More than 400 years ago, the renowned English poet and playwright William Shakespeare posed the question, “To see, or not to see; that is the question” or something like that. That has been a prime question for me during most of my life. In my early years of childhood right up through my reasonably successful teen years of high school, I don’t recall any problem. I could “see” everything that was out in front of me waiting to be seen, sometimes through the lens of cheap sunglasses.
After my high school graduation and my entry into college at the DuBois Undergraduate Center, known then as “DUC,” I began to experience an occasional headache which seemed to be caused by eye strain and squinting to see the blackboard and other projected pieces of art and literature. I soon decided to have an eye test by the college nurse and she recommended that I make an eye appointment. But who might I call?
Although they all call themselves “Doctor,” I learned that there is quite a difference in specialties: An “ophthalmologist” is a medical or osteopathic doctor who has specialized in eye and vision care, and who is licensed to diagnose and treat all eye diseases; perform surgery; and prescribes and fits glasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems. An “optometrist” provides primary vision care ranging from sight testing and correction to the diagnosis, treatment and management of vision changes including prescribing medications for certain eye diseases.
Then there are “opticians” who follow prescriptions supplied by the other two specialists to design, verify and fit eyeglass lenses and frames, contact lenses and other devices to correct eyesight, but are not permitted to diagnose or treat eye diseases. At that time, I had no idea which kind of eye doctor I needed. I just wanted one who was an “optimist” and would lead me to nearly perfect vision. Somehow, I became a patient of Dr. Fred Murdock.
Dr. Murdock had an office on the second floor of a house on Scribner Avenue in DuBois just upstairs from the studio of the Christian radio station WDBA. He was a fine, gentle man who led me through many years of eye-prescription changes until he retired. Dr. Murdock determined that I had a condition know as “Astigmatism” which meant that I had a defect in the eye or in a lens caused by a deviation from spherical curvature. This resulted in distorted images as light rays were prevented from meeting at a common focus. He prescribed glasses that resolved the issue and I’ve worn glasses ever since.
Eventually Dr. Anthony DeFazio moved into an office in Brockway. What luck! By then I was back home at Brockway; and you can’t beat having your doctor right in town – that is, until the doctor decides to build a new office in DuBois and moves his practice there for his own convenience. Only his personal retirement will remove me from visits to his office. When my reading ability began to decline, Dr. DeFazio suggested “Varilux” progressive lenses that would provide a sharp smooth transition at any distance as I moved my face to the best position so there would be no visible line between far and near objects.
They didn’t work for me at that time. Maybe they would now since I still have them in my souvenir eye-glass drawer. Meanwhile I have been wearing bi-focals with the thin division line. Dr. DeFazio warned me that cataracts were forming in my eyes, somewhat like the film that shows up on automobile headlights. I thought the film might be wiped off like the car lights, or maybe it could be sucked off with a special vacuum cleaner like the cobwebs in the corner of the basement. Neither idea would work, I was informed.
I found out that the cloudy lens is deeper inside the eye and a variety of procedures may be used to clear my vision. I was referred to the offices of Penn Highlands Ophthalmology on Beaver Drive, DuBois, and more specifically to the practice of Dr. Tim Marra. Surgery was scheduled for June 8th where the lens inside my left eye would be removed and replaced with an artificial lens, called an intraocular lens, to restore my clear vision. It wouldn’t require an overnight stay at Penn Highlands. I was given a prescription for eye drops to be given for two days before surgery and for weeks afterward.
I arrived at the hospital at 8 a.m. and changed clothes for a race-track ride on a bed through the halls to the operating room, passing a number of other beds along the side. I was “twilighted” to deaden the eye but allow me to be awake and hear everything that was going on around me, especially the interesting conversations between the doctor and nurses which was, now and then interupted with a comment like, “this cataract is really bad!” and “the new lens is going in now!” (through the tiny incision he’d made in my eye).
After another race back down the hall, by 10 a.m. we were on our way home with my wife at the wheel of our car. I had a plastic shield taped over my eye for protection. That remained in place until the next morning’s appointment with Dr. Marra. In the waiting room, each team of patient and driver who came in became comrades with their own eye shields. We had a great time telling of our experiences over the past 24 hours. Many of them were old friends from Brockway: Vic, Jane, Flora, etc. and the rest are now new friends.
With the shield removed and back home, I was looking forward to looking at the scenery around home so I went right to the bedroom window to survey the countryside. Much to my surprise, there was some old guy standing outside the window, with scruffy white hair, bushy eyebrows, and a blotchy complexion. Who could it be – and it was only then that I realized that I hadn’t gone to the window, but to the mirror instead. For the next few days, brushing my teeth and shaving my face was a traumatic experience. Talking to other people brought the same discoveries since some of them now appeared in a similar appearance.
I don’t like eye drops very well and I tend to flinch every time a drop, administered by my wife, hits my eyeball. But I do understand their importance in my recovery. It reminds me of my response when an eye doctor checks my eye pressure with that little tonometer that pokes my eye during a regular exam.
I’m looking forward to the next gathering of all my new friends as most of us will meet at Penn Highlands again this week to begin treatment on the second eye. For everyone else, see you later!