The Antique Phoropter

by Specs4ever

I was born in '98, just a couple of years before the new millennium. From what my parents had told me about all the developments in the last few years of the old century, I had figured by the time I was 25, everything that could possibly have been invented would have been, and people would be genetically modified so that they were perfect, and would live forever.

But this was not so. Yes, the human genetic code had been determined, and modifications to the genetic structure of a human being were possible. But, there had to be a defective gene noted in the parents' genome first. And, many of the old diseases that had come down through the ages were appearing again in forms that were resistant to immunization. This was a puzzle to the geneticists and molecular biologists. Sure, pollution had been brought under control, but this only meant that there was no further increase in pollution. The air quality in the Los Angeles basin on a bad day still made a person choke and gag, and their eyes water. And some of the medical breakthroughs of the late Twentieth Century had proven to be blunders so that after some time major problems developed. One of the prime examples of this was what was known as lasik, or more correctly, laser eye surgery for the correction of myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism. It took about 10 years, but by then almost all the people that had lasik for simple myopia had to wear glasses for reading. And within about 15 years, these same people were now wearing fairly strong, plus glasses for distance, with an increasingly stronger add for reading. By 2010, other problems had also started to appear. Over 95% of those that had initially had lasik regained 20/20 vision. But 5% developed serious problems, and could not be corrected with glasses or contacts. One lady in Iowa had such bad problems with itchy eyes, pain, and blurring that she actually committed suicide, really a terrible tragedy, especially after spending thousands of dollars to fix a problem that really wasn't all that serious. And, when the wife of a congressman, along with a California state senator both partially lost their vision after lasik surgery, the writing was on the wall for all those pages of disclaimers, and waivers that the lasik surgeons had their patients sign. Now, no insurer would cover the surgeons, and the courts declared the waivers invalid. So, lasik surgery was now limited to hopeless cases, where this was the patients' only chance to obtain any vision at all. And, as more and more young children began wearing glasses during their early school years, the stigma about wearing glasses, that had been prevalent in the 1980's and 1990's, disappeared.

For me, this was great. When my older sister was 5, she had to have glasses that had lenses of -5.5 D strength for myopia. She had to wear them all of the time, and as she got older her glasses got stronger and stronger with thicker and thicker lenses. I remember wanting to be just like her, and wear glasses myself. I sometimes would take her old glasses, and put them on in the privacy of my own room, wishing that I had to wear them all the time. Then my younger sister also got glasses when she started school. But, my eyes remained fine. Then, my cousin got glasses, and gradually many of my friends had to have them as well. But still my own eyes were fine.

When I was in high school, I searched and searched the Internet for all the information that I could find on myopia, and the ability of glasses and contacts to correct this myopia. I ran across an old website, set up around the time I was born in the late 20th Century, and found out that I was not the only person in the world that had an attraction to wearing strong glasses for myopia. I was a little different than most of the people I read about on this web site, in that my interest lead more to my own desire to be severely myopic, rather than just being attracted to females that were highly myopic, but it was heartening to see that there were others that also felt the way I felt. Some even wore plus contact lenses under very strong minus glasses to simulate being severely myopic. By the time I entered the university, I too had ordered a pair of plus contacts, along with the corresponding glasses with high minus lenses. I wore these glasses as much as possible for the 4 years that I was away from my home state, and fervently wished that I could wear them all of the time.

I had corresponded with a few others around the world that I had met on the Internet, and one day my e-mail from one of them gave me a doctor's name and address. Since this doctor was in the same city that I lived, and went to university in, I phoned and booked an appointment. The earliest that I could get an appointment was the day after tomorrow. Since another glasses over contacts person had suggested this doctor, I thought it would be best if I wore my combination for the examination. I was anxious to meet this doctor and I was in the office in plenty of time.

As I sat in the waiting room, I observed a young lady sitting in the other chair. She couldn't have been a day over 16, but she must have tipped the scales at 400 lbs, plus or minus a few. Her nose was buried in a magazine that was pressed so close to her glasses that I couldn't really get a good look at them. Finally when she lowered the magazine, I saw that she was wearing glasses with myodisc lenses with several tiny rings around the circles. The lenses were set into a small sized wire frame that was quite small for her fat face. The frame was pressed tightly to the bridge of her nose, and the temples were bent out by the earpieces that had to stretch very wide to reach her ears. I felt a bit sorry for her. Just then the receptionist called her name, and took her back into the doctor's examining room.

