Second year of optometry school has many perks: fewer quarter exams, more afternoons off, fewer labs, and more time with patients–both in clinic and the dispensary. I’m loving second year in general but the highlight so far has to be the Ocular Prosthetics elective that I am taking this quarter.
You not know that the Illinois Eye Institute has an ocularist, Patrick Adkins, who works in the Cornea and Contact Lens clinic on Thursday afternoons. During the rest of the week, he works at his clinic in the suburb of Des Plaines, where he hand creates prosthetic eyes in his lab using plastic that he makes himself by combining raw polymers and monomers.
One of my classmates and I are lucky enough to have the opportunity for five weeks to work with Mr. Adkins on Thursdays. Patients coming to see Mr. Adkins at the IEI have already been fitted with a prosthesis at his clinic; at the IEI they can have their prosthesis cleaned, re-polished and/or refitted.
My responsibilities these afternoons include taking patient history, checking the visual acuity and responsiveness of their good eye (if they are monocular), and assessing how their prosthesis looks and feels.
A patient’s right eye. This particular patient wore a prosthesis in both eyes and also happened to be deaf. She and her translator were incredibly sweet and inspirational.
These patients have lost one or both of their eyes for a number of reasons, usually due to an injury or disease. Some patients still have their real eye, though it is no longer functional. As a result, their damaged eye has atrophied and are shrunken in the orbit. If the eye is safe to be left alone, surgeons will choose not to remove the eye and the patient wears their prosthesis over it instead. Other patients have their damaged eye enucleated or removed with an implant put in its place. These patients wear their prosthesis over the implant.
Mr. Adkins re-polishes a patient’s prosthesis.
Meeting these patients and working with Mr. Adkins has been incredibly rewarding. Watching Mr. Adkins work to enhance cosmesis and patient confidence has been both fascinating and humbling. I encourage everyone to take this elective and to talk to Mr. Adkins about what he does. I promise you that he will be one of the most interesting people you will ever meet!