Oh say, I can't see

I just got back from the eye doctor, and my eyes are dilated and thus non-functional. I would have to schedule an eye appointment on a bright winter day with lots of snow around to increase the light reflection so that when I walked out of the office it felt like the sun himself had come down to earth and was standing between me and my van, and he was directing all of his sunbeams right into my corneas, sunglasses notwithstanding. Instant headache. I hoped the roads are empty on the drive home because I was going to have to shut my eyes the whole way to keep out Mr. Photon-torpedoes-right-into-the-optic-nerves Sun.

I came home, shut all the drapes in the house, turned off all the lights (um NO, I didn't leave the lights on while I wasn't home! Must have been the cats who turned the lights on), and searched by touch in my fabric pile for anything that could be used as a blindfold.

I can't read, I can't type (I don't know how I'm doing this), I can't do housework (darn!). How on earth did I manage 8 years of continual pupil dilation when I was 9-17 years old???

Yes, I was put on a steady diet of atropine eye drops (at first it was more of a goopy translucent paste, but after a year or so of the goop, I was given drops) to hopefully prevent blindness. Yes, the doctor hinted at blindness because my eyes were getting so bad so fast. He presented three options to my mother: let me go blind, have surgery, or try this new experimental idea--atropine drops to dilate the pupils during growth years. My mother opted for the atropine. As a mother I would have agreed to it too, and as a 9-year-old listening to this conversation, with my vision on the line and surgery on my eyes an option I did NOT want to consider, I hoped that Mom would chose the atropine as well.

Looking back, I really don't think I would have gone blind. I've been told my subsequent eye doctors that the experiment was never proven to actually work so I doubt my vision was at risk at all. But at the time I believed the doctor and I used to attempt to read braille just in case the treatment didn't work and I lost my sight. I somehow got hold of a braille alphabet and would poke holes in paper with a pin to simulate braille bumps to practice "reading." I never learned how to read it. So it's a good thing I didn't go blind.

The problem with dilation of the pupils is twofold: my eyes hurt when I went outside in the sunshine, and I couldn't focus on objects up close, which meant everything I would try to read was blurry. So I had to get polarized lenses (back before Transition lenses were popular) and they had to be bifocals so I could read.Can you see the bifocal lines in my glasses?

I used to get teased often for my glasses. Joe J. would call me "eight-eyes," a taunt that was exponentially worse to the preteen ear and ego than "four-eyes." Stupid Joe J. (Thank goodness I got over it)

Eight years of unending discomfort in bright light and eyestrain from constant and unsuccessful attempts to focus on things up close! (overdramatic faint)

I can't remember my exact reaction to being released from the eye drops regimen, but I imagine it was relief. No more glasses that turned dark when I went outside and took FOR. EVER. to return to clear once I went back in! No more lines in the middle of my lenses! No more having to lean my head back to look through the bifocal part to read my piano music while I played!

One good thing came out of it though, I could gross other girls out by touching my eyeball. Having put drops in for many years, I was not squeamish about putting finger to eyeball. And it made learning to put contact lenses very, very easy for me.

Slowly the dilation is losing its effect and Mr Sun has retreated nearly back to his normal place in the sky. I can read and knit again without strain.


I'm glad you're not blind. And I still hate it when people touch their eyeballs, even worse when boys do that eyelid folding stuff.
Karie said…
I had bifocals in the third grade (THIRD GRADE) because the dr. thought it might slow my rapid decline in vision--he thought all the reading I did was to blame. Yeah, no.

So you have my empathy, Sara. And yikes! to the polarized lenses, which will always look weird to me, no matter how cool they look in the commercials.
Jenni said…
Nice glasses! Kindof funny that glasses are so trendy now. The girls hate having their eyes dilated. I've never been through it. I know the day is coming, though.
Yeah, Karie, I got mine in third grade too. Had to wear them through 11th grade.

Steph--I can't stand the eyelid folding!

Jen, have you been to get your eyes checked ever? They ALWAYS dilate your eyes.
Jen said…
No fun those eye drops. I remember getting them once, and the huge sunglasses they gave me to wear home seemed so funny then. Fast forward to now, and I'm slowly feeling like I need those gargantuan sunglasses these days because of my sensitivity to light. I swear I don't think I'm Mrs. Cool when I drive wearing my sunglasses on the cloudiest, dimmest of days.

Glad your eyes went back to normal by day's end. And I hope you don't end up going blind one day.

BTW, I don't think the cheap places (always, if ever) dilate the pupils. I know because that's where I usually go for my eye exams, and I can't recall ever getting it done. The one time I remember getting it done was at a "real" eye doctor, if that makes sense.