Jock and Donna Mac Pherson had been blessed with 4 healthy boys, the youngest of which was now 8 years old. Boys were good, as Jock was a farmer, and he needed the help that his sons were able to give him on the family dairy farm. Jock never thought about perhaps trying for another child, as he was quite satisfied with his 4 boys. But Donna really wanted to have a girl to raise. So, without Jock's knowledge, Donna had been trying for another child.
One year passed without Donna becoming pregnant. Then another one went by, and soon a third year slipped into the sunset. Finally as their youngest boy Tim celebrated his 8th birthday Donna gave up trying. Of course, as so often happens, once she stopped trying Donna was soon pregnant.
Donna was thrilled when after 9 months of hard labor a girl finally arrived in the Mac Pherson family. She now had her daughter, who they named Shannon. Shannon was very happy young child, and gave her mother no trouble at all. When Shannon was a year old she had learned to walk, and soon she was able to say quite a few words. As Shannon approached her second birthday Jock, who had been closely watching Shannon, expressed to Donna that he thought Shannon had problems with her eyesight. Shannon was clumsy, and accident-prone. She often tumbled into things, and tripped on almost everything that was in her path. Jock had seen this before in his immediate family back in Scotland, as his younger sister Millicent had acted exactly the same way as Shannon, and Millicent was discovered to be extremely nearsighted, probably a congenital myope.
So, Jock and Donna had Shannon's eyesight examined by a local optometrist, who confirmed that Shannon was indeed quite nearsighted. But the optometrist was reluctant to prescribe glasses for Shannon, as with a -12D prescription Shannon could only be corrected to 20/40 in her right eye, and 20/70 in her left eye. He wanted Jock and Donna to take Shannon to a pediatric teaching hospital in Chicago for a thorough examination, although he did order a pair of glasses for Shannon to wear temporarily with a -12D prescription.
Jock and Donna took Shannon into Chicago, to the department that specialized in vision problems. When Shannon was examined at the hospital it was discovered that Shannon's left eye was lazy, and so the doctors had Donna patch Shannon's right eye. After 6 months of patching the vision in the left eye had improved, and with a -13D prescription for her right eye, and a -14.25D prescription for her left eye Shannon's visual acuity increased to almost 20/20 in both eyes.
With a congenital high myope like Shannon, quite often their prescription remains stable and they go through life with no further increases. But there are a lot of variables. If the congenital high myope is a voracious reader, quite often the myopia increases as they grow into their teens. This then becomes a dangerous combination, an already high myope who develops even more myopia because of the near point work that they are doing. It is not unusual for a young girl of 13 who is a big time reader to develop -8D to -10D of myopia by the time their myopic progression slows to a crawl. However in Shannon's case, she already started at 13 with a myopic prescription of -14.25D in her worst eye. And, research has shown that a young myope who is a heavy reader who is a contact lens wearer is prone to develop even higher degrees of myopia.
Shannon had not found that wearing strong thick glasses during her early school years was a problem. But, when Shannon was 13, her mother pressured Shannon into getting contact lenses. Shannon didn't really care at first. Yes, it was nice to be free of the hassle of wearing glasses. And contact lenses didn't constantly slide down your nose when you were hot and sweaty. Also, with a high prescription like Shannon had, contact lenses gave Shannon much better vision. So, Shannon became a full time contact lens wearer.
By the time she was 14, Shannon had required 2 small increases in the power of her contact lenses. Shannon didn't think much about this, and no one had even though to suggest to Shannon that it might be in her best interests to wear reading glasses over her contact lenses when she was doing a lot of studying, or prolonged reading. Actually Shannon was a little bit pleased that her increase had taken her to -15.00D for her left eye, and to -14.50D for her right eye. Her eyes were now a lot closer in prescription strength, and while the new glasses that Shannon got for wearing at home in the evening were made from the least expensive lens material possible, Shannon was happy that the lenses now looked to be almost the same thickness. Previously it had been obvious to Shannon that her left lens was thicker than her right one, and she had not liked that.
During the following year Shannon required 3 prescription increases, and the doctor at the university medical school showed more than a little concern over the fact that Shannon's glasses prescription was now at -16.75D for her right eye, and -17.00D for her left eye. Shannon was given all the warning signs to watch for in case she had a retinal detachment, and Shannon was labeled a congenital progressive high myope, which worried her parents more than it worried 15-year-old Shannon.
By the time Shannon turned 16, and was able to apply for her driver's license her prescription had evened out in both eyes. Her glasses were now -18.50D and she had gotten a pair of black plastic frames with oval shaped lenses. Shannon actually liked the appearance of these glasses enough that she would occasionally wear them out in public.
That summer Shannon’s 3 older brothers had decided among themselves that they could easily look after the farm, so that Jock and Donna, along with Tim and Shannon could go to visit Jock’s family in Scotland. Jock had not seen any of his brothers or his sister Millie for over 35 years, since he had left Scotland to come to the USA.
This was very exciting for Shannon, as she had never been more than 250 miles away from her home except when she had to go into Chicago to see the eye doctors at the hospital. They again had to go to Chicago, as the plane to Heathrow left from O’Hare. For the plane ride Shannon decided that she would wear her new glasses, because she had heard that sitting on a plane often dried out a person’s contact lenses, and made their eyes all read, and sore. Shannon didn’t want that.
