New Years Day 2010 was a day of excitement for me. I had recently turned 14, and my parents moved to a new home in a different city just before Christmas. On the Monday after the holiday I was going to be starting school at a new school, a school where no one knew me, and I was going to be able to finally leave my old friends and associates behind. I was no longer going to be the nerdy kid with the thick glasses, thanks to the contact lenses I had gotten for Christmas and now I could be someone mysterious, with a past that was unknown.
I didn’t dislike my glasses, which to me were an essential part of my life. According to my eye doctor I had been born with congenital high myopia, and I had worn my glasses since before I was 2 years old, but they were so thick and strong that other kids made fun of me. During the years when my parents grew up, kids with glasses were few and far between in school, so these glasses wearing kids were teased, and picked on, but in the past few years there were a lot more kids in the lower grades of school wearing glasses, so for the most part, kids were no longer picked on. However, my glasses were unusually strong, and the few times I had removed my glasses and let another kid look through the lenses had brought unkind remarks and negative reactions. And, the truth of the matter was that I was so blind without my glasses that I could not even see to read without my glasses, and to try to recognize anything without them was impossible.
Once I started back to class in my new school I made a few friends fairly soon. My confidence level wearing contacts was much higher than it had been wearing glasses. One of my friends, Tim, had a younger sister named Stephanie. Stephanie was a glasses wearer, but her glasses were not really very strong. My memories of the reactions of others to my glasses had lead to me being a little protective of Steph. As a result, Steph, who had just turned 12 shortly before I was 14 started to hang around me a lot. I found out that Steph had begun wearing glasses just before she turned 9, and the following year her prescription had doubled to -1.50D. Then the past year found her prescription going up again to -3.00D, and Steph now felt she was helpless without glasses. I didn’t dare tell her what real helplessness was. I sympathized with Steph though, especially when she told me that her eyes were getting worse, and she probably needed new glasses again.
It was shortly after Valentines Day, the day I had given Steph a card asking her to be my valentine, when her parents took Steph for another eye exam. Sure enough, Steph reported to me that she needed stronger glasses again. But this time Steph had gotten her new glasses immediately. They were a slightly different and unusual looking pair. They had a little knob over the part where the earpieces were attached to the face piece. Steph explained to me that these were a special pair of glasses. These glasses had a prescription that was adjustable by turning the knob slightly. When you looked closely at the knob, you could see that there were 8 positions for the knob to be placed in, and somehow moving the knob changed the prescription in the lens. I had read something about this in the news sometime last year but then nothing else had been reported. The idea behind this was that doctors could dial in whatever prescription was needed in these glasses for people in developing countries who were found to have poor eyesight. Steph told me that the initial testing had been completed, and these glasses were now being tested by the public. Her latest prescription was -4.00D, and she had no astigmatism, so apparently she was a perfect candidate to test these new adjustable prescription glasses.
I was intrigued with her new glasses, so I did some investigating about these adjustable glasses. The lowest prescription available was -0.25D, and the first pair of glasses went from -0.25D up to -2.25D. Then the next pair went from -2.00D up to -4.00D. The glasses Steph were trying went from -4.00D up to -6.00D. Each pair of glasses went a total of -2.00D, and the strongest pair went from -18.00D up to -20.00D. None of them would have worked for me, as my -24D prescription was far too strong. My only consolation was that with my congenital myopia, my prescription was not likely to increase, and would likely remain around -24D for my entire life. At least that is what the specialists told my parents, and so far they had proven to be correct.
I spent a lot of time with Steph after she started wearing her new glasses. She loved the ability to bring her prescription a little higher whenever she noticed things getting a bit fuzzy. She seemed to do this a lot, and I knew that soon she would run out of adjustment. Sure enough, before Steph turned 13, she needed to go back to the doctor to be fitted with the next stronger pair of adjustable glasses. Now her prescription was -6.00D, and the doctor admonished her for turning up her prescription so fast.
So, for the next year Steph tried not to be as quick to turn the dial up another notch. Still, by the time Steph turned 14, she had reached –8.00D, the maximum prescription for these glasses. Now Steph had another new pair, a pair that would go up to –10D. This time her parents and her doctor had decided that Steph was not going to be allowed to adjust her own prescription. The knobs were still there, and they still worked, but every night her parents checked the glasses to ensure that Steph had not cranked her prescription up another notch. And, every weekend they checked her eyesight by having her read an eye chart that they had set up in the house. I hadn’t really understood how these glasses adjusted their prescription, but it appeared that by turning the knob, some of the liquid inside the lens was sucked up into a tube in the frame. So, as the liquid was removed from the lens, the rear side of the lens was more flexible and it would make the curvature increase slightly, which made the prescription stronger. However the change was reversible. By turning the knob in the opposite direction the prescription could be returned to the lowest available one.
