The See Clearly Method:
I’m going to kill him. I swear I am going to kill that man. He has been trying to destroy my practice with his idiotic claims that he can cure myopia, and all other similar afflictions of the eyes. I wish the world had never heard of William Horatio Bates.
First thing that son of a gun did was go to the schools in the boroughs, and he showed the teachers that by using a snellen chart, and teaching the children to relax their eyes, and palm the children were not as likely to become myopic. By doing this, I have lost at least 10 of my patients who I had just prescribed glasses. And this man is a well-known ophthalmologist. Why, I ask, is he doing this to our profession?
Oh, I suppose there is no sense ranting and raving. And, I will never have the courage to kill this man. I do wish he would drop off the face of the earth though. And, I suppose in time I will get my 10 patients back, and before long I will have gained another 10. And, maybe, just maybe I am feeling a little guilty about what I have done in the past.
I am an oculist. I started in the trade 45 years ago, here in Manhattan, at a time when most jewelers and watchmakers also repaired glasses, fitted glasses, and tested the vision of their customers. Bill Bates however, is an ophthalmologist. He studied first to become a medical doctor, and then he went on to specialize in problems of the eye. I never received much training at all, and while the state is now requiring new oculists to go to school, and become licensed, I have never had any formal training.
I discovered many years ago that many of the people I fitted with concave lenses for the correction of myopia often seemed to require stronger and stronger lenses within a short period of time. And, I must admit that I enjoyed giving them the stronger lenses. For one thing, at today’s rate of only $ 5.00 for an examination, and the price of $20.00 for a pair of eyeglasses, I am not exactly getting rich. If I am lucky I can examine 4 people per hour, and if I dispense 4 pairs of spectacles, I earn a profit on each pair of spectacles of $1.00. So in an hour I can earn $24.00, out of which comes my salary, and the salary of my assistant, as well as the costs of maintaining my office. I soon discovered that if I were to examine a patient without prescribing a new pair of stronger glasses, I was out that extra buck, so it was an incentive to me to make sure that the patient’s prescription as strong as they could tolerate. And, if I sell 100 pairs of glasses, my frame supplier gives me a kickback of an extra dollar a pair. Well, actually he doesn’t really give me any money, but instead gives me 10 free frames, which is just as good.
When I was first starting out in business, a young lady came by for an eye examination. She was a very attractive 18 year old, and she wore a pair of glasses with a prescription of around –10D. She complained that things were a little blurry in the distance again, so I jumped her prescription up by –2D, probably about –1D more than she really required. But, she could see the 20/20 line well with the stronger prescription. When she returned the following year, I added another –1D to enable her to have the strongest possible lens to see clearly through. Then I married her, and I was able to keep increasing her prescription by –1D a year for the next 10 years by giving her the strongest lens that she could tolerate. Finally she no longer needed any more increases, but I loved the way she looked then in her –23D myodiscs, and I still like the way she looks today.
There were many, many others just like the girl I married. I found that the younger I started a child in minus, or concave glasses, the easier it was to keep increasing them to a point where they become a very high myope. When my wife and I had our daughter Martha, by the age of 4 Martha was wearing glasses that I prescribed for her with a prescription of only –0.75D. Now, after many years of progression, Martha has a slightly higher prescription than her mother.
Some of Martha’s friends came to me for eye exams, usually after the teacher recommended an eye exam to their parents. Once I had my hands on these kids, I made sure that the progression never stopped. Martha’s best friend Alice was one of my better success stories. Alice’s teacher felt that Alice was straining to see the board. I found nothing really wrong with Alice’s eyes, but I prescribed her a pair of glasses with –0.50D and told her to wear them all the time. She did, and now as a middle-aged lady Alice is helpless without her –16D glasses.
I might have gotten a little carried away with Mary Beth, Alice’s daughter. I started her in glasses at an early age, even younger than her mother. And she had many increases, strong increases that did not always come from me. Now at age 16 she is extremely nearsighted, so much so that she is wearing a pair of yellow tinted glasses, with side shades on them to avoid the bright sunlight. She was a very good piano player, but unfortunately we have had to advise her to avoid reading, and other close work, because her vision is so poor. She has even had to forgo her piano playing because she can no longer see well enough to read the sheet music. Without her –25D myodiscs she can see absolutely nothing, and she is unable to even count fingers unless a hand is held directly in front of her face.
I avoided the same mistake with Stella, my granddaughter. Stella is 17, and she is only –18D. There is lots of time for her prescription to climb even higher, although I don’t know how long I am going to be around. With this Bates fellow telling everyone that they don’t need to wear glasses, but should instead dump their glasses and practice swinging and palming, if this catches on I might just retire a bit sooner than I wanted to.
I am so mad I could spit nickels. It’s that Bates fellow again. Do you know what he did? He told Alice, and Mary Beth that they didn’t have to wear glasses. He took Alice’s glasses off, and he made her do some shifting and swinging. Then he asked her if she could see the doorknob on door on the wall. Alice says she could see the doorknob perfectly momentarily without her glasses. This is a lady who has worn –16D glasses for 20 years. It is impossible. Then he took Mary Beth’s glasses off, and made her look directly at the sun with her bare eyes. Then he showed her how to shift and swing, and then he pronounced her cured. However, after she bumped into the lamppost shortly after they left his office she did put her glasses back on.
But Alice actually believes this fanatic. She wants to go around without her glasses and continue practicing this shifting and swinging and palming. She is a complete fool. Her eyeballs are fixed in the length they have grown to. There is no way she will ever see clearly without glasses again.
