Posted in eyes

Smiling with my eyes

Over the past eighteen months, I’ve learned how to smile with my eyes. Even though we’re not wearing masks as often as we used to, there’s a few places where it’s still required. I’ve most recently had to wear one visiting someone at the hospital, checking into the local dolphin attraction, going to the eye doctor and a convenience store in South Carolina. Some places make sense, some are kind of random. But along the way I and others have discovered a skill. We can smile with our eyes.

I find this fascinating because smiles are generated by our mouths. What a joy it is to watch a new born slowly but surely respond to your smile with a little smile of their own! Lots of facial muscles work together to make that smile happen, which changes the shape of our eyes. I just never really noticed that until we all had our faces covered by masks.

Once I noticed this, I made sure my own eyes reflected the smile on my face. This meant smiling a little harder beneath my mask to ensure that my eyes were engaged. For many but not all in our family, this is not a tough skill. Squinty eyes accompany the grins on our faces. But those who don’t squint do have a certain sparkle that gives away their smile.

Our eyes convey other emotions, too. Furrowed eyebrows indicate concern. A little moistness is visible when someone is sad. Wide open eyes express surprise. A squint can communicate anger or concern. We all know what eye roll means. Crossed eyes? I’m going nuts. Pupils dilated? Something’s going on. See someone with a perfectly straight face? Check out their eyes.

Masks or not, I find myself looking at eyes a lot more. Colors, makeup, shape, motion. Overgrown bushy eyebrows, extra long lashes, and tired bags beneath the eyes.

And then when they catch me looking at them, I make sure they see me smiling with my eyes.

Posted in eyes, music

Is that a sharp or a natural?

Photo by Betty Rotaru on Unsplash

I have been thoroughly enjoying my new lens implants following eye surgery to remove my cataracts. My distance vision in my left eye is crystal clear. My reading distance vision in my right eye is perfect.

And then I sat down to practice my trumpet. My music stand isn’t far away and it isn’t close up either. It’s about one arm’s length from my eyes, and it’s not in focus! I just can’t see all the ledger lines below or about the staff. Is that note in a space or on a line? Is that a sharp or a natural? I can’t move the music closer because I’ve got a horn in front of me. I can’t stand further back, either, cause the notes will be too small.

Hmm. I did not foresee this dilemma. I had to come up with a solution. I need to get my lip in shape for Easter. So I came up with a solution. I purchased a pair of cheap reading glasses, popped out the right lens, and wore them with just the left lens in place. Voila! Every note is in focus. Pretty slick. I’ll just keep them in my trumpet case, next to the valve oil.

My followup appointment with my eye doctor is this week. I’ll mention it, but I can’t imagine there are any cheaper or easier solutions. I only spend a little time each day playing trumpet, so I can’t see investing a lot of money in glasses for that purpose.

Posted in eyes

The tears no one sees

Photo by Luis Galvez on Unsplash

A church worship service can be an emotional setting. I’ve had dozens of people say to me, “I cried through the whole service.”

Sometimes a song or hymn brings to mind a sad time, like a funeral service for a loved one. Some cry when they feel alone, even though they’re sitting in a room full of people, because one particular person isn’t there anymore. Or may soon not be there anymore. Or a phrase in a reading or sermon touches an especially tender spot in your heart. Some people don’t know why they need to bring tissues to church. The tears just flow.

I always tell folks that it’s OK to cry in church. After all, God created you with the ability to produce tears. And I also assure them that we all cry in church at one time or another. They might not know that because many times, no one sees the tears.

Sometimes the tears are on the inside. They don’t run down our face and drip onto a hymnal or bible. Instead they flow from our minds to our hearts and into our soul. Memories, guilt, fear, the unknown, anger, jealousy and hatred may not make our eyes well up. But we feel powerful emotions within. We weep within. We put on our best Vulcan expression and everyone thinks we’re just fine. But the tears within are very real.

Whether on the outside or the inside, there’s nothing wrong with tears. They make us remember that we’re looking forward to a new place, where God will wipe every tear from our eyes and our souls.

Posted in eyes

What else could a new lens do?

After last week’s cataract surgery, my right eye with its new implant for reading is working better than I ever imagined! I’m spoiled, and I can’t wait to have my distance eye done next week.

I was thinking about what a lens implant could eventually do. I’ll bet that some of the things Steve Austin’s bionic eye could do in “The Six Million Dollar Man” are not only doable, but also cost a lot more than six million dollars. (Not to be confused with Ted DiBiase, who was only “The Million Dollar Man.)

Imagine a lens implant that could do things like…

  • Zoom in or out. How awesome to zoom in on a game from the cheap bleacher seats! Or zoom in on something too small to be seen by normal eyes.
  • Give you a heads up display. It could show the distance to an object, tell you how fast you were going, display the temperature of a liquid, or even just show you the time at will. You could have it display a text message, your heart rate, or close caption a movie or live performance. I suppose you could use it to navigate, too.
  • Allows you to save an image of what you are looking at, perhaps saving it to your phone. While your’e at it, you add something to your shopping list or shopping cart.
  • How about facial recognition? Just glance at someone, and you would see their name. Maybe you could identify a plant or weed in your yard. Or identify an exact color, so you could get that matching quart of paint to touch up the bedroom walls.
  • Adjust to bright sunlight or dimly lit rooms. Unless you like to look cool wearing sunglasses.

