To the Editor:
Looking back over my long career as an optometrist, there are many patients that I remember fondly, but only one that broke my heart.
Early on I found myself working in a Medicaid office on the west side of Chicago. One day, in my waiting room, I found a police officer with a young male in handcuffs needing an eye exam.
Although he was only 15 years old, his angry street wise appearance frightened me.
As I began the exam I soon realized this young man’s problem. I handed him a reading card and asked him to read. At first he began to read fluently. By the time he had finished his third paragraph, however, his reading became slower, halting between words.
Finally, he ended up simply staring at the card, saying nothing. At that point I placed two lenses in front of his eyes, creating a reading glass prescription. He began to read again, quickly, with increasing emotion with each sentence.
It was like watching someone learning to walk all over again. He then looked up at me with wonder. What had I done?
When I explained that he had needed reading glasses in order to read, he began to cry. And not just cry.
He cried like a child, gasping for breath, with tears streaming down his black leather jacket. At that moment, the officer placed his arm on the young man’s shoulder to console him.
“I tried to tell my teachers, I tried to tell my mama,” was all the young man could say. The officer told me he would personally see to it that the glasses would be delivered.
Then they left. I have often thought of that young man. He would be 50 years old today.
Dr. Floyd Mizener, president of National Vision Consultants, Downers Grove