Wisdom From the Eye

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The Beginning

After a long and tiring, yet very unique and interesting, eye exam, Dr. Lederer looked at me carefully. I saw that he felt the pain and confusion tying knots in my mind that I didn’t know how to untangle. He then told me the best thing in the world: he knew how to make those knots straight; and he was going to show me how to do it on my own.

“What we do with our patients here is called ‘Vision Therapy’, Jennifer. And you’re gonna learn how to use your eyes the way you used to, yet you didn’t know you were using them a certain way, did you?” I slowly shook my head no. I thought eyes were used just to see things… What else was there to it?

“Your eyes are individuals, but they’re supposed to work together, easily, as a team. But when you hit your head, you hurt the part of your brain that tells your eyes to work together, so it’s a lot harder for you when you’re working them for things like reading.” I blinked a few times and began to rub my eyes. “That’s why you get tired,” he looked into the weariness of my eyes, “And get a headache and nausea so quickly. You have what is called Convergence Insufficiency. See, a lot of people who have this acquire it when they’re little, so they don’t even realize it feels different. But you see how it’s so much harder, don’t you? We’re going to teach you to pull your eyes together, which is called converging, and separate them, called diverging, to help you with your daily activities, and ease the pain.”

Dr. Lederer gave off such a genuinely caring vibe. Was this actually going to help me? Was it actually going to work this time? All the other doctors I had been to seemed to have no idea what was wrong with me, so they just tried random medicines to see if it would work. This time, it wasn’t a medicine; it was my very own discipline and exercise that was going to get me through the pain.

My mother and I felt very confident about this doctor. The whole faculty at the doctor’s office was kindhearted, wishing us goodnight and a safe drive on our way out. Dr. Lederer wasn’t sure how much therapy I needed, so my mom had to schedule testing for me to do with one of his therapists. I wasn’t too excited, after I found out it was going to take 6 long and nauseous hours. We broke it up into two 3-hour sessions a couple days apart and then the doctor settled on 40-50 weeks of therapy, with once a week, 45-minute sessions. Of course, as any good therapy patient, I was going to have to do my exercises at home too. My mother and I decided Monday nights would be best for the two of us. Since I was still 15 and didn’t have my license yet, she would have to drive me.

I arrived promptly at 7:00 to my first vision therapy session. A lady with dark brown hair, speckled with strands of gray, called me in. Her voice was different, it had a thick Russian tone to it, but her smile couldn’t help but make me want to know her more. I followed her, and she introduced herself as Elena, and gave me a few of her best jokes. As we walked through the therapy homeroom, I saw kids ranging from ages 4-9, I guessed, sitting, working with therapists. “Was I really that much older than everyone else? Does no one my age have this problem?” I questioned myself, but I soon felt at ease and relaxed, realizing it was just going to be us two, as we walked out and entered a small, white room. The room had a table and two chairs on either side, facing each other. She pulled out a folder, my name scratched on the side, and we each sat down. Out of my bag, I took the rectangular shaped box and freshly bought royal blue folder given to me at my testing and placed it on the table.

Elena first had me do some drawing exercises. She gave me a pencil and 2 pieces of paper, one with shapes on it, and one blank, and she told me to draw what my eyes were seeing on the page next to me. I felt like I was in kindergarten all over again, drawing boxes and circles all over my page, looking to see if there was a hidden picture. ‘Was therapy really this easy, or is there some sort of mind trick I’m missing? No wonder everyone’s so young in there; I probably will get up to higher levels quickly before it’s challenging.’ I thought to myself. We did some other exercises; one was focusing on the small red ball on the rope and trying to see double of the green and the yellow ball, while still keeping the red one clear. This was pretty easy, until she separated the balls further out. Dang, this stuff was hard! I wondered if I would have been able to do it before the concussion. Probably, that’s what the doc said right? The 45 minutes went by quickly, and my eyes were exhausted from exertion. “Wow, he was right. Your eyes really can be exercised, I’m tired!” I pronounced to Elena. She spoke back with encouraging words. “Dear, your stamina will build up and your eyes will get stronger and stronger as you push yourself in therapy. This is only the beginning.”
5 months later

“Jennifer, you’ve been doing great! You’ve made amazing progress, Elena and I are so proud of you.” Dr. Lederer commended me. I felt so happy! Finally, I was starting to be able to do the things I was unable to do in the last year and a half. I could read up to five pages in a book before I would get a headache, and stop for the night. Five! It used to only be one. I could do homework, and keep up in my classes, almost. To help me even more, Dr. Lederer decided to give me a pair of glasses. I never had glasses before. It was something so new, I felt so different in them! It definitely took some time getting used to, and they’re still a challenge to wear since I have 20/20 vision already. They’re only for reading because it makes far-sighted objects blurry, but the glasses helped so much in my reading; they increased the size of the font so my eyes didn’t have to try so hard, and I could read more pages. Now I was up to six, sometimes seven pages in a book a night! It was so thrilling! The knots inside my head were beginning to unweave, and things were beginning to straighten out.
10 months later

Today. Today is October 12, 2009, the two-year mark of the day when my life was altered completely, the day where pain was brought in, the day that marked the beginning of a new me. The events of the past two years began to rush through my head, as if I were watching a movie of my own life, fast-forwarded. I had a doctor appointment that day, a follow-up. Dr. Lederer had recently ‘partially graduated’ me from vision therapy; I was now going only once a month, and we believed today was going to be the day. I rolled into the doctor’s office with my mom early that morning, and we proudly walked right into his office.

“Jenn,” he looked at me with exclamation. “You are fabulous! Your eyes have gotten to the point where they are far stronger than they could have ever been. No need for more therapy, today is your graduation day! Go and celebrate! You just need to come in again in 6 months for a testing follow up.” It was like he was speaking words from the heavens. I felt my face light up, and looked over at my mom, smiling back at me. Yes, of course there are still challenges once in a while. But I have learned to hold on tightly to what I’ve learned, and to use it with all my might. Thank you, Dr. Lederer, Elena, and everyone who has been there to help me fight my battles, and conquer.





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