Close Encounters with Science: Picks
Seeing the World by Yvette Menard
My eyes have always been more than just a way for me to focus on the world. They’ve been out of focus, really. Born with one near sighted eye, one far sighted eye, one of those crossed, both of them with astigmatism, I was used to people looking at ME oddly. My eyes weren’t just organs for me to see the world, they were the way the world saw me.
I started wearing glasses when I was only 18 months old. I can remember the strap that held them on. Just a funny looking, red headed kid, I would sit in anticipation in the chair at the ‘eye doctor’, waiting for his big machine full of different lenses, all promising better vision. No matter how many different combinations were tried, though, there were always imbalances. As soon as I took off my glasses, my right eye would strain its way over to the left side of my skull. It was a fun trick for the other kids in my kindergarten class, who would urge me to take off my glasses every time the teacher left the room. Fortunately I thought making them laugh meant I was popular, not just a freak with a funny eye.
Eventually, at too late at age, a ‘patch’, a pirate’s patch, covering my strong eye, was tried. I became even more of an oddity than before. I also became significantly more clumsy. Any level of depth perception I had developed was completely gone, and I was dependent on an eye that wouldn’t stay in place, never mind stay in focus. That attempt was fortunately abandoned before I entered high school.
My parents and doctors often explained to me the physics of the eye, the lenses that were correcting, or attempting to correct, the weaknesses with which I was born. Even so, I would awake angry if one of my parents had removed my glasses while I was sleeping - how else could I see my dreams!?! I was, and still am, an avid reader, so as long as I could see the words on the page, I was accepting of whatever method let this be possible.
Having adjusted to my eyes and my lenses, and developing a pretty good level of spatial abilities, I eventually became a dentist. In dental school, we all wore magnifying loupes. I was no longer the kid with the weird looking glasses, we all wore them!
Throughout the past several years, I would look into laser eye surgery, but was repeatedly told that I was not a candidate, that my eyes were ‘too bad’ for them to be able to help me.
This fall, that all changed. I was able to have lenses on both eyes surgically corrected. From strap-on glasses, and being the butt of classmates jokes, to perfect vision, the physics of both internal and external lenses has effected more than just the way I see the world.
Now, the world sees me the way I see myself.
Yvette Menard is from Comox, BC