by Specs4everYou will have to excuse my writing, but I was asked by my father to finish this tale - more a series of observations really - just before he passed away last year. I am not nearly as proficient with words as he was, but I promised him I would do my best to complete his work, and publish it on the Internet.
During the last few years of the 1990’s, and into the beginning of this century, there were amazing strides made in medicine. Disease was becoming a thing of the past for anyone with money. Further, anyone with money was able to indulge themselves in all kinds of cosmetic surgery. It was very common for girls who had less than perfect breasts to have breast implants. It was reported that the rate was so high that one had to wonder if anyone really had natural boobs anymore. Vision surgery also had become so common that it looked as if all the eye doctors would soon go the way of the Cadillac (for those of you that don’t remember the Cadillac, it was the finest American car of its time). And the list went on, tummy tucks, nose jobs, face-lifts, and any other surgery imaginable was being done to change people into “perfect humans”. So, because poor eyesight and thick glasses had been virtually eliminated by contact lenses and laser surgery, the following story would seem almost unbelievable, if we hadn’t observed it first hand.
In 1981, my father had just graduated from medical school as an ophthalmologist, and he obtained a position at a large midwestern clinic. One day a very pretty lady came into his office on a referral from her own doctor. She was wearing relatively thick, strong glasses. It seemed, however, that it was her 9-month-old baby that had vision problems. The lady was not very fluent in English, having just emigrated from Holland with her husband, who was now a professor at a local university. She managed to communicate to my father that her baby seemed to be very nearsighted, she felt, maybe, nearly as nearsighted as she was. She had noticed that the baby was not focusing on anything more than a few inches from her face, and had discovered that when she placed her own spare glasses on the child, the baby seemed able to see things in the distance and would cry when the glasses were removed. Sure enough, my father found that the baby girl was severely myopic, and after a lot of testing, ordered a pair of glasses for the baby. This began an association with Amber, the baby girl, and Natalie, the mother that lasted 42 years.
Within a couple of years, Natalie and her husband were blessed with a set of twin girls, and another girl followed the twins, 3 years later. Amber was 6 years old when Deirdre, the baby was born. Like Amber, the twins were also discovered to be seriously myopic before they were a year old, and Deirdre was even more nearsighted than any of her sisters. My father had discovered that Natalie came from a family with a history of very high myopia, and the children’s grandmother was so myopic that she was considered legally blind with her glasses. Natalie herself was only in the 16-diopter range, but her younger sister was well into the minus 30’s. And Amber, Belinda, Chandra, and Deirdre all were rapidly getting into the mid to high 20’s themselves.
Amber had just turned 21, when things started to happen. All four of the girls were musically talented and when Amber was 16, they had formed a musical group that they called AB-CD. The group had been put on hold, when Amber went off to the university. But, while Amber was in her second year, a demo that the girls had made, was heard by a record company executive, and he pulled out all the stops to get the girls to record a more professional quality recording. Amber came home to participate, and the cd was released in the spring of 2001. The girls had amazing voices, and were extremely talented, so it didn’t surprise my dad that sales went through the roof. And they followed the first one with a repeat performance. Soon the four sisters with the very thick myodisc glasses were among the highest paid in the world, and were the most popular recording group known. All four of the girls had tried many times to wear contact lenses, but along with their very high myopia, they had inherited eyes that were intolerant to even the finest, and most expensive contact lenses. So, they had developed a remarkably good attitude about their poor eyesight and their need to wear the extremely thick, unusual-looking myodisc glasses. All of the money that they were making didn’t hurt either.
Soon after the first magazine articles came out featuring the girls, a number of laser eye surgery centers noticed a serious decline in the number of 18 and 19 year old girls wanting laser surgery to correct their poor vision. About this time, dad started hearing about young girls that were so enamored with the group that they had gotten plus contact lenses to wear, so they could also wear the thick myodisc glasses just like Amber and her sisters’ wore. And, I well remember his stunned reaction when he heard about the first girl that had lens implants done so that she could wear -40D myodiscs just like Deirdre had to wear. But soon, it became very common for young girls to have lens implants, as it was for them to have breast enlargements. Dad wouldn’t do the implant surgery for the longest time. He said that to deliberately make people severely myopic went against all of the training that he had. One day, however, a very close friend asked him to do lens implants for her 18-year-old daughter. Dad probably would have resisted anyone else, but Ruby was a special person for him. She was an American Negro, and she had been one of dad’s first patients. Ruby was extremely nearsighted herself, and she had developed a retinal tear that dad had fixed. Ruby then took it upon herself to become dad’s office cleaner, and eventually our housekeeper. Dad had done the retinal repair for free for Ruby, and although he did pay her the going rate for her cleaning work, she had never stopped repaying him by doing far more than she was paid to do. Further, dad was her daughter’s, Lucinda, godfather, so dad just couldn’t say no, and have Lucinda go to another doctor.
