It wasn’t until the third grade that my family discovered that I could not see objects in the distance. Anything farther than 2 feet away appeared blurry, out of focus, and not very sharp or crisp. This made reading the board (chalk at the time) difficult, but I didn’t know that.
On our way back from my grandparents home in downtown Los Angeles, my parents pointed out the car window and asked me, “Michael, look at that airplane. Do you see how low it is?” I looked in the direction they were pointing, but struggled to identify an airplane against the sky blue background. That’s how my parents and me found out I couldn’t see. That week we went to the eye doctor, who confirmed my poor vision. Glasses were ordered and at the age of eight, I was the first and (I think) only kid in my third grade class wearing glasses. I have needed glasses just to survive ever since. For the past thirty-five years, I have not been able to see an airplane against the background of the sky without them.
That all changed on May 31st when I had photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) eye surgery. Overall, the surgery is pretty painless and quick. However, the healing process is lengthier than LASIK eye surgery (the more commonly known laser eye surgery). It’s been a few days since the surgery and I can see pretty well. I am testing at 20/20 vision as of this writing, but the it’s going to be a few weeks before I stop seeing halos and ghosts and experiencing chronic dry eyes.
“I had worn glasses since the fourth grade, it was part of my character and definable look, but I thought it would be cool not to have to wear glasses and feel around for them in the morning.” Weird Al Yankovic
Remember in the movie The Matrix, when they would upload different instructions into Neo. Now you can do kung fu, now fly a helicopter, etc. Being able to see across the room now feels like that. They uploaded the instructions for me to see 20/20.
It’s been a pretty incredible experience. One day you are reliant on something to the point of life or death. Then, suddenly, the need is gone, lifted like a curse. I feel very lucky 1) to be able to afford such a luxury, 2) live in a country where such a luxury is even available, 3) live in a time where the science exist to correct this type of deformation, 4) to have lived with a family who was interested in my vision in the first place.
The reality for a lot of children in the United States of America is that they don’t know that they have poor vision. Even if they did know, their families are in no position to purchase yearly eyeglasses and costly eye exams. In addition, these children are more likely living in poorer neighborhoods with poorer schools lacking resources such as paper and teachers. Last December (2017), I came across this report on the Newshour about a program in Baltimore where every child in elementary school gets an annual eye exam and a new pair of glasses if needed.
The organization supporting Vision for Baltimore (featured in the Newshour video) is called Vision to Learn and they are headquartered in Los Angeles, CA. As of this writing, they have provided over one-hundred and thirty-thousand (130,000+) children with the glasses they need to read, write, and learn. Please consider adding Vision to Learn to your annual list of organizations that you donate to.