The flight to London was a bit boring. Since it was an overnight flight they arrived in London early the following morning, and the four of them were extremely tired. However, after a night in an expensive hotel they felt better, and ready for the ride to Jock’s ancestral home. It was only when Shannon went to put her contact lenses in that she discovered that she had left them behind on the farm. Shannon was upset at her stupidity, but she realized that it really didn’t matter too much, as no one knew her, and she was going to be with her dad’s family so there wouldn’t be any cute guys for her to attract. Her mother was more upset about Shannon having left her contacts behind than Shannon was, and Shannon realized that her mom was probably a little ashamed that Shannon needed such strong glasses.
When they arrived at the family farm they were greeted with a warm welcome. Shannon knew that her aunt Millie also wore very strong glasses, and she was able to spot her aunt instantly. However, she noticed that her 3 female cousins also wore very strong glasses as well. The oldest girl, Mary was about 6 years older than Shannon, and was the youngest child of Jock’s younger brother David. Then came Heather, who was Millie’s daughter, and she was only a little younger than Mary. Meghan, the daughter of Jock’s youngest brother Douglas was only a few months older than Shannon.
Jock had left home without taking much more than the clothes on his back. He had an argument with his father, and because both men were extremely stubborn, Jock had decided that his destiny should be decided by himself, rather than following the wishes of his dad. As a result, Shannon had never seen any pictures of her grandparents. So, the ladies all went into the house and Millie began to show Shannon all sorts of pictures of her grandparent’s and her great grandparents. Shannon was surprised that her father’s mother did not wear glasses. However, her grandfather’s mother appeared to be wearing glasses that were at least as strong as her own glasses were. She asked her aunt Millie about this.
“Well child, it appears that your great grandmother on your grandfather’s side was indeed extremely nearsighted. For some reason none of the men have become nearsighted, but they have passed the high myopia gene down to their daughters. That is why Mary, Heather, Meghan, you and I are all extremely nearsighted. And it is highly likely that if you have any children you will pass the gene down to your daughter, as I passed it on to Heather. Also, if your brother’s have any daughter’s, they will also pass on the gene. But, don’t worry too much about it child, because all of us seem to have pretty good eyesight, even with our strong glasses.
Shannon’s cousins went out of their way to show Shannon a wonderful time, and Shannon was sorry when the time came for them to leave the highlands of Scotland. She had formed a very close bond with Meghan, and she was thrilled to learn that Meghan would be coming to visit them the following summer. Heather also expressed interest in visiting, and Jock wanted his sister Millie to come as well. So, it looked as if Shannon was going to get to know her cousins better in the coming years.
It was a bit of a letdown for Shannon when she returned home. Her holiday seemed like something in the distant past, instead of just the other day. One of the first things that Shannon did on her return home was to go to the bathroom, and she picked up the lens case containing her contact lenses. But, instead of putting her contact lenses in, she took the case, and her solution, and carried them into her room, where she placed them on the top of her dresser. They were available to her anytime she wanted to wear them.
The next day Shannon wore her glasses. She went off to work still wearing them, something she had never done before. The following day she did the same thing, and that night when she got home her mom had noticed that Shannon hadn’t worn her contact lenses since her return.
“Is there something wrong with your contact’s honey? I see you haven’t been wearing them.” Donna said.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with them mom. I just haven’t felt like wearing them. Since I met my cousins, and I found out that we all have to wear strong glasses, I have felt that I no longer want to hide the fact that I wear thick glasses.” Shannon told her.
“Does this mean that you won’t wear contact lenses anymore?” Donna asked.
“Oh no mom, I will still wear them if I feel like it, or for special occasions. It is just that I no longer feel that I have to hide my poor eyesight. My cousins all wear contact lenses when they want to.” Shannon replied.
Shannon’s older brother Alex and his wife Ann had recently had a daughter. By the time that Marion was 2 years old it was discovered the high myopia gene had definitely been passed on, as Marion was as myopic as Shannon had been when she was discovered to first require glasses. This was all that was needed to push Shannon into the field of medicine. After Shannon graduated from university she went on to graduate school, and was then accepted to Northwestern University in Chicago to study to become a Pediatric Ophthalmologist.
After another 3 years of school and 2 years of internship Shannon became a doctor. The more experience that Shannon received; the more that Shannon realized that she wanted to be more than just a pediatric ophthalmologist. She wanted to be a specialist in high myopia. So, she expanded her practice. Her aunt Millie and all of her cousins, and their daughters came over once a year to have Shannon check their eyes. All of her brother’s daughters were patients at her practice, and gradually Shannon began to attempt to discover the gene responsible for the family high myopia. After about 9 years of investigation Shannon had finally narrowed it down to a couple of defective chromosomes, but she could see no way to alter the defective chromosomes. She was a little disappointed, but none of the girls in the family seemed to have any real problems that are often associated with high myopia. No one had experienced a retinal detachment yet. Myopic macular degeneration was not showing up, and only one of them had a prescription over –20D. All of the girls had quite good visual acuity with glasses, or contact lenses. So Shannon was willing to continue to do a lot more research.