A short while later, she came out with the receptionist, clutching a piece of paper in her chubby little hand. I took this to mean that this would be an even stronger prescription, and I wished I could be her.

The receptionist then called me, and led me back into the examining room. I gasped when the doctor came in. He seemed to be really ancient, and he was wearing glasses that were positively the strongest I had ever seen in my life. They had tiny little circles in the middle of a small wire frame. And, as I looked, I saw that they were double myodiscs, the rarest type of lens of all. He looked at me, and told me that I could take my contacts out now. I hadn't said a word yet, but I suppose he somehow knew from my referral that I was a G.O.C. wearer. I didn't protest, but took my glasses off and removed the contact lenses, and when I was told to, I sat in the chair.

"How strong of a prescription do you want?" he asked.

"As strong as yours would be nice," I replied.

He pondered that for a minute. "No, he said, "That would not be a good idea for your first actual pair of glasses". "What I would suggest is that you choose a similar prescription to the one you are now wearing."

I told him that that would be great, but maybe if he could increase it a bit, closer to -20D, I would really like that. I had done a lot of research, and -20D was about the strongest lens that I could still get in a regular looking lens. Anything over that was going to require a special lens - either a myodisc, or a blended myodisc, or very high index glass that would cost a fortune. So, he moved the phoropter in front of my eyes, and began the usual routine with the lenses. It was strange, but every time I heard the click of the different lenses being changed in front of my eyes, I really couldn't tell that there was any difference in the way I saw the letters on the eye chart. Finally, I heard him say to me that he thought that this was the prescription that would be best for me, and then I saw a sharp flash in front of my eyes. He removed the machine, and handed me my glasses, telling me to put them on.

"I need my contacts first," I said. But, as I tried to look around the darkened room, I realized that I was not able to see anything. So, I took the glasses from his hand, and put them on. The blur partially cleared, but things in the distance were very indistinct, so I shoved them tight into the bridge of my nose. This helped a bit.

"Here is your new prescription," he replied, handing me a piece of paper.

I looked at what was written on the paper. I could hardly believe that I was seeing through my glasses without plus contacts, and then I saw O.D. -20.00 D, and O.S. -19.75 D written on the paper, I was flabbergasted.

"How is this possible?" I asked.

"Is this not what you wanted?" Came his response.

"Yes, yes of course. This is exactly what I wanted."

"Don't question it then.," he replied.

I walked out the door, noticing that there was a pretty young lady of around 9 or 10, wearing glasses with a fairly strong prescription, sitting next to a lady that I assumed was her mother. I went to my car, and got a pair of prescription sunglasses out. I had never noticed that the glare of the sun bothered me as badly as it seemed to today. As I drove across town, I noticed that all the street signs were blurred. This should not have surprised me, as the new prescription was about -2D stronger than the glasses that I was wearing. I reached the optical store that I had used in the past, and went in, only to see that my favorite optician was waiting on a customer. Roger, her assistant came up to me, and I decided that since this was a real prescription, I might as well let him help me with a choice of frames. I took my glasses off, and wow, instant blur, I could barely see anything. I loved it. They had a camcorder hooked up to a computer, and as I tried the different frames, Roger took a movie clip of me wearing each frame. When we had tried out 6 frames, I put my glasses back on, and watched the movie clips, finally selecting 2 out of the 6 frames. Lisa had finished with her customer, and came over to do the final fitting, and was surprised to see the increase in prescription, as I had never had an increase before. I couldn't very well tell her that the only way I could have increased it before was by getting stronger plus contacts. Finally my new glasses were ordered. The regular pair was going to be a hi- index plastic, with a coating to stop the reflections, and the other pair was going to be CR39 plastic myodisc lenses that I could wear as an emergency back-up pair. I also left my sunglasses to have the lenses changed in them as well.

Although, I was totally satisfied with my inability to see more than a few inches in front of my nose without my glasses, I wondered how this possibly could have occurred. I just couldn't stop my curiosity; so later in the afternoon I drove back to the optometrist. I parked across the street, and watched for a while. No one went in or out for at least a half hour, so I left my car, and went to the office. The door was unlocked, but the receptionist was not there. A little bell tinkled with the opening of the door, and the doctor came out to the front.

He squinted at me through his thick glasses and said, "Oh, you are back. I hope that there isn't a problem, because your myopia is now permanent," he told me.

