The words of the pretty young lady doctor rang in my head. I am sure she had said: "I canít sign your CDL medical with your existing health problems." That is crazy. Sure I am pretty overweight, and I am very nearsighted, but my vision had always been pretty close to 20/20 with glasses. Maybe I had let it slip a little, as I had noticed I was having a bit of trouble reading street signs over the past few months, but I hadnít been home for a long enough stretch of time to have my eyes examined, and get new glasses.
"So can you pass me if I get new glasses?" I asked her.
"Mr. Miller, you havenít been listening. You do need new glasses, because your corrected vision is barely at the minimum 20/40 with your present glasses. But your blood pressure is too high. You are diabetic, although at this time it is borderline, and we could possibly control that with diet, exercise and if that fails, pills. Your breathing is extremely labored. However, to me the biggest problem is that you are far in excess of the proper weight to height ratio. At 6í2" you should be no more than 225 lbs, and you are 365 lbs. You, sir, are heading for a stroke, or a heart attack and possibly an early grave."
"But Doctor, I have to be able to work to support my family. Is there anything I can do?" I asked her, worried about my future.
"Possibly if you could pass the vision test with new glasses I might be able to sign for a 3 months extension to give you some time to attempt to get your weight down, and hopefully reduce your blood pressure, and your high blood sugar reading. But if I sign for one extension, and you donít do anything about your health problems I will not sign another. I will work with you, but you have to prove to me that you are worth my effort."
"What can I do?" I asked her.
"Proper diet and a lot of exercise will work for a start. However you canít expect years of neglect to reverse itself in just 3 months. I will have my assistant give you a suggested diet. It is going to be hard for you, but you are going to have to walk at least an hour every day. At first you will barely be able to do it, but when I see you again in 3 months I expect to see a lot of improvement. Now get yourself off to an eye exam, and have the doctor give me a call. If your vision can be corrected with new glasses, I will sign for a 3 month extension, and you can pick up your medical."
"A three month reprieve, well, thatís better than nothing." I thought to myself as I lumbered out of the doctorís office and carefully picked my way down the 4 steps to the sidewalk. By the time I reached my car I was seriously out of breath. The doctor, as much as I hated to admit it, was right. I drove the 4 blocks to the optometristís office, found a nearby parking spot, and lugged my girth from the car. Fortunately the doctor had an opening shortly, so I sat down to wait.
As I waited my thoughts ran to the possibility of an early demise. Here I was, at age 35, possibly going to be unable to work, and worse than that, maybe even dead. What would Tracey and the kids do? No, actually, what would happen to the kids. At least I got out of the house and worked. Tracey just sat around all day, her thick glasses pressed tightly against her face; her nose buried in yet another true romance novel. She was more overweight than I am; if you considered her height of 5í4 compared to her weight that was close to mine.
It had seemed like a good idea at the time, when we were back in high school. The 2 overweight kids, both of whom wore very strong glasses for the correction of myopia, got together to have each other for company in enduring the taunts of the other kids. When we were together the words four eyed fat slobs and all of the other nasty things the kids said to us didnít seem to hurt as much. When high school ended Tracey went to work as a receptionist for her uncle, a real estate broker. I got my license to drive transport. And we still saw each other every time I got back home for the weekend. When we were in our early 20ís we decided to marry, and we did. Since we didnít have many friends, it was a sparsely attended wedding, but we didnít care.
In high school Tracey and I had exactly opposite prescriptions. We didnít have any astigmatism, but Tracey had a Ė12.50D for her right eye, and Ė 13.00D for her left, and I had Ė 13.00D for my right eye, and Ė12.50D for my left. She could turn my glasses upside down and see perfectly, and I could turn hers upside down to see clearly. So, one day for the fun of it, after we had both had eye exams, I blanked out one of the doctorís prescriptions, and I made the numbers exactly the same for both of us by lowering one eye -0.25D and raising the other eye the same amount. When we left the optical store we had ordered new glasses in exactly the same prescription. After we wore these glasses for a couple of years, and we went back for another eye exam, our prescriptions were exactly the same. My prescription sort of stabilized when I was around 25, and this was the first time in 10 years that I had needed an increase. Tracey, on the other hand had not stopped her progression, and now wore myodiscs with a prescription of slightly under Ė23D. When she got her first pair of glasses that were stronger than mine I had ordered a pair that were exactly the same strength, and I was still wearing the same Ė17.50D prescription 10 years later. I had not wanted to increase my prescription any further, as I was afraid that I might jeopardize my ability to earn a living driving transport if my eyesight got too bad.
"John Miller, please come this way." The petite little assistant beckoned me to an examining room.
"Hello John. Are you having problems, or is it just the time for your annual? Actually I see from your chart that you missed your yearly check last year." The doctor said.
"Doctor Wrezinski wonít renew my medical, as my visual acuity has dropped too low. She wants you to see if you can get me corrected back above 20/40, and then wants you to give her a call." I told him.
The doctor looked in my eyes, and did a number of clicks with the machine that has the lenses. It was wonderful. Now I could see the small letters at the bottom of the chart. Finally he was satisfied, and he wrote out the prescription slip.
