Tag Archives: ocularist

Oli’s Prosthetic Eyes

6 Mar

Today Oli’s daddy drove her to Dallas to get a new pair of eyes. Every 3-6 months Oli sees her Ocularist, Randy Trawnik, and he makes her a bigger pair. Because she has anophthalmia (missing eye) on the right and microphthalmia (little eye) on the left, her entire eye structures on both sides are underdeveloped. The goal of the prosthetics are to increase them in size each time she gets new ones. It therefore stretches out the sockets and it makes the eyes bigger. Her left eye is almost at normal size due to intensive conformer therapy (I use conformers, painted conformers, and prosthetics interchangeably)

Here are some pictures of Oli’s prosthetic eyes. If anyone has any questions about them, please ask. I’d love to answer any questions you may have.

These were some of her first peg conformers. Remember “OMG! What did you stick in her eyes!”? Well, these were the awful ones prompting that response from people.

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This is one of the first painted conformers that she got. Only the iris was painted because we needed to leave the rest clear just in case she had any light perception. Until we were absolutely sure that she didn’t it stayed clear. Now we know that she doesn’t see anything at all so the whole thing can be painted.

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These are some of the last ones that her Ocularist in California made her before we moved to Texas. They were getting really thick because the socket was stretching so much and it became deep. The conformers had to fill most of that space so they wouldn’t fall out. Also because they still needed to push against that tissue at the back of her socket so it would continue to stretch. She eventually had a surgery last year and she got an implant in that right eye. Now the conformers don’t have to be so thick.

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These last pictures are of her custom fit prosthetics made here in Dallas. Her Ocularist puts her to sleep once a year and takes molds of her eyes so he can make them fit exactly in the shape of her eye.
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Memorizing the Cars Movie was not an aspiration of mine.

6 Feb

“Love doesn’t make the world go ’round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.” -Franklin P. Jones quotes (American Businessman, 1887-1929)

Our first trip to see the ocularist in LA was just a little traumatic…for me. Oh, you were worried about Oli? No, she was fine. I mean she cried a little bit when her ocularist Mr. Haddad first put her new conformers in but, it only took literally about 5 seconds for each eye. At least for her first set.

As her eyes stretched and the conformers got bigger sometimes it was hard to get them past her eye lids. She has only had a couple sets that were really difficult to get in. Once they are in they’re not painful.

Well, wait, I guess I don’t know that they’re not painful since she can’t tell me. I don’t think they are though because Oli doesn’t try to claw my eyes out or maim me in some way which is what she does when she is in pain.

The trips to see Mr. Haddad, and later his partner Beverly, were exhausting. We drove 6 hours (one way) to Hollywood, CA from Las Vegas every 3-4 weeks. We were usually gone about 14-16 hours total because of the time it took to snail through traffic in Los Angeles. We never stayed over night because it was just too expensive and usually one of us had to work the next day.

We took both children with us every single time. Kekoa was 19 months old when we went the first time and Oli was 2 months. To say that it was a little stressful sometimes would be an understatement. But that is what Oli needed so that is what we did.

Thank God for little portable TV’s you put in the car. However, if I never hear or see the movie Cars again it will be too soon. Kekoa watched that movie at least twice every time we went, for 2 years.

I’ll let you do the math.

Let me tell you, you get to know your spouse far more than you ever really wanted to cooped up in a small car with 2 crying children for that many hours. Driving that far so frequently was not without humor either.

I remember one night (actually the wee hours of the morning) we returned home after one of our trips. Seth got into the shower and then immediately laid down in bed and passed out. I was still awake reading when he shot up and out of bed in a panic 30 minutes later.

“Seth! What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“I almost crashed the car Shannon! I almost crashed!”

“What?”

Apparently he was dreaming that he was still driving and thought he had fallen asleep at the wheel. It was HILARIOUS!

I know when he reads this he will give me his usual response to my rendition of this story.

“Shannon, it was NOT funny.”

It was.

I also want to dispel a common myth about Oli’s “glass eyes”.

They are not made out of glass any more, they are made out of acrylic. There, now you know. It bugs me when people say “glass eyes” I don’t know why, it’s silly. I know…I have issues.

Here is a little history about prosthetic eyes courtesy of Oli’s new ocularist Randy Trawnik.

