockey on in-line skates in the cul-de-sac. With those rare exceptions, I tended to prefer activities that didn’t involve judging velocity and distance. I read a lot. I rode my bike everywhere with friends. We played with action figures and eventually video games. I had a small group of close friends that I grew up with, and I felt comfortable around them.

      Sports were always awkward. They were much more fun when I was younger, because young kids just want to play and have fun. I didn’t care for physical education in junior high and high school, because kids that age become much more competitive and judge more harshly when you don’t play as well as they do. Again preferring activities that didn’t involve judging velocity and distance, I enjoyed weightlifting in high school over team sports.

      I know I went farther than your son’s age. I just wanted to give you some insight into what he might be experiencing throughout his childhood. Talk to your eye doctor about activities your son enjoys or has expressed interest in, and soon, about how he’s doing in school.

  2. Thanks for the post! It’s really good to know that there are people who go into eye care because they care about helping people improve the health of their eyes. I didn’t know that you had to wear hard contact lenses since you were a month old because you were born with cataracts. That would explain why you’re so passionate about helping other people take care of their eyes.

  3. My 18 month old was born with congenital bilateral cataracts and had her lens removed at 3 months. Since then, she wears contacts and has recently undergone surgeries for strabismus and nystagmus. She attends weekly therapies. Her vision is, recently, 20/130 (yay! compared to 20/270 initially).

    To be honest, I am so sad and scared. While she is reaching developmental milestones, the process is delayed. I am doing all that I know to ensure that she is both challenged and successful, but I worry.

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I would be grateful to hear more about your experiences (what you remember or have been told) as a toddler or youth.

    LOVE!

    • My heart goes out to you and your little girl. I know that you’re scared and worried. I think anyone in your position would be. I can’t imagine what my parents went through when I was an infant, but I can relate a little bit of the story.

      I know I caused my folks many sleepless nights. I was their first child, which is already stressful enough, but also a child who required constant visits to the eye doctor, several delicate surgeries, and contact lenses at one month. I caused them even more worry because I would pull my contacts out of my eyes and lose them or swallow them. When I was very young, I walked down stairs backwards because I had no depth perception; this also worried my mother when I grew up and wanted to drive.

      I actually don’t remember much of the several surgeries that I underwent as a child. Actually, I can’t even tell you how many. I only vaguely remember the last surgery I had when I was four or five, and I don’t remember it as a traumatic event. I remember counting backwards as the anesthesiologist put the mask over my face, but I wasn’t scared because I knew my parents were there.

      Eventually, I grew out of eating my contact lenses. While I have no natural depth perception, I have learned to compensate. I don’t have a problem driving, but I’m not very good at catching a baseball. I love to read. On balance, life has been pretty normal for me. I hope the miracles of modern medicine and some talented doctors can achieve the same or better results for your daughter

      While I can’t give you specific advice about your little girl, I can tell you what my parents did. They researched the procedures I underwent and asked the optometrist and ophthalmologist questions about the treatment. They got second opinions if necessary. They held me to the same standards that they would any other child. They didn’t coddle me, but rather encouraged me.

      I’ll have to see if I can get my mother to write a follow-up to my original blog post about her perspective on raising a child with cataracts. If you have any experiences that you’d like to share, I’d love to read them.

      Best,
      Michael

      • My son was diagnosed with conginetal cataracts when he was 3 months old had his lens taken out. Now he wears contact lens. I’m trying to understand what can he with contacts, no contacts, or with glasses. So the Dr prescribes a certain prescription for his lens, I’m not sure how he comes out with numbers because my son can’t see far with contacts, now with out contacts he could see far but very blurry. He has small pupils. He has that pinhole effect. So my question would be could i challenge his eye dr to upgrade the prescription for this pinhole effect. Because right now I notice that he could see as far as my 1 year old nephew very close. But my 4 year old nephew same age as my son could really see far like the shape of the moon. And it just breaks my heart when my son doesn’t…

      • Hi, Sheryl.

        Your eye doctor has some pretty cool equipment, called an autorefractor, that can objectively determine the appropriate prescription for your son. If you feel like your son’s prescription isn’t giving him the distance he needs to play and read, then you should mention this to your eye doctor. If you aren’t sure that your son is getting the best care, you should get a second opinion.

        I’m not sure about the specifics of your son’s condition nor would I be qualified to comment on them, but I can tell you what I experienced growing up. My contact lens prescription was set very close when I was a toddler, and as I grew up, my prescription was set farther and farther out. This makes a lot sense when you consider that the objects toddlers interact with most (toys, parents) are very close. As they grow up and play sports and participate in school activities (like reading the white board), their prescription is adjusted farther out. Finally, as a young adult, the prescription is adjusted for still greater distance for activities like driving. This last adjustment is the one I remember most because I was 17, and I finally realized that most people could actually see the individual leaves on trees rather than a big, green blur atop a trunk. Yes, the difference was that dramatic!

        Also, understand that your son has a narrow range of focus. His contact lenses don’t stretch or compress the way your nephew’s natural crystalline lenses do. So while your nephew can focus on his toys and then refocus on the moon, your son won’t be able to do that. For now, it’s probably best that your son can focus on toys and books.

  4. This is a great personal story! Thanks for sharing, Michael. And, thanks for your work in the eyecare industry!

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