Once Steph discovered that she could still adjust her prescription herself, and then return it to the prescription she had left home with, I know that she would give herself a little more minus in the morning after she had left for school, and when she returned home in the afternoon she would reduce the prescription again. Then on the weekends when her parents checked her eyes it seemed that at least every second weekend they had to increase her prescription about –0.25D. That meant that 4 months later Steph was at the eye doctor’s again, getting her next pair of adjustable glasses. By the time her15th birthday came Steph had an actual prescription of –14D, and was given new glasses that adjusted from –14D up to -16D. And, what was amazing to me was that Steph didn’t seem to be bothered by the fact that her glasses were looking stronger and thicker all the time.
Steph knew I wore contact lenses. She had asked me a couple of times if I would wear my glasses for her so that she could see what I looked like wearing glasses, and I had refused, telling her that my glasses were so thick and awful looking I didn’t ever want to wear them out in public. I had recently had my 17th birthday, and I was able to get my first partial driver’s license. I was proud of myself that I had passed the eye exam with flying colors. My –24D prescription had not changed since I was a baby, and my contact lenses gave me almost 20/20 correction. One night Steph and I were going to use my parent’s car to go to a movie that was playing in another town. That night I relented. My contacts had been bothering me a bit, so I picked up Steph, and before we pulled out from my parking spot I removed my contacts, and put my glasses on. I had worn glasses a lot at home when I was with my parents to give my eyes a rest from contacts, and they had recently allowed me to get a pair of glasses that had the thinnest lenses possible. My other glasses had the little circles in the center of the lenses that I had to see through, but these glasses, which were 1.9 hi index glass, no longer had the circles. These glasses, to me, actually looked quite nice. Fortunately Steph thought they looked good as well. She was really surprised when she tried them on and saw how much stronger my prescription was than hers was, because her glasses looked a lot thicker than mine did.
I did try to convince Steph that she should not adjust her own prescription anymore. But she had gotten so used to looking through a slight overcorrection that she still adjusted her glasses every morning after she left home. As a result Steph raced through the remaining 2 pairs of adjustable glasses, and by the time she turned 16, the –20D glasses were no longer quite strong enough for her. After this, the first pair of glasses that Steph had that were not adjustable was a –20.50D prescription. It didn’t take too long before Steph was complaining that these glasses were too weak for her, but now instead of increasing the prescription herself, she had to wait for an eye exam, as well as waiting for new lenses to be made. Because of the extra length of time between prescription increases her glasses didn’t get stronger quite as fast as when she was able to crank up her own prescription. By the time she was 17, her prescription had only gone up to –22D. Her parents didn’t want to spend the extra money to get her lenses like I had, so Steph was forced to wear myodiscs. I thought she would hate these glasses, but she didn’t seem to be bothered by them at all. I also thought that she would now want to wear contact lenses, but she said that she didn’t mind wearing her glasses, and they were a lot less trouble than contacts. I had to agree there, but I just couldn’t bring myself to wear glasses.
Now that Steph was wearing normal glasses without the adjustable prescription capability, her prescription increases slowed down a lot. By age 18 Steph had increased to –23.50D, only slightly less than my prescription. When we were age 22 and 20 respectively, Steph and I married. Steph got new glasses for our wedding, and this time she got the same 1.9 hi index lenses I had. Her prescription now was a little stronger than mine was, but she still seemed able to see well through her now –25D glasses. I had graduated from university, and was working as an engineer. When I started my job I decided that I was not going to be out on job sites in the wind and the dust wearing contacts, so I was now wearing my glasses almost all of the time. As a result, since Steph still didn’t want to get contacts, I got myself a new pair of glasses to wear for our wedding. Steph was still in training to become a nurse, and we had decided we would wait for a couple of years before we started a family.
We did purchase a home for ourselves, but it was an older home and it required a lot of remodeling and updating. We had a lot of fun during the time we were doing this work, and we spent a lot of time together at garage sales. One Saturday morning we stopped at a sale on the south side of town. The lady who was having the sale was being helped by a young lady who appeared to be around our age. It was a day with a bit of wind, and since we live in a dusty area, the wind was whipping the dust around. As we were looking over some of the furniture that we were interested in I glanced at the young lady, who was blinking furiously. I was pretty sure she was a contact lens wearer, and sure enough, she went inside the house a minute or 2 later. Then I spotted them. Over on a table were 3 pairs of young ladies glasses. They were a similar style frame to the ones that Steph had when she was younger. And the 3 pairs all had the same knobs on the frame that Steph had on her adjustable glasses. I went over to give these glasses a closer look. It appeared to me that one pair was likely the beginner pair, with a prescription that went from -0.25D up to -2.00D. The next pair looked to me to be the next step up, the ones that went from -2.00D up to -4.00D. The third pair had a broken lens, but I was pretty sure that these would have been the next step up in the sequence. As I was looking over the glasses in preparation to purchasing them, I noticed the young lady come back out from the house. These glasses had to have been hers. She was now wearing a pair of glasses with very strong looking myodisc lenses, much like the ones Steph had worn a few years earlier.
I gathered the 3 pairs of glasses, and took them over to her. The price on them was $5.00, so I offered the young lady $2.50, and she accepted. Then we purchased a couple of items of furniture that we liked. We loaded them on our pickup truck, but before we left I wanted to speak to the young lady.