Shannon’s niece Marion was proving to be a bit of a problem. She wasn’t willing to wear her glasses, and had in fact been over wearing her contact lenses to the point where Shannon was almost ready to refuse to provide Marion with another prescription for new contacts. And, at age 21, Marion was a pretty, but headstrong young lady. She had worn contacts since she was 12 years old, and her prescription had climbed steadily during this period. Marion was the only one of the family to have a prescription of over –20.
“Marion, if you don’t take a break from wearing your contact lenses and wear glasses whenever possible I will not be able to give you a prescription for contact lenses anymore.” Shannon told her niece.
“Well, I’ll just get my eyes operated on then.” Marion replied.
“I don’t think so Marion. Your corneas are too thin for any form of laser surgery, and your prescription is too strong for lens implants. You might be able to have your prescription reduced in power with lens implants, but this is an operation, and there are all sorts of danger associated with corrective surgery. You can see just fine wearing glasses. And, although your –22D prescription is pretty strong there are all sorts of attractive frames, with hi index lenses available now.” Shannon said.
“Well, I suppose I’ll just have to wear glasses if you won’t operate on my eyes.” Marion replied.
Shannon thought that she had handled the situation to the best of her ability. She wasn’t prepared for the call she received a couple of months later from her brother Alex.
“Shannon, I have a big problem. I am hoping you can help.” Alex said.
“What is it Alex?” Shannon asked.
“It is Marion. She went to another doctor for lens implants and laser surgery without us knowing. Now she can barely see, and the other doctor has basically told us too bad so sad.” Alex replied.
“Oh shit. Why was she so stupid? I told her she was not a candidate for surgery. Bring her right over Alex, and I will see what can be done.” I replied.
I was very worried. I thought Marion was smart enough to listen to my advice, but obviously she had found what I had told her to be unpalatable.
When Alex arrived with Marion I could see that Marion was pretty sullen. I knew she was upset, and I knew that she didn’t want to have to see me to have the damage someone else had caused repaired. I didn’t feel like reprimanding her, so I just said nothing, and led them into my examining room.
It didn’t take long to see what had happened. The corneal flap had come loose on the one eye, and in the other eye the implanted lens had shifted so it was no longer in the middle. I could attempt to repair both eyes, but really I didn’t dare touch my niece’s problem. The surgeon who had performed the operation should do this repair. I found out the name of the doctor from Alex, and I made a call.
I was aghast at the attitude of the doctor. He felt that my niece had dislodged the implant, and loosened the flap by rubbing her eyes prematurely. He seemed unwilling to even consider repairing the damage unless Marion was willing to pay for the repair. However, when I mentioned that I was the girl’s aunt, and that I had previously examined her eyes and found that surgery would be too dangerous for Marion, he suddenly changed his tune. Of course, it might have helped that I also mentioned the name of a friend of mine, who was a well-known litigation attorney.
The doctor fixed the basic problems, but now Marion did not have good visual acuity. She could see most of the 20/20 line on an eye chart, but she had ghosting problems, and double vision a lot of the time. I didn’t see Marion professionally anymore, as she chose to go to another doctor, but Alex kept me informed about was going on with her eyes. My heart went out to her, but I didn’t have much sympathy, because like so many others she had brought the problem on herself.
I was seeing a lot more patients than I had before. I would rather have seen more high myopes, but there didn’t seem to be a large number of really high myopes around, and a girl has to eat. So gradually my practice started to lean more and more to repairing, or rather attempting to repair the ravages of laser surgery. I was shocked at the number of myopes that had fallen for the claims of the laser surgery industry. Sure, a –5D myope might be able to throw away their glasses for a few years. But in most cases I was finding that these same –5D myopes were now requiring +3D glasses for distance, and even stronger lenses for reading. They had traded the ability to remove their glasses and read for total dependence on glasses for everything. I only wished that my –19.50D prescription were only –5D. I couldn’t see a thing without glasses either, but I knew I would rather be very myopic than the other way around.
It took a while, but eventually people started listening to my advice. I was now bringing a lot of my patients to a –3D prescription with lens implant surgery. For the people who had been extremely myopic before this was wonderful. Now they could easily read without glasses. And the people who had been farsighted also found that a little bit of myopia was just fine. At least they could now go without glasses some of the time.
I had not given up on finding a method to repair the genetic problems, and finally I did find a way to alter the makeup of the 2 genes I had isolated. Now any further female children born into our family would no longer be extremely myopic. And, I had even mended fences with Marion. She allowed me to experiment with her, in the hopes that her children would not be as myopic as she had been. Fortunately it worked.
I had never married. I dated a number of very nice men, but I had wanted to repair the defective genes before I married and had children. But now I was past my child bearing years, so I had resigned myself to spinsterhood. But I was finding that there were quite a large number of men who had either recently rejoined the singles field, or in some cases had never married. And a lot of these mature men seemed to have a definite attraction towards me, and my strong glasses. Now my biggest problem was that I couldn’t decide on any one man to stay with, so I just kept enjoying my single life.