I had just started my practice a year ago. It was 9:00 a.m. Monday when 14 year old Susan Small arrived at my office, Holistic Vision Care, for her eye exam. Neither of us knew about the miracle that was about to occur. Butterflies probably do know but young eye doctors like me, who did not talk with butterflies, had to await the experience of a miracle to know it. Her mom held her hand as she walked slowly towards my exam room. My first impression was that she was in some way handicapped, as Susan walked with her head down almost as if she were trying to watch where her feet were aimed. Her pants and blouse were somewhat in shambles for a 14 year old girl. They were a bit wrinkled and almost looked like two unmatched parts of loosely fitting pajamas. Her hair hung limply on the sides of her face and was combed with an obvious lack of interest. As Susan entered my small well lit exam room she looked up, at least far enough to see my shoulders, and then to where I had directed her to sit in the exam chair. At that point I had learned something. Susan was wearing eyeglasses with somewhat thick lenses that clearly showed how nearsighted she was. However, I was quite sure the prescription had little to do with her posture as I could quickly read the insecurity in her body language.
Thirty minutes later we were through with her eye exam. She was a good patient but she spoke so softly, I often had to ask her to repeat her replies to my questions. I wrote her a new prescription and then told her mom that I would recommend the very high index lenses that would make her glasses look much thinner. To this her mom replied, “She wants contact lenses, too.”
I looked at Susan and I said, “Great, so what made you decide to get contact lenses?” Susan looked at her shoes and replied hesitantly, “My glasses are heavy on my nose and also my mom wants me to get them.” Now in my experience, to get contact lenses you need motivation. After all it is not normal to poke yourself in the eye and not blink. In addition, to really be able to get them in quickly, as when you are in a rush to get to school as most kids are in the morning, you need to practice lots! To get kids to practice, they needed motivation and Susan did not seem to have any I could hear. There was no enthusiasm in her reply. In addition, when children responded that their parents wanted them to get contacts, they almost never practiced enough to learn and usually quit out of frustration. However, I was going to give it my best shot, as I always did. I had a patient not show up so I had time to do her contact lens fitting. Back then I did nearly everything as we were a small office. I sat with her and patiently taught her how to not blink as she tried to put the lens on. Most girls her age wore makeup and were used to mascara brushes near their eyes. For them it was easy to learn to put on contact lenses. Not for Susan; she had never worn any makeup and she was nearly in tears when, thanks to God’s blessings, she accidentally got a contact in her eye. The learning process was very lengthy for her but I began to sense that she might actually have some reason to pursue this so I stayed with her. By the time we were through and she could at least crudely handle the lenses, I was getting anxious stares from my office manager-optician who was getting stares from patients in the waiting room. My final instructions to Susan was to wear the lenses every day and see me in a week with them on her eyes at least 8 hours. I told her mom to call if there was any challenge. I did expect a call
A week later, I had all but forgotten about Susan. And I have to tell you that writing what you will read next even though it is 30 years, later still bring tears to my eyes. When I pulled the next chart from my door and called Susan Small; a well dressed, stunningly good looking young lady walked proudly across the waiting room to my door. I was at first confused, until I saw her mom walking after her and then it hit me who she was! She looked me right in the eyes and smiled, with that disarming confidence that a beautiful woman has, and then sat in my chair with all the grace of a movie star. Now as I am typing this story for the eighth or ninth time over many years, I will tell you there are tears running down my cheeks. Back then, I had no idea what a hindrance it could be to look through thick glasses that made the world look small, somewhat distorted and out of reach. Seeing this change in her was much like seeing a Monarch butterfly emerging from a cocoon. Since then, I have always discussed the benefits of contact lenses with parents of children who are moderately nearsighted or who seem to not like wearing glasses.
There is a bit more to tell you however. Years later this very capable women moved to NYC and got an excellent well paying job. Each year she drove upstate to see me for her eye exams. It was an hour and fifteen minutes drive to Brewster, N.Y. but quite tolerable on highways. One day I got a call from her. She had torn her last contact lens and back then lenses were not disposable so you did not have spares. She need to come up that Saturday to get a new one. She wanted to know if I could rush it? I said sure. Because lenses were not as reproducible as they are today, back then you had to try on a lens and let us test in on you to be sure it was good. When Saturday came, I pulled her chart and contact lens vials off my door and called her name. I was going to have her try them on. When Susan stood up, it was with a lack of confidence in her step. Her head was a bit down as she walked towards my office. I gave her the lenses to try on and then I went back to finish my current eye exam.
Ten minutes later I again called Susan to check and see how her lenses were working. This time, to my amazement, when she stood up, she stood straight with her head up and walked as proudly as she had years ago. There was magic in the contact lenses! The magic was greater than any designer clothing or makeup artist could offer. The magic was making Susan not feel like an ugly duckling. No amount of clothing or makeup could take away the feeling of peering at a shrunken world that thick eyeglasses produce. Being able to take off the thick lenses that made her big eyes look small and get away from feeling “hidden” behind her frames had been a magical experience too. It was a painful experience that her memories had not forgotten even 15 years later.
Janr Ssor (aka Dr Joseph Ross)
copyright © 4/4/2012, Janr Ssor, Author