A Brief History of Ocular Prostheses

The art of making artificial eyes has been practiced since ancient times. Egyptian priests made the first ocular prostheses, called Ectblepharons, as early as the fifth century BC. In those days, artificial eyes were made of enameled metal or painted clay and attached to cloth and worn outside the socket.”
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The first in-socket artificial eyes made in the 15th century were made of gold with colored enamel. In the latter part of the sixteenth century, the Venetian glass artisans discovered a formula that could be tolerated inside the eye socket. These early glass eyes were crude, uncomfortable to wear, and very fragile. Even so, the Venetian method was considered the finest in the world. They kept their methods and materials secret until the end of the eighteenth century.
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In the 17th century the center for artificial eye making shifted to Paris for a time. Improvements in techniques and materials followed. The French word oculariste was given to the makers of artificial eyes.

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In the mid-nineteenth century, glass artisans in Thuringia, a region in eastern Germany, developed a superior glass formula for the making of artificial eyes. Combined with their techniques of blowing hollow glass objects, the center for glass eye making moved to Germany. The methods of making hollow kryolite glass prosthesis are still used today in Germany and many parts of the world. Glass eye making was introduced in the United States in the mid 1800’s by immigrant German ocularists. Although the American Ocularists of this era continued to make glass prostheses, the kryolite glass material itself was exported from Germany.

The onset of World War II cut of the export of kryolite glass to the United States. With so many injured soldiers needing artificial eyes, the U.S. government searched for a replacement material. Almost immediately the new plastics industry came to the rescue. Medical plastics were already being used in the dental field before World War II. The Department of the Navy set up a crash course in applying plastics to the field of Ocularistry that lead to the development of medical grade acrylic plastic and its use in eye-making. Combined with the use of impressions in the design of the artificial eye, modern prostheses can be perfectly fit for each individual patient. The popularity of these methods has continued to increase over the years. Today the vast majority of patients all around the world wear ocular prostheses made of acrylic.

A medieval torture tactic

26 Jan

“I liked things better when I didn’t understand them.” -Bill Waterson

So that’s what I did. I just took her home. I didn’t have a battle plan or an army and I certainly didn’t have a force field. I had the only things I could offer her at the time. I had an infinite amount of stubbornness, a heart bursting with love and two eyes that I would share with this little girl for the rest of my life.

An enormous amount of weight settled on my shoulders that day as I strapped this tiny person into her car seat. I could feel the weight threatening to suffocate me.

Before I left the hospital, my sister in law, gave me a website. It was for an organization called ican. International children’s anophthalmia and microphthalmia network. www.anophthalmia.org I did not know that this information would become a life line when I began my adventure into the unknown.

I did know that no one in that hospital had ever really seen a child born with this condition. The only person they could direct me to was a pediatric ophthalmologist.

So before I left the hospital I googled ican. It was full of people,terms and images that were so foreign to me, I had a hard time comprehending what they were saying.

I didn’t know what an Ocularist was. This was a profession? I had never heard of it. Of course, I had never heard of a baby born without eyes either.

So I googled ocularist. Apparently he was some sort of artist that made these things called conformers.

I googled conformers and was overwhelmed by what I read. An ocularist makes, and then forces these conformers into the eyes of anophthalmic and microphthalmic children in order for the eyes to stretch big enough to wear painted prosthetic eyes. At the time, this sounded like some kind of medieval torture tactic.

What? This sounds barbaric! Wasn’t there some kind of new technology for these children? Something not so painful?

We would have to do this every month for years in order for her to wear prosthetic eyes. And it might not even work. Her eyes might never stretch enough to wear prosthetic eyes.

It said that we would need to start this process as soon as possible to give her eye sockets and eye lids the best chance of stretching. Then I read on another web site that if I didn’t do this to her, her face might cave in. (Untrue, but I didn’t know that until talking with other parents.)

I had to turn off the computer. I grabbed Oli’s little pink newborn blanket, buried my face in it and just cried. I cried for myself, I cried for her, I cried for Kekoa and Seth. I cried like I have never cried before. I did not want to do this. I did not want to have to put this little baby through procedures that would hurt her.

What kind of a mother volunteers her baby for pain?

But, I didn’t want her face to be deformed either.

I cried harder.

And then I picked her up and whispered “I’m sorry” again.

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