"No Doctor, it is wonderful. I just am so amazed that you could do this. I wanted to thank you again, andů

He stopped me, "I told you I couldn't discuss how this happens."

"Actually Doctor, I was wondering if you had any suggestions as to how I could get into this business," I replied.

His stance softened, and I heard him murmur under his breath, "maybe, just maybe."

His next words were, "You can buy me supper then. I haven't had a thing to eat since breakfast".

We went to my car, and he got in. He directed me to a restaurant that, as much as I had driven around this city, I had never seen before. We ordered, and he began to tell me a story.

"I was not schooled to be an eye doctor. I was a long haul truck driver until the turn of the century, and in 2002, when I left the road, I too was wearing G.O.C. as often as I could. One day, I got a message from a friend that I should go see a specific doctor here in this city. I made an appointment with this doctor, and went in wearing my G.O.C. combination, much as you did today. When I came out, I too was wearing glasses that were around -20D. And, like you today, I was thrilled, but not satisfied with having no explanation for this. So, I went back, and I pressured the doctor into eventually revealing how my eyesight had been altered, with the need for -20D glasses. Now I am old, and I really don't want to do this any longer, so I take your interest as a sign that you might just be the one to have custody of the machine."

"The machine?" I questioned.

"Yes, the machine. The old, ancient phoropter is the secret of our myopia. I have no idea where it came from, as the other doctor sold it to me along with his practice. It works like a normal phoropter, if someone just wants to have their eyes tested and glasses prescribed if needed, but when someone with a desire to become myopic, or hyperopic sits down in front of this phoropter, it will determine what prescription you desire, and it will give you that prescription. The finalization of the prescription is the red flash you saw just before your examination ended. And, with you, I had to struggle to allow the machine to keep your prescription as low as I did. The machine will take your inner desires, and increase your prescription all the way up to the strongest possible prescription that a person can have. I made the mistake myself of sitting down in front of the phoropter with an inner desire to have -60D, and when I dialed the lenses up to it, I pressed the button, saw the flash, and have had this prescription locked in for over 20 years now. And I was told not to ever do that, but I didn't listen. So, I have been since then, extremely nearsighted, although by having my vision altered by the machine, instead of nature, I have much better visual acuity than a natural high myope. But, I am very blind without glasses."

I was fascinated, and waited for him to go on.

"I am not really very busy anymore. I don't take a lot of clients, unless they are children of my existing patients. And, of course, I take all referrals from the G.O.C. groups on the Internet. But everyone that does this is sworn to secrecy, if they are curious to know how this is done. And now that I have told you, I must ask for your promise never to reveal this to anyone."

So, I promised. I then told him of my desire to become an optometrist, and I told him how deep my desires to become nearsighted had run. I was curious to find out about the very heavy girl I had seen in his office before my appointment, and of course I wanted to know about the pretty 9 or 10 year old that was waiting for the appointment after me.

"Tina is a disturbing case. She is a compulsive eater, and doesn't have any self-esteem. She was sent to see me by her school nurse, when she was about 8 years old, and couldn't read the eye chart. But, she couldn't have picked a worse doctor to come to, because unfortunately, I can't always recognize that the machine is picking up a persons inner desires for myopia, and by the time I did realize it, Tina had reached a prescription in the 20's range. This was when she was about 12, and since then I have struggled to keep her prescription from climbing too high too fast. She went off this morning with a -28D prescription, up from -25D less than 6 months ago. And the machine shows her, as possibly wanting glasses as high as -45D. And the other young lady is giving me a similar problem. Her mother is one of my patients, and is naturally a high myope. But her daughter, Shelly, started at the age of 3 wanting glasses just like mummy, and as hard as I fight to keep her prescription down, she has still gotten up to around -10D. And, wearing glasses doesn't seem to bother her at all. She loves to come to see me, and get stronger glasses. Even this morning, she asked me when she could have glasses as thick as her mom's."

We continued talking long into the evening. I asked him question after question, and finally we agreed that I would take the necessary schooling to become an optometrist, and take over his business, and his machine. Unfortunately, I was going to have 3 years more of schooling, and I asked him how he had managed, as he had been in his late 50's when he became an optometrist. It turned out that he had gone to another country that had a lot less stringent regulations, had then transferred his credentials to another country that had a reciprocal licensing arrangement with us, had upgraded, and then moved to the US, where he only had to take a short course to become a certified optometrist. So, after 3 more years of school, I graduated, and came back to take over the practice. In the interval he had allowed the machine to increase my own myopia to the -30D range, and he told me that I should be satisfied and leave it at that.