"John, make sure you donít miss your next appointment. With such high myopia it is very important that I see you every year, just to check those retinas. Actually I had wanted to talk to either you or Tracey. The kids missed their 6 month appointment, and I have tried to impress on both you and Tracey how important it is for highly myopic children to be examined at least twice a year." Doctor Adams said.
"I didnít realize that Emily and Jacob hadnít been in to see you. I will make sure they come in immediately Doctor." I replied.
"It is also time for Tracey to come in as well John. Her prescription seems to increase at least Ė0.50D every year." Doctor Adams said.
"Do you have any time tomorrow Doctor? I will bring them all over." I asked.
"Iíll have Mandy set aside a block of time. Letís go see what we can do." Doctor Adams said. "Oh, and I will call Doctor Wrezinski immediately. Are you going to order youíre new glasses here John?"
"Are you still giving your most nearsighted patientís special discounts Doctor?" I asked.
"Yes John, I am. I am still intrigued with high myopia, and your family is an excellent case study. Both Emily and Jacob are wonderful kids, and I want to make sure they can see as well as they possibly can, even with their Ė20D prescriptions." Doctor Adams said.
Emily, our daughter, was 10, and Jacob was 18 months younger than she was. Both kids had been very myopic from birth, but fortunately they had not inherited their mother or my weight problems. I was a little curious to know why everyone had missed their 6-month appointment, but I suspected I knew. Tracey had gotten so heavy that she was no longer driving anywhere. She couldnít walk any distance, so there wasnít much use in her going places. She did drive to the grocery store, but she used one of those motorized shopping carts, and I am sure that she went in off peak hours so she didnít have to park far from the door. We were both so overweight I had been forced to buy an old full sized Cadillac so that it could carry us around, and Tracey had gotten the doctor to fill out a form for her so she could park in the handicapped spots.
After the birth of the kids, Tracey had returned to work for a while, but as her weight increased she got the doctor to place her on disability. I had thought at the time that possibly we should see about loosing some weight, but Tracey had seemed quite content to stay at home and collect her disability. Fortunately I earned enough money so we were able to live fairly comfortably. But, if I couldnít get my own health in line, our comfortable existence would end.
When I arrived home I questioned Tracey as to why she and the kids had missed their eye examinations. It was as I had suspected. Doctor Adams office was in a converted house on a city street that had parking meters. Sometimes you had to park way down the block, walk to the building, and walk up a short flight of stairs. At age 34, Tracey could no longer do this. So, the following day I was going to drop Tracey off in front of the building, and Emily and Jacob were going to have to help her up the steps.
That evening Tracey and I had a very long conversation about our weight problems. She understood how devastating it would be if I lost my job. And, Tracey also knew that she was facing big problems herself. She knew even before she went in to see Dr. Adams that her glasses were again too weak. And I think she was aware that her lack of physical activity along with her constant reading had caused her eyesight to worsen, as well as her weight to increase. By the time we had finished our conversation I had given Tracey my blessing to speak to Dr. Wrezinski about a type of surgery that reduced the size of a personís stomach. This type of surgery had proven to be quite effective, although the patients still needed to force themselves to exercise to tone their muscles back up again. I think the push for Tracey was when she had to consider that if I were unable to work, there was no possibility that she could go back to work, and there was no way we could keep up the payments on our house.
I had 3 months to do it, or at least to prove to Dr. Wrezinski that I was seriously trying. She had given me an approximate diet to follow, which was hard to do, eating in truck stops every day. But I bought a cooler for the truck, and I stocked it with my fruits and vegetables. When I did go in for a meal I made sure I ate the smaller portions of fish, and chicken, and I cut back on my carbs. Then I started to walk. At first it was all I could do to make it from the farthest corner of the truck stop to the restaurant. But, as the doctor had said, every day it became easier. When I went back to see the doctor, I had hoped to be below 350, but when I stepped on her scale I was 353.
"I had hoped to see you down a little more John, but at least this shows me that you have been really trying. And, your blood pressure is down, along with your blood sugar. I think we can give you your medical for a year this time." Dr Wrezinski told me.
I had actually been feeling a lot better after I had started to exercise. Now with my one year reprieve I was going to have to really continue to work at it. Tracey had also been trying to diet, although she had not been able to do much exercising. She did go in to see Dr. Wrezinski to see about the stomach surgery, and the doctor was just waiting for an approval from the insurance company.
When the approval came I ended up taking a week off work while Tracey was in the hospital. I enjoyed being with Emily and Jacob. They were nice kids, and I loved them very much. Both of them were far smarter than Tracey and I had been in school, and I wondered how they had ended up with the brains they had. I didnít have to wonder how they had ended up so myopic though. That part had come from Tracey and me. But, their last visit to Dr. Adams had not shown any need for any further increase in either of their prescriptions, so I was pleased about that. Actually, both Emily and Jacob had started off with almost the same prescription they had still. They were born with congenital myopia, and the doctor told us that this type of myopia quite often didnít increase, but would stay about the same throughout their life.