Oh, this is terrible. I have just had a visit from another mother and daughter who also went to see Doctor Bates. It has taken me all of my efforts of persuasion to convince them that I was not an ogre, and that it was not me who ruined their eyesight. Bates of course took off their glasses, and introduced them to a number of his methods. And, I suppose it is possible that they might have experienced momentary flashes of clear vision without glasses, but I find that highly unlikely that a woman with a prescription of –24D and a young lady of 17 with a prescription of –18D would be able to clearly see without glasses by doing these exercises. Fortunately whatever clear vision occurred was very temporary, and both mother and daughter are now back wearing their glasses.
But let me tell you, they took a lot of convincing. I think that what did it was when I told my daughter and my granddaughter that there was absolutely no reason for me to have made them wear glasses. After all, I had been supplying, first my daughter for many years, and then my granddaughter for the past 14 years, with glasses at my own expense. I asked them, would I be stupid enough to throw this considerable sum of money away if the machines I used to examine their vision did not show that they needed glasses. Finally I got them calmed down. Now that darned Bates has disrupted my own family. I am going to complain to the State Board of Licensing. Maybe they can do something about this quack.
Well, the storm has subsided. Even with all the swinging and shifting and palming she was doing, Alice has not been able to get her vision to clear. She is again wearing her glasses, and she just came back in to me for another examination. I felt like increasing the stupid old bats prescription, but I thought I better smile sweetly and tell her that there has been no change again. Her daughter Mary Beth is another story. I honestly had to increase her prescription by another -1.50D. I actually wish that Mary Beth’s progression would stop. She is a sweet little child, and she is very worried that she might go blind. And I couldn’t reassure her that she wouldn’t.
Well, I just heard from the State Licensing Board. They are bringing Dr. Bates in for censure. I doubt that it will do much good. However he has been prohibited from going anywhere near the schools in Manhattan, and the other 4 boroughs, so maybe my school children will be back in a few months. But, it doesn’t matter too much anyway. All this aggravation Bates has caused me has made me decide that I am going to retire. After all, I will be 65 years old next month. There are a lot of servicemen who returned from the Great War last year who are studying at University right now to become professionals, so maybe I can sell my practice to one of them. I certainly will miss my job, and I will definitely miss prescribing my minus patients as much minus as I can get away with.
Well, it is a year later, and I still haven’t sold my business. However I have had some interesting offers. They all involve me staying in the business, and working with the purchaser for at least a year. I really don’t want to stay on. It is time I go home to spend some time with my wife. She has been relying on me more and more lately, as her sight is growing dim. I am afraid that she might possibly be afflicted with cataracts, as this sometimes happens in severely nearsighted people. The only good thing about it will be that she won’t have to wear those big thick plus lensed cataract glasses. Her myopia is so high she might even still be a minus, although she would be a very low minus if that were the case
Bates has reared his ugly head again. He has published a book outlining his methods for curing people of all sorts of problems of the eye. You would think that in 1920 people would be intelligent enough to see through this quackery. I laughed when I read the book. One of the people he writes about that he cured could only be Alice. “ A lady of 55, with 15 diopters of myopia who could no longer see to go out without a footman, and who could only see 3/200 without her glasses was after a few minutes of looking at perfect black able to see a doorknob on a wall. But Doctor she exclaimed, it is too small, I cannot see that. However she could, and she left my office without her glasses, walking unaided.” Yes right on Doctor Bates! This would be the same lady I just saw a couple of weeks ago, and was able to manage adding another diopter to her prescription, so that she now has –17D of myopia.
And of course, in another chapter on myopia there was a description of “a 16 year old girl with progressive myopia who came to my office wearing a pair of glasses with lenses tinted yellow, and with shades on the side to protect her eyes from the sun. She had been forbidden to play the piano from reading the sheet music, and she could not go out in bright sunlight. In only a few minutes of exposure to the sun, and after palming and shifting and swinging her vision was normal for distance. I then had her read a near point test card, and after a short period of time she was able to leave my office without glasses.” But what he failed to mention is that this young lady, who left his office without her glasses promptly walked into a lamppost. She then put her glasses back on, and has left them on ever since. And unfortunately at age 18, her prescription is now –28D. She is a bright young lady, but she will not be attending university. She cannot afford the loss of any more vision through the amounts of studying that she would have to do.
So if these are prime examples of Doctor Bates having cured people, I would be very skeptical about the other people in his book that he has given anecdotal evidence of having cured. Oh, sure, I have been examining peoples eyes long enough to know that almost everyone who is given a prescription for nearsightedness will have their prescription become stronger and stronger throughout most of the rest of their life. But for the most part, people do not ever have their prescription exceed –10D. And there is nothing wrong with that amount of myopia. After all, a –10D myope never has to put on a pair of glasses to thread a needle. Nor do they have to wear glasses to pull a wood sliver from their hand. I suppose a –3D prescription is much better, because a –3D or –4D myope will never need reading glasses. Prescriptions like my wife’s and my daughter Martha, and her friend Alice are rare. And I suppose I am likely to blame for a lot of their progression. My granddaughter Stella, with her now –20D prescription is having no trouble becoming a nurse. The only one who is having a really hard time with her advanced myopia is Mary Beth. And what I find strange about Mary Beth is that I never really gave her a prescription that was stronger than the prescription she really needed.
I just heard from the most promising fellow that wants to purchase my business. If I will stay on for 6 months, he will buy my business. I made a rapid decision, and I am going to stay for 6 months. But, I will not stay one day longer. That darned Bates fellow has just made this business no fun for me anymore.
With apologies to Doctor William Horatio Bates, who probably wasn’t completely correct with his theories, but who did shake up the profession, and gave the idea that myopia is caused by stronger and stronger lenses a foothold.
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