Navigating the Journey of Low Vision Through the Eyes of A Retired US Airman

Obstacles come into our lives for one of two reasons: to be overcome or to divert you onto a new path. Gary Deburger is the kind of person who faces obstacles with bravery, strength, and the can-do spirit. In 1973 he joined the United States Air Force, working hard to provide exceptional service to his country. His dedicated work ethic was matched when he met his wife, Connie, who to this day has been by his side both during his military service and after.

The two enjoy spending time with their two children and three grandsons, living in the beautiful town of Osgood, Indiana. Connie and Gary live on 26 acres that they have turned into a wildlife habitat including a creek, horses and endless opportunities for bird watching—their dream retirement lifestyle. But reduced sight got in Gary’s way giving him a new challenge to overcome.

Gary’s first vision obstacle came from an eye injury in 1985 when he damaged his cornea and required surgery for a cataract. In 1992 the retina in his right eye detached and in 1994 he had a corneal transplant after a tree limb hit him in the eye. Yes, he agrees, “I should have ducked! Since then the vision in that eye has been 20/800 the only letter he could see was twice as big as the top letter on the eyechart– barely enough to offer any helpful vision.

The second challenge came in 2020 when he was diagnosed with Retinoschisis by his VA hospital, which a month later resulted in a detached retina in his left eye, the one he depended on. That was the end of driving and it was pretty devastating for both Gary and Connie. Retinoschisis is a condition in which the retina (the light-sensitive lining in the back of the eye that transmits the visual signals) separates into two layers. Vision loss from this retinal splitting can occur either slowly or quickly. Seven months after this new diagnosis the retina detached again requiring even more surgery. After this surgery, and with a special silicone oil placed into that eye, Gary saw only 20/400 which left him legally blind. Ten months later, after removal of the oil his vision improved to 20/100 without eyeglasses and to 20/70 with them.

I didn’t want to give up,” Gary said. “I wanted to be able to do the things I had always done before like drive my tractor and take care of the land— see my grandkids and my lovely Connie. Overcoming these obstacles was Gary’s next mission.

The couple did everything they could to learn what the vision care world offered patients with low vision. At the VA hospital Gary visits, he was told to try strong magnifying glasses but they were of little help. Online, during one of their many nights researching, Connie and Gary discovered bioptic telescopes— specially designed glasses for visually impaired peoplewhich could be helpful for many of the things Gary wanted to do, potentially even allowing him to drive again and so they immediately inquired about bioptic glasses with Gary’s optometrist at the VA hospital. The vision coordinator at the VA recommended the Deburgers make an appointment with Dr. Matt Johnson, an optometrist who specializes in low vision care, at the Battle Creek VA Medical Center in Michigan.

After driving five hours to see Dr. Johnson, Gary was evaluated for Ocutech bioptics. Dr. Johnson demonstrated how the bioptics work and determined the best power and design for Gary’s level of vision and for what he wanted to be able to see and do. He was ultimately prescribed the Ocutech VES Sport-II, the newest version of the company’s Keplerian bioptic telescope. It’s optical design provides the widest field of view possible and it can be focused to as close as 9 inches. Gary found it easy to use and comfortable to wear and he could use it to see at virtually any distance he wanted to see better.

I am so grateful for my new Ocutech glasses. I’ve struggled with low vision for the past two years, which prevented me from doing my hobbies,” Gary explained. “I am excited to use my new bioptic to see more clearly in the distance and see the things that bring me joy, like watching the wildlife in my yard and taking care of my family.

Connie and Gary are filled with joy that Gary can again do what he loves and enjoy nature the way he always had— and the future continues to hold even more possibilities for him. Gary will soon start working with Indiana University’s Bioptics Driver Training program as he expects that one day soon he will obtain his special bioptic driver’s license, so he can once again be behind the wheel.

I am now finally able to read, recognize people’s faces, tell colors apart and even see much more on the TV thanks to my Ocutech bioptic,Gary said, smiling. “It truly has been life-changing.