During the next year I really worked at getting thinner, and healthier. I managed to get my weight under 300 lbs, for the first time in years. I knew I was still heavy, and I figured I had about 70 or 80 lbs to go, but at least I was seeing results. It had taken most of the year since the surgery for Tracey to show a significant weight loss, and now that she was not as heavy she was able to start walking. It was actually enjoyable when I was home, as the two of us would go out and walk whenever possible. I had been parking as far from the store in the truck stops, and walking in, and I had been going for a long walk once, sometimes twice a day.
One benefit of not sitting around and reading all the time was that when Tracey returned for her annual vision examination, her prescription had remained at what it was the last time. Yes, -23.50D is a pretty strong prescription, but Tracey and I were both fortunate. With my -18.25D prescription I was able to be corrected to 20/20, and Tracey was pretty close to that. Since her prescription had remained stable and since she was loosing weight Tracey wanted to get a nicer looking pair of glasses. And, to tell you the truth, I had been thinking the same thing. So, we both got glasses with really high index lenses, and for the first time in years Tracey and I were wearing regular lenses instead of myodiscs. I hadnít really needed myodiscs, but I had gotten them after Tracey got her first pair, and I found I liked the fact that I ran out of lens area before I got into too much of the side distortion.
Tracey was now off disability, and she was able to return to work. As she lost more and more weight she realized that she needed to exercise and tone up her skin, as it was very loose. It was wonderful to see her wearing much smaller sizes of clothing, and it was amazing to see what a nice figure Tracey actually had. Both of us continued our exercise program, and often Emily and Jacob would come with us for a family walk. Emily was now 12, and she was pestering us to let her get contact lenses. I suppose that it wouldnít have hurt, as with a -20D prescription she was forced to wear her glasses all the time anyway, but Tracey and I stuck together, and we told Emily that she could have contacts for her 15th birthday. She wasnít totally pleased, but she did accept that. Jacob was only 10, and contacts were not a high priority for him. Actually I thought both kids looked great wearing their new glasses. Now that Tracey was working, and I was able to do more physical activity, I had changed jobs to a more demanding, better paying local position so we had more money. I had bought them the thinnest high index plastic I could get this time, and their glasses looked extremely nice.
When Emily was almost 15 we asked her if she wanted contact lenses for her birthday, but she now didnít seem to care. Of course I had to investigate, and I discovered that "her boyfriend", who she wasnít supposed to have yet, apparently thought that Emily looked wonderful wearing glasses. Of course that was a mixed bag. Emily wasnít supposed to be dating until she was 16, but how could I say anything about a guy who liked my daughter wearing the strong glasses she needed to be able to see with. So, Kerry became a welcome guest at our house, and Emily and Kerry were allowed to date on weekends, as long as Emily was home by 11.
Kerry and Emily seemed to really fit well together. By the time Emily was 18 she had been working as an optical assistant at the optical store in the mall, and she wanted to become an optician. Kerry had already started his training to become a paramedic, and he wanted to continue that training, but if Emily went away to school he was prepared to move to wherever she went. This guy wasnít going to let my very nearsighted daughter get away from him.
Jacob ended up being the one who wanted contact lenses. So, for his 16th birthday we got them for him. There were certain rules that he had to follow though. He had to remove them for at least an hour before he went to bed, and he had to go one day every week wearing glasses to allow his eyes to rest. The rules didnít seem to bother Jacob. He was a smart kid, and he understood that the doctor had suggested these rules so that he would be able to wear contacts for a long time as long as he didnít damage his corneas by over wearing them.
I guess it should have come as no surprise when Jacob decided to go on to medical school. He wanted to become an Ophthalmologist. I knew he had the brains to do it, but I just wondered if I had the money to support him through the next 7 years. But somehow we managed. Emily and Kerry had gotten married, and had moved back to town. Actually for the first 2 years they moved in with us, and Emily helped me with her brotherís education. She was working as an optician for Dr. Adams, and it looked as if Dr. Adams wanted Jacob to come to work with him, and eventually take over from him when he retired.
Tracey had gotten her realtorís license, and she had been fortunate enough to sell a few homes. I was now driving locally, so we were able to exercise together all the time now. And, neither Tracey nor I had required any increase in our prescriptions, except we were both having trouble seeing up close with our glasses on. So, it was time for bifocals for both of us. Tracey wasnít happy that she couldnít get the invisible lenses in her prescription, but I didnít care, so even though I could have had the no lined ones, we both ended up with the regular lined ones. It definitely was easier reading, and now I no longer had to drop my glasses down on my nose to read.
When Jacob moved back to town after completing his training Emily and Kerry had moved to a house of their own, and Emily was gong to be a mother. Our 2 children, who through our genetics had been born very nearsighted had both grown up, and had careers of their own. Fortunately the type of genetic myopia they had was not a degenerative type, and they still had almost the same prescriptions that they had been born with
Wait a minute. If Emily is going to be a mother, then I am going to be a grandpa. I am too young to be a grandpa. Actually, thinking back on this, if I hadnít made some changes 15 years ago, neither Tracey nor I were likely to have become grandparents. Now we were going to be grandparents, and we are still healthy enough to enjoy some time with our grandchildren.