Science fiction or next year’s product announcement? The lines are blurred, aren’t they? But not my vision! My left eye implant will even correct astigmatism in that eye. For now that’s pretty exciting. I’m so thankful for the doctors and technology that make it all possible. But what if…

Posted in eyes

I am once again giving thanks for the gift of sight

Photo by Daniil Kuželev on Unsplash

Yesterday I had my first cataract surgery. I woke up this seeing clearly from my right eye with out glasses or contact lenses for the first morning in many, many years. I am again giving thanks for the gift of sight.

I got my first pair of glasses when I was ten years old. My observant fourth grade teacher Mrs. Dimico saw me squinting to read the chalkboard and tipped off my parents. They took me to Cleary Optical which I think was in the neighboring town of Prospect Park, PA to get me examined and fitted for glasses. The lenses were ground from glass fifty years ago and I remember having the choice of two frames: black or tortoise shell. I chose black. Two weeks later we went to pick them up and Dr. Cleary spent nearly thirty minutes making sure they fit me correctly, an agent of the gift of sight. At first I only wore them when I needed them. But as time went on and I got progressively more nearsighted, I pretty much wore them all the time.

When I graduated college and had my first job, I got my first pair of soft contact lenses. Forty years ago, you purchased a pair which would last about a year. Not only did they require daily cleaning, but also weekly disinfecting in a little cooker thing made for that purpose. I was really thankful for that gift of sight, because now I could see when I was out running! The doctor also told me that contact lenses would slow the progression of my nearsightedness.

Eventually, I began to have a little trouble focusing on reading material as well as distance. I’m thankful for Dr. King in St. Augustine, who turned me on to monovision contact lenses. My left eye was corrected for distance, my right for reading. Worked like a charm, plus I now opened up a new pair every month.

When Dr. King moved out of his office, I began going to a local eye doctor who took my vision insurance plan. I’m thankful for Dr. Nunez who suggested I try multifocal lenses. Each lens was made with alterating concentric circles for distance and close up correction. After I wore them for a few days, my brain figured out which to use, and both my eyes could see near and far.

I am also thankful to Dr. Nunez who quickly got me into a retina specialist when one day without warning, I noticed a little dark patch of vision in the corner of my right eye. I not only had a tear in my retina, but it had also separated. I thankful that Dr. Nunn was able to laser my retina back into place and preserved the sight in that eye. Why did it happen? He explained that when you are nearsighted, your eye isn’t spherical, but more football-shaped, lending itself to separation. A tear with no separation happened a few years later in my left eye, too, and I am thankful that Dr. Jaroudi was able to laser that in place, too. I am extremely grateful for the technology which restored and preserved my eyesight!

All that lasering accelerated the growth of cataracts in both of my eyes, so I am having both lenses replaced with implants. My right eye has been adjusted for reading and my left eye will be for distance. The whole procedure for replacing my lens yesterday took less than fifteen minutes. The longest part of the morning was putting lots of drops in my eyes. Plus I didn’t feel a thing. I’m very thankful for Dr. Myer’s training, skills and work on my eye.

I know how complex the eye and the sense of sight is. It’s a wonder of God’s creation, as are all the colors, contrasts and textures he created for us to see. Some days I take those things for granted. But not today. Today, I’m once again grateful for the gift of sight!

Posted in eyes, faith

A tear in my eye?

(Tear in the title is pronounced with a long a, not a long e.)

A feeling of relief swept over my as the doctor stepped back and said, “Everything looks good.” Two weeks ago, I was in for my annual checkup with the retina specialist. A few years ago a colleague had repaired a tear in my right eye. Now something had shown up in my left, aka my “good” eye. I hadn’t noticed any changes in my vision. Asymptomatic is the term the doctor charted. A little lasering was the treatment he prescribed. (I’m sure there is more clinical-sounding word for that.)

eye laserSo an assistant numbed up my eye, I put my chin and forehead on the “look inside your eye” machine, and the doctor got to work with a trigger in his hand and an intensely bright light shining in my eye. For about ten minutes he fired shot after shot around the tear to isolate and attach anything that might come loose. There was a soft sound kind of like a “pew-pew-pew” over and over again as he called for his assistant to increase the power after each round. It didn’t really hurt. The sensation was like someone was in my head poking a blunt stick on the back of my eyeball. Annoying but not painful.

When it was all over, the assistant rinsed out my eye, put a patch over it and said, “Wear this for about an hour.” I asked, “Any aftercare instructions?” “Nope,” was his reply. “We’ll see you in a couple of weeks.” Oh. Ok. And just like that I was done and out the door. It turns out that was the easy part. Now I had to drive home with a patch over my good eye and my so-so eye fully dilated. It was only a mile or so, but I vowed right then and there to get a driver from now on.

For the next fourteen days I was ultra-sensitive to every little floater, shadow, blurriness, sensation that might indicate that something wasn’t right. Nothing happened during that time, but I was hyper-vigilant.

Finally it was time for my recheck. My driver dropped me off and left to run some errands. The doctor only dilated my recovering eye, peered in at every possible angle with two different kinds of light, and announced, “Everything looks good.” For the rest of the day, none of the floaters or shadows bothered me at all. Those three words made all the difference in the world.

On his way out, the doctor said, “We’ll want to see you more than once a year now.” I replied, “I’ll come whenever you want. Thank you!”

Eyes are pretty amazing. So are the doctors who specialize in the care of eyes and the correction of vision.