“It honestly felt like a dream”— How an Avid Explorer Got to See the World Again

Just six months ago, Alan Vosko experienced what he described as “as close to a miracle as I could ever imagine.” After losing all of his sight in his left eye and much of it in his right, he was again able to see the sunsets and palms trees and his niece’s hockey games– blessings he never thought he’d enjoy again.

Alan’s journey with vision loss is a tale of resilience and strength. It all started in his thirties when he walked into a branch causing an injury-induced (traumatic) cataract. He received cataract surgery in that eye, only to develop a cataract in his other eye soon after. Many surgeries later, both of his corneas (the clear window at the front of the eye) began to degrade- making him feel as if he was looking through a frosted window. On another ‘heavy’ day, Alan learned that he had pancreatic cancer. Thankfully now cancer-free after chemotherapy and radiation, Alan was now blind in his left eye and could only see 20/100 with his right.

“I lost a lot of my independence like not being able to drive that was pretty crushing,” Alan shared, poignantly. “It affects everything I do and the biggest was not being able to travel like I used to. I used to snorkel, bike, or hike and explore the national parks or travel in Europe. My wife Sue and I loved to immerse ourselves in the cultures we visited. For two years I had to either not live my life in the way I once could, or just curl up in a ball.”

But Alan and Sue never gave up searching for a solution to regain his sight. They went from doctor to doctor and he underwent six eye operations! But it wasn’t until he was referred to a low vision specialist— an optometrist specializing in treating the visually impaired, that his vision and his life began a new chapter.

“I’ll never forget the moment I was tested and fitted for the Ocutech bioptics glasses— everything was instantly in focus, I could see again. After two years of feeling so blind, it honestly felt like a dream had come true,” Alan reminisced.

Alan was prescribed special bioptic telescope eyeglasses designed for individuals with visual impairments.  Alan’s version, called the Ocutech VES Explorer, includes a miniature telescope that magnifies what the person sees, just like binoculars.  Alan feels a kinship to his new bioptic as they let him travel and explore the world again just like he used to. “They’ve given me my life back” he says. His bioptic glasses give Alan close to 20/20 vision and although he can’t prove it, he truly feels as though the bioptics have “actually improved and strengthened” his overall vision.

Since receiving his bioptic, Alan says he has regained much of his independence. He is even driving again as Michigan is one of 47 states that allow visually impaired individuals to obtain a special driver’s license for bioptic users. To get his bioptic license he had to comply with the state’s special requirements and testing but he said it was all worth it.

And he can go back to being the avid fisherman he once was. One of his favorite stories is catching the last of his “bucket-list fish” because he was actually able to see it jump out of the water with his bioptic. He can again watch his niece play hockey, “she’s going to be a superstar one day,” he grinned. “I used to have to ask my wife to narrate the game for me, but now I can see it all myself- see her master that puck— and that’s all I can really ask for.”

Alan is also traveling the world again and is seeing it for himself. He recalls that for the two years when he was so severely visually impaired, he would go to Hawaii or Florida with Sue and wonder what the sunset actually looked like, having only memories of what he could no longer see. They recently went back to their favorite spot to watch the sunset, and there it was: he could see the pink hues and bright colors, just as wonderful as ever!

“My Ocutech bioptic has been my first miracle, but the second is that it has allowed me to live the life I want to live again,” Alan said, smiling. “People used to always ask me, ‘can you see that?’ and the best thing is now I can finally tell them ‘yes! I can’.”

For more information about Ocutech bioptics consult your low vision specialist or visit www.ocutech.com. Ocutech offers a self-assessment questionnaire that will be reviewed by their experts and which provides a personal report about the likelihood that you might be a successful candidate for an Ocutech bioptic.  Visit https://ocutech.com/self-assessment-form/ to complete it.

 

Image of Dr. Greene with EMCO Conference Attendees

Eastern Mediterranean Council of Optometry Marrakesh, Morocco 2018

On September 21 and 22, 2018, I was an invited speaker at the 2nd Annual Eastern Mediterranean Council of Optometry (EMCO) meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco. While not quite located on the eastern Mediterranean, their first meeting in Beirut, Lebanon in 2016 certainly was!  I want to express my appreciation to the EMCO Scientific committee, Dr. Hassan Awada, Dr. Yazan Gamoh, and Dr. Liana Al-Labadi for their invitation.

I met optometrists and optometry students from all over the Middle East, northern Africa, India, Nepal and Bhutan. Speakers ranged from far and wide, including the US, Canada, UK, France, Australia, Sudan, South Africa, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan. Topics ranged from myopia control (with Naidoo Kovin, CEO of the Brien Holden Vision Institute), scleral contact lenses, amblyopia, ortho-keratology, pediatric eyecare, and for me, of course, low vision.  Co-sponsored by the Moroccan Council of Optometry and the World Congress of Optometry (WCO), the meeting attracted several hundred attendees.

I was asked to present three COPE approved courses—the first on treating distance vision loss, a second on understanding and treating hemianopic and tunnel vision visual field loss, and lastly a bioptic prescribing and fitting workshop. The 2-hour workshop, limited to 12 attendees was filled with energetic, enthusiastic (and young!) optometrists. We discussed how to identify promising candidates, determine the appropriate prescription, establishing a prognosis, and especially the nuts and bolts of fitting the telescopes.  Attendees played the roles of both patients and doctors and took turns fitting the Ocutech bioptics on each other.  It didn’t take long for them to see how easy it is!  We also demonstrated the new Ocutech Falcon Autofocus bioptic, which was a highlight and huge success!  Since many spoke only French and Arabic, I was ably translated and assisted by Dr. Liana Al-Labadi, a 2009 graduate of the OSU School of Optometry, who now practices in Palestine.

Dr. Greene with Hamid Nafis, chairman of EMCO 2018.
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