Once he had retired, I was thrilled to be in the office and begin to examine people's eyes. The old antique phoropter worked perfectly, giving most people a very precise prescription. And, for a few of my patients, the machine picked up their inner desire for myopia, and they were able to get glasses that, in many cases, were the prescription that they wore for life. A few would return for their next exam, showing a desire to have their myopia increase, and of course the machine would comply with their wishes, and still others came to me as referrals from the internet. These referrals were often my most difficult patients, as they all seemed to want very strong myopic prescriptions, but they were the happiest people of all when they left me, wearing glasses that they had formerly needed plus contacts to see through. And, in most cases they wanted a little bit stronger prescription, which was the case with me. And, as far as I went, I did take the good doctors advice, and have only allowed my own myopia to creep up to the -40D range. But, there are still days when I have the urge to go all the way, so who knows what will eventually happen.

My receptionist, a trim, well proportioned young lady about 5'7 in height, with beautiful auburn hair, worn in a pony tail, came into my office, and while she announced the arrival of my next patient, I stared into the -35D myodisc lenses that she wore, and thought of how she had finally accepted herself, lost all her excess weight, and had stopped wanting stronger and stronger glasses. Yes, this was Tina, the extremely overweight girl that I saw the first time I came to this office.

It was only a year since I had seen this next patient for the first time, and I found her to be an interesting case. When she first came to me, she had just turned 16 and was wearing a moderate correction for myopia, 5.25 D for each eye. When I put the phoropter in front of her eyes, I noticed that it was automatically reducing the strength of the lenses. In fact, it stopped at +5 D and she was able to read the 20/20 line perfectly. I stepped the lenses back to -5.25 and she could not read any of the lines on the chart. Then immediately, the phoropter went back to +5D and she said, "Oh that is so clear". So, I gave her a new prescription that differed by 10.25 whole diopters from what she had been wearing. She came back in about two weeks wearing her new glasses with the plus lenses to have them checked. She was thrilled that she now had glasses similar to her boy friend that wore glasses with a high plus prescription.

Today, the phoropter stopped at +10D and she easily read the 20/20 line with this strength of lenses. Further, she could read normal print that she had been having trouble doing with the +5D correction. I was mystified and intrigued by this patient. She told me that her boy friend wore glasses that were +15D and had base in prisms as well. She wondered if she might need prisms too. I said, "I don't think so, prisms are used to correct crossed eyes".

That evening, I sat in my examining room thinking about this young lady and her boy friend. I sat behind the phoropter and looked at the chart. I started to think back when I first looked into this machine and became very nearsighted and needed glasses of 20 D. Then, I heard the phoropter start to click, changing the lenses. When it stopped, the Rx read -20D. I looked at the chart, and I could read the 20/20 line, something I had not been able to do for several years. I couldn't believe it. I moved away from the machine and put my -40D glasses on and everything was very blurred and fuzzy. Had the phoropter really reversed my extremely high myopia? Wearing my -40D glasses almost at the tip of my nose, I stumbled my way to my office, where I kept my old glasses and found the 20D pair. I put them on and I could see everything perfectly. However, after wearing the -20D glasses for a while I decided that I would rather have my -40D glasses and my very high myopia back, so I went to the phoropter and changed my prescription back to 40D.

This indicated to me that the phoropter was capable of reversing myopia, if the patient thought about having a lower prescription. I wondered, could it actually correct high myopia, if the patient thought about a prescription that was much lower than the one they required to see? Apparently, no one had done this before as most of the patients that came wanted to have stronger glasses and higher myopia. Armed with this knowledge I began to allow the phoropter to lower the prescriptions of any patients with high myopia that expressed an inner desire to reduce the strength of their glasses.

Now, often in the evenings, I spend hours pouring over the old records of my predecessor, and I was surprised to see that many of the names on the records were names of people that I had discovered on the old web site that had intrigued me so much. One of the major contributors had been a fellow from Europe known only as Bobby, and I found that he had visited the office a couple of times, ending up with a -36D prescription. And, even more surprising was when I found that my retired optometrist had also been an old time contributor, known on the web site as specs4ever.

Specs4ever, with A.J's assistance, both in writing parts of the story, and editing.

July 2001.