About Ocutech

Ocutech is the worldwide leader in developing advanced high-quality telescopic low vision aids. Ocutech bioptics are available in a range of designs and powers, so that the low vision specialist can prescribe the version most appropriate for the individual’s level of vision as well as being able to address their specific vision goals. For more information about Ocutech bioptics for low vision visit www.ocutech.com. Complete the Ocutech bioptic self-assessment form to determine if you or a loved one might be a promising candidate for Ocutech bioptic low vision aids.

 

 

“It’s a Whole New World and a Whole New Life Experience” — How One Ocutech User Made Her Dreams Come True

 

No words will ever be able to fully capture the story of Crystal Davis and Ocutech— it’s a story full of twists and turns, of a woman’s resilience, of her strength of heart and fate.

Crystal was born with Achromatopsia, an inherited retinal disorder that causes both a lack of clear vision as well as a total absence of color vision. As a young girl, growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, her parents were never told about low vision aids that could help Crystal in school to read better and see the chalkboard. And, as a young adult an eye doctor she visited had told her that because of her vision she would never be eligible to drive.

“Then I heard about Belinda O’ Connor an Ocutech bioptic telescope wearer and the founder of ‘Bioptic Drivers Australia.’ Wearing her Ocutech bioptic telescope, she became her country’s first visually impaired motorcyclist” Crystal shared.  “And she has Achromatopsia just like I do, and she is driving! I said to myself, if she can do it why can’t I?”

Recently, Crystal relocated to a small farming town outside of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She has taken her passion for farming and found a home where she can raise chickens, turkey quails, rabbits, pigs and goats. More importantly, she was on a mission to find an optometrist that can help her get a bioptic telescope and become eligible to drive.

Having studied the Ocutech website, Crystal was convinced that she was a promising candidate for an Ocutech bioptic and thought that they could make a major difference in her life. She began to search for an optometrist in North Carolina who specializes in low vision care and discovered Academy Eye Associates in Durham, and made an appointment to see Dr. Jennifer Powell.

Little did she know at the time that Ocutech’s Co-founder, Dr. Henry Greene, had also been the founder of Academy Eye Associates, and although now retired he would still consult on low vision patients periodically.

“As soon as I realized that I might be able to meet Dr. Greene, I couldn’t believe it,” Crystal gushed. “I had read about Dr. Greene and Ocutech for years. And then— to my amazement—and with my new optometrist letting Dr. Greene know that I was a fan, Dr. Greene surprised me by coming to the office to personally fit me for my bioptics. I felt like a teenager who has just met her hero.”

Dr. Greene fitted Crystal with the Ocutech VES Explorer bioptic telescope. This manual focus bioptic telescope is small, lightweight and it’s very comfortable to wear.  For a personal touch, Crystal chose a  pink telescope color attached to a bronze frame. “I’m told by many that the color combination looks great on me,” Crystal stated jokingly, as of course she has no color vision to be able to tell for herself!

She was also provided special filters which snap onto the bioptic, so she could distinguish green and yellow colors, and special red filters that fit over her entire bioptic to aid her ability to recognize red lights easier.

But the best part? Crystal’s dreams of both obtaining a bioptic driver’s license and becoming a successful farmer could finally become reality. North Carolina, like most states in the US now allow visually impaired drivers to receive a special bioptic driver’s license after completing  training and testing. This fall, she expects to be able to compete her training and finally get her license.

“It’s amazing how I can be on my farm working and see my animals off in the distance— it’s a whole new world and a whole new experience for me.  I just wish I knew long ago when I was a little girl growing up that this could happen for me.  Bioptics could have been so helpful for me then,” she said, reminiscing. “These bioptics are just a life-changer!”

While working on the farm, Crystal has also been in school studying business accounting, with the hope of one day obtaining her CPA. Because she is a go-getter, Crystal did not hesitate to ask Dr. Greene if he knew of any companies around her area that may be hiring someone with reduced vision. It didn’t take long for Dr. Greene to immediately answer with a job offer of his own.