“Were these your glasses when you were younger?” I asked.
“Yes, they were. They were my first 3 pairs of glasses. Sure wish I could get away with such a weak prescription now,” She replied.
“Yes, I know what you mean. My wife wore the same type of adjustable lenses when she was younger, and her eyes ended up slightly worse than mine did. I was born with almost the same prescription I have now, so I never experienced the same myopic progression as either of you did. Did you also find that you were constantly increasing your lens strength? I asked.
“My eyes seemed to get weaker every week, and I was constantly turning the knob to a stronger position,” She said.
“Yes, that was what it was like for Steph, but I think her eyes ended up a little worse than yours did.” I said.
The young lady didn’t think so. She felt that her glasses were stronger, so she and Steph exchanged glasses. She was quite surprised when she discovered that Steph had stronger, nicer looking glasses than she did, and she was quite interested in finding out where, and at what cost Steph had acquired her glasses. Of course we told her, and then Steph and I went home. On the way home Steph wondered why I had bought 3 old pairs of glasses, so I told her that with the purchase of these glasses we would have a complete set of adjustable glasses of the original wearer adjustable style.
Once the trial of the original adjustable glasses had ended after the first 5 years the inventors had discovered that allowing the wearer to adjust their own prescription had resulted in all of the participants ending up as very high myopes in only 4 or 5 years. This was completely against what the original idea for these glasses had been, so they then redesigned the adjustment screw so that only a doctor with a special tool could adjust the strength of the lenses. Once they did this, then the glasses worked as they were supposed to, and it was no longer possible for the wearer to adjust the strength of their glasses. It was only natural that allowing the wearer the ability to fine tune their own prescription would tend to make an extremely high myope out of the wearer. I knew that Steph had created much of her own myopia, and I was certain that the young lady we had met had done exactly the same thing.
After I got home I placed the 2 intact pairs of adjustable glasses with our collection of Steph’s old glasses. Then I took the 3rd pair to my shop, where I looked into exactly how they had made them adjustable. As I had previously noticed, the lens was formed in such a way that the front was plano, and had no power. The rear lens was formed with the maximum curve that was required. The lens that I was examining was designed to go from -4D up to -6D, and the -6D curve was the one that was the fixed curve. It appeared that there was a band around the 2 lenses that allowed the lenses to be glued together, and the band was wide enough to give some flexibility in the amount of material that had to be removed to fit the lens to the frame. There was a hole in the lens, very close to the bottom of the outer edge of each lens. When the fitter placed the lens into the frame, the hole fit snugly into a tube that was molded into the plastic frame. There was a type of silicon gasket where the tube and the lens went together, providing a tight seal. The liquid was put into the lens through the tube, and then the adjustment mechanism was then put into the tube. When the liquid was at its highest level, the lens had the strongest prescription. By turning the knob all the way down, liquid was forced into the lens, and when as much liquid was forced in as possible, the lens was flexible enough that the liquid flattened the rear curve, lowering the power of the lens by -2.00D. As the wearer adjusted the knob they lessened the amount of liquid that was in the lens, thus allowing the lens to return to the original position by 0.25D each click of the knob. This was an ingenious invention.
It took another year of renovations before we considered that our house was ready for children. Actually, since Steph was pregnant well before the renovations were complete, a lot of pressure was put on me to finish the house, and get it ready for a child. I did my part, and Steph did her part. Now we had a beautiful baby girl in the finished nursery. We named our first daughter Alisha. Then 2 years later we had another daughter, Kayla.
By the time Kayla was born, Alisha was getting into everything. Nothing in the house was safe. Alisha seemed to have a fascination for glasses, and more than once I came home to find Alisha wearing the first pair in the collection of adjustable glasses. I admonished Steph for allowing Alisha to wear these glasses, but Steph merely shrugged off my concerns, telling me that with such a weak prescription in those glasses Alisha would not have a problem. So, I got used to seeing Alisha running around the house wearing these glasses. I didn’t even consider the thought that Alisha might possibly find the adjustment screw, and increase the power of the lenses.
I think Kayla was about a year old when I noticed that Alisha appeared to be wearing the second pair of glasses. Sure enough, she had the pair that adjusted from -2.00 up to -4.00 on, and when I looked closer, I discovered that the adjustment was around the -3.00D mark. I spoke to Steph about this, but Steph didn’t seem to be concerned. Her reply was that we were both extremely nearsighted, so it was only natural that our kids were as well.
I did try to put my foot down when I discovered that Steph was allowing Kayla to wear the weakest glasses around the house. But again it was like speaking to a brick wall. Kayla raised such a fuss when I tried to take her glasses off that I resigned myself to the fact that Kayla was likely going to be nearsighted as well.
Sure enough, by the time Alisha was 4, she was wearing the 3rd pair of glasses. These had been Steph’s first pair of adjustable glasses. I managed to voice my objections to the kids wearing these adjustable glasses strongly enough that both Alisha and Kayla both graduated from high school with slightly under -20D prescriptions. And then I did what I should have done in the first place. I destroyed all of the pairs of wearer adjustable prescription glasses.