It really was a crazy scenario to have teen-aged girls that previously had perfect vision to want poor eyesight and wear glasses with -40 diopter, myodisc lenses. And the more popular AB-CD became, the more the girls wanted to wear very thick, strong glasses, just like the AB-CD girls. Even my younger sister talked dad into doing lens implants for her, although dad made sure that she only ended up with glasses having a -30D correction, as she naturally needed glasses with -10D lenses, and dad was worried that her vision might get even worse and she would need even stronger glasses to see.
Amber and her sisters had been on top of the charts for about 10 years, when dad began getting reports from his colleagues. He had first noticed the same thing with Lucinda that others were now noticing. It seemed that as the years went by, the girls wearing the very strong myodisc glasses began noticing that they needed stronger and stronger lenses. Lucinda was now wearing -50D myodiscs, and reports were coming in of young ladies that had crept up to -60D. This is about the highest prescription that can be made, and still provide any useful vision. With -60D glasses, the focal point is 16mm or 0.66 inches from the front of the eye. The lenses of a person’s glasses sit between 11 and 13 mm from the eye, and for any useful vision at all, the natural focal point has to be a bit beyond the front of the lens. So, some of the girls that had had the lens implants done initially were going to have to have the implants removed so that they would still be able to see clearly with relatively strong glasses. As dad had suspected would happen, even my sister was now wearing -45D lenses in her glasses.
And yes, for the most part, all of the girls that had had the lens implants done had been very satisfied with their vision. This was surprising to dad, but all of the girls that had developed natural myopia were resisting the removal of the original implants. One girl, who had probably started with a fairly high degree of myopia in the first place, was wearing -10D contact lenses under her -60D glasses, giving her a total myopia greater than -70D. I found it hard to believe that she could see enough to even insert her contact lenses on her eyes. But she did manage, and she stubbornly refused to have her implants removed, or to have their strength reduced.
Also around this time, my father experimented on himself by wearing strong minus glasses over plus contacts, and discovered from his own experiment that the reason no one wanted to give up their thick myodisc lenses was that looking through the strong lenses seemed to be addictive. None of the girls that wore the strong-lensed myodisc glasses for any length of time were willing to give them up. The extremely strong minus lenses were almost like a drug to them. And, a couple of girls that had naturally become severely myopic had gone ahead with the implant removal and later came back and wanted to have new implants put in so they could wear extremely strong glasses. They just couldn’t adjust to what they now saw, without -40D or stronger myodisc glasses.
The normal life span of any popular musical group is about 10 years, but Amber and her sisters were still extremely popular after almost 20 years. Amber was now in her early 40’s, and some of the fans were themselves into the 40’s. Most of their fans had children that were now in their mid-teens. And, the lens implants were so common, and had been perfected to such a state that the doctors were now doing children as young as 12. It was really, really strange to walk down the street and see face after face of pretty ladies, and their children, all wearing thick glasses with flashing myodisc lenses. Even men had discovered the rush from putting on a very strong pair of minus glasses, and having the extreme blur turn into very sharp vision. So, it became a common, ordinary, everyday sight to see a whole family wearing glasses with very strong myodisc lenses.
Dad spent a lot of time trying to understand this strange phenomenon, but in the end he passed on without knowing why all these people would subject themselves to the torture of being so extremely nearsighted and dependant on extremely strong glasses. But, I think in the end, one of his greatest regrets was having spent the money to send me to school to become an expert in laser eye surgery. He had felt that this fad of having lens implants to produce high myopia would soon wear itself out, and he wanted me to be one of the foremost experts in laser surgery when people came to their senses. Fortunately, dad made a lot of money over the years, but I have yet to perform surgery on my first patient, and I, long ago, decided that I would rather become a lab technician, and create the beautiful myodisc lenses that so many people choose to wear and need to have to see.
Specs4ever, with much thanks to A. J. for her editing