Little Miss 4 Eyes tells us what it is like to wear glasses as a child
Stop, Look and Listen!
The day I saw red
The man stood in front of me and fitted the weirdest pair of spectacles across my eyes. He inserted a lens first into one side of the frame and then another in the opposite side. He asked me to read the letters and numbers from the chart on the wall and as I did so, he kept on changing the lenses. It was not long before he and my mother were selecting a pair of spectacles from the small range he had there for children. They tried to involve me in the choice. but it seemed to me that there was little choice. I left it to them for how does one know if something suits you if you cannot see what it look like when you are wearing it! I do recall though, that they chose a small pair of pink framed spectacles and afterwards we left that place with my Mother agreeing to come back with me the following week.
A week later we were back to see the man. I now had a name for him. I also fully und+erstood the reason for our return. I was coming back to have my first pair of spectacles fitted.
Mr. Moffatt spent a little time adjusting the ear pieces of the pink spectacles and as I watched, I saw that the little frames now contained glass. He warmed the soft plastic of the arms, bending them and molding them with his fingers. When he was finished, he fitted the glasses to my face, making sure as he did so, that the arms fitted snugly behind my ears. He straightened his back and turned to lift the large Venetian blind which hung over the window behind him. Light immediately flooded in and he indicated to me to come over and take a look outside.
Still wearing the unfamiliar Glasses I walked across to the window and stared out in wide-eyed surprise. I exclaimed out loud, Oh, I said, it is so red! I stood there a while, just looking at the large red and white sign outside. I can still see it now, just as if it were a vision firmly imprinted deep within my mind. I had never seen a color so vibrant before!
Those little pink frames
I carried the small pair of pink framed spectacles carefully to school the next day. Seated at a double desk alongside one my school mates, I shyly took the glasses from their small case. They lay on a small soft piece of yellow cloth. I put them on, just as my mother had instructed me to do so and then I found that I was been gawped at by the rest of my classmates. Perhaps it was my own embarrassment which caused them react in that way but from that day forward, they teased and taunted me for wearing those glasses. They chanted the words ‘four eyes, four eyes’ and those little pink framed glasses went straight back into their little case and they stayed there and only came out when I had no choice.
Not pink but gold glasses!
Not fashion statements either!
Rather than wear them, I would ask a classmate to read what I was could not to see on the blackboard. I did not want to face the humiliation of having to wear those glasses again. I missed a lot and never did quite see those same vibrant colors again. I found it difficult to cope with my increasing poor sight. At the same time, I grew more dependent on my classmates to help me see what was written on the board. I could not find the courage to explain to them, why it was that I so needed their help. My mother would ask me whether if I was wearing my glasses at school. My sisters told tales on me and yet I still could not tell her the truth. I found it easier to try to cope by copying the work of the person sitting next to me, much easier than wear those glasses! And as I grew older, the glass was replaced by even thicker glass. My complex about wearing them grew. I could not see beyond the humiliation of having to wear those glasses! I could not see that inside I was just a normal child, just like every other child, that was, except that I had to wear those glasses. They made me feel ugly. I could see no sign of beauty in this child and had someone tried to tell me I was wrong, I would not have believed them. Spectacles were not fashion statements then as they are today. I never was able to bring myself to accept that I really did need those glasses.
Neither fashionable or practical!
At age sixteen I left school and in six months I had saved up enough money for my first pair of contact lenses. They were my first major purchase. They were made of permeable glass and were nothing like the disposable contact lenses of today. Wearing them for me was magical, hard and not always comfortable but I would wear them as if my whole life depended on my wearing them. I felt as if a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders. The complex though not completely gone was as least partially hidden from the world and for the first time in many years I was able to see the world as others saw it. Those colors were bright again. but they were never quite as bright as that first day when I first saw red. They lifted my spirits and transformed me from an ugly Ducking to a young lady.
Once or twice over the following years, I managed to lose a lens or two, either on the floor or when one had been accidentally caught up in my clothing. On those occasions I felt so much panic, the very idea of my being forced to wear an ancient pair of thick pair of glasses in public, until the missing lens could be found or replaced was enough to send me into a flat spin. If unforeseen circumstances forced me to wear those glasses, I was instantly transported back to ‘complex mode’ and I would avoid going out until my beloved contact lenses were returned to me, where they should have been, covering both of my eyeballs. I wore those contact lenses faithfully for the next twenty-five years. I even had a pair of blue ones made once, how daring was that! My blue eyes shone even more brightly and it was lovely to receive the occasional compliment! Contact lenses helped restore not only my confidence but also my faith in humanity.
My fear of losing the lenses was tangible. The thought of having to wear a pair of glasses which were either out of date or whose arms were held together with sticky tape was palpable. I could not afford to have both an up to date pair of modern glasses as well as a pair of contact lenses made at the same time. I lived in fear of losing my lenses. I could bear the thought of having to resort back to wearing an unfashionable or damaged frame.
Choose the right Surgeon
I cannot emphasize enough that you choose the right surgeon. Although I have suffered no complications from this procedure, I do know others who have.
Dr. Michael S Kritzinger
Then the opportunity came for me to have Lasik Surgery. I waited two years for the appointment which would change my life. Dr. Michael S. Kritzinger performed the operation. Sadly he died tragically in a helicopter crash on 28th April 2000. He is said to have been one of the most experienced and skilled refractive and LASIK eye surgeons around the world who have performed this operation. His contributions included LASIK Nomogram software development. He also held U.S. patents on instruments and LASIK techniques and was the first to introduce LASIK surgery to South Africa. I was a very fortunate patient.
The operation was performed one evening. I left the clinic that night with both of my eyes bandaged. I slept the night through and returned the following morning to have the bandages removed. A few eye drops were placed into each eye, after which I was asked to blink a few times and then, when my eyes had cleared, I looked across the room, to where I could not only see, but read every single word on the chart on the wall. It was stunned. It was so very reminiscent of the first day when I had seen red!
Spectacles, Contact Lenses and LASIK Surgery
I have survived glasses and contact lenses and also LASIK surgery. I remember laying in my bed the first night after my operation with the bedroom curtains drawn wide open and as I lay there, I could only marvel at the sight, for, without any glasses or contact lenses I could see those stars shining brightly back at me. It was a glorious sight.
The gift of sight!
More recently I underwent a cataract operation. My sight after the operation was as good if not better than after I had the Lasik surgery. Sadly, a few days later, I developed floaters in the eye but. for the most part, these have improved with time and I still do not have to wear glasses. In the future. I will need another operation for a second cataract which is slowly growing but modern eye surgery has done its best for me and it has been a real blessing. I am forever grateful to modern technology and medical science for the gift of sight.
© 2014 Sally Gulbrandsen