“I am now part of the administrative team at Ocutech!”  Crystal shared, grinning. “I get to hear so many stories of individuals with low vision and how their lives have been drastically transformed because of bioptics, and I have the pleasure to work for a company and a doctor that I have been a fan of for years. Everything is finally falling into place for me.”

If Crystal’s story teaches us anything, it’s that being resilient and a self-advocate is crucial when it comes to achieving one’s dreams. And if you or a loved one are experiencing a visual impairment, Ocutech is happy to help answer any questions and refer you to an optometrist who also specializes in low vision care. You might even get to chat with Crystal!

About Ocutech

Ocutech Bioptics are especially helpful for viewing television, movies and theater, seeing faces, signs, blackboards in school, shopping, and traveling. Ocutech wearers have even used their bioptics to hike, golf, bowl, paint, fish, drive tractors and mow the lawn. Most states in the U.S. and some countries will license eligible visually impaired individuals to drive while using a bioptic telescope.

Ask your low vision specialist if an Ocutech bioptic might be right for you. For more information about Ocutech bioptics or for a referral to a low vision specialist visit www.ocutech.com.

Complete the self-assessment form at https://ocutech.com/self-assessment-form/ to receive a reply from Ocutech’s experts about your special visual situation.

 

 

When should I be considering an Ocutech Bioptic for my patient?

I’m frequently asked what makes me consider a bioptic for an individual patient. So, I’ve written a short blog post to describe my approach. There are several factors to explore when considering the appropriateness of an Ocutech bioptic for an individual. Here’s a list of factors you may choose to consider.

1. Vision

a. BCVA in the better-seeing eye (hopefully the dominant eye) is 20/300 or better

b. Field of view of at least 40 degrees diameter with regular glasses if used

c. Absence of hemianopsia

2. The prospective patient seeks to improve their distance and/or midrange vision for activities that might include:

a. Independent travel

b. Classroom

c. Signage

d. Shopping

e. Social engagement

f. Table/desk activities

g. Computer screens

h. Driving

i. Music

j. Theater/movies

k. Museums/galleries

l. Hiking

m. Gardening

3. They have promising manual dexterity and cognitive status

4. They have a need for hands-free visual support

5. Focusing options are based upon working distance considerations

a. Fixed focus (perhaps with reading caps) or Manual focus if their needs are at fixed distances  with minimal need to refocus the device

b. Autofocusing bioptic if they have a range of varying and continuous working distances

Ocutech’s Professional Consultant Dr. Gary Asano receives Distinguished Alumni Award

Ocutech is thrilled to have as our West-Coast Professional Consultant an individual as expert and as devoted to his profession and to low vision care as is Dr. Gary Asano. 

The Marshall B Ketchum University School of Optometry (MBKU) Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes alumni who have achieved professional prominence in their field and are engaged in the community furthering the goals of MBKU and their profession. MBKU is proud to announce the recipient of the 2021 Distinguished Alumni award is Dr. Gary Asano, O.D., ’78.

Dr. Gary Asano, OD, graduated from Southern California College of Optometry in 1978 with a desire to specialize in serving Low Vision patients. He went on to become a tireless advocate for these patients, an acknowledged expert in the specialty, and a respected lecturer and educator. A longtime member of the American Optometric Association, the California Optometric Association, and numerous other professional groups, Dr. Asano was awarded the AOA Vision
Rehabilitation Committee-Jerry Davidoff Memorial Low Vision Care Service Award in June 2019 and the Envision Ocular LV Award in August 2018. One of Dr. Asano’s most important contributions to the profession of optometry is his founding of the Low Vision Rehabilitation Section in California (LVRS), an enormous undertaking that required approval by the COA House of Delegates. Dr. Asano has over 25 years of private practice experience, in addition to teaching at SCCO, numerous professional conferences, publications, research, and lectures. Dr. Asano has been an annual benefactor to SCCO and the Low Vision program for over 29 years.