Memories, stories from the past, sometimes propel us into the future shaping our dreams. One of my earliest memories is my first day of kindergarten. Aside from being distraught that my mother had abandoned me amongst a sea of strangers, I recall feeling visually disoriented. I was wearing lenses that covered half of my face and often slipped to the brim of my nose whenever I lowered my head. The thick lenses magnified my eyes in a Picasso-like manner and were the first thing many people noticed when they looked at me. This was the case on my first day of kindergarten. As on that day, and throughout the rest of my school days, my classmates often used my oversized eyes as the target of the playground jokes. The only time I had clear vision was when I looked directly through the center of the lenses; and the periphery of my world was stretched and decorated with a rainbow of colors. I accepted this as my visual reality not realizing that others viewed the world through a different lens.
I was born with an abnormally shaped cornea, a “lazy eye”, and extreme nearsightedness; so that without correction my world becomes an ensemble of basic shapes and shades of colors. As a child I accepted my condition as my reality. Fortunately my mother never accepted my impairment and diligently sought assistance from doctors and medical institutions across the country. However, the results were always the same- my astigmatism and low vision impacted my visual perception. The complexity of extreme nearsightedness and abnormal cornea shape made it challenging to create glasses or contact lenses to correct my vision. At one point, I was told that I was demanding a stronger vision than I actually needed. This led to a series of eye strengthening techniques, such as eye patches and lower-strength prescription contacts. However, I still could only see at a specific distance and focal point.
I am not certain if one point in time can define your life. I am not even certain if one suggestion can change the course of your future. Yet I do know that a recommendation to Dr. Boshnick changed my worldview. Dr. Boshnick is an optometrist that specializes in unique cases, such as my own. His technique involves intensive, personalized care for each patient that walks through his door. For me, this meant 11 visits to his office, countless corneal topographies, and multiple lens fittings spanning over the course of about half of a year. After the first visit, Dr. Bosnick diagnosed me with “Pellucid Marginal Degeneration”- a rare condition characterized by a progressive thinning of the inferior and peripheral regions of the cornea. He decided to change the lens to a scleral lens (hard lens) but the journey for a perfect fit was arduous, as he needed to find a lens that would make my cornea imitate the shape of a normal cornea. We went through a rigorous trial-and-error process of creating a lens based on the topography of my eye, assessing the fit and making corrections to the fit only to begin the process anew. The transition process was painful as the hard lenses caused severe irritation. At times, I wondered if I could ever learn to cope with these hard lenses. Notwithstanding my complaints, Dr. Boshnick never allowed me to quit. He even wore the scleral lenses himself (although he did not need visual correction) to show me that it was possible.
Dr. Boshnick’s dedication to his practice changed my life; I am no longer the little girl with the oversized glasses and the magnified eyes. I am also no longer the girl with a distorted worldview. The first day I left his office with my newly fit scleral lenses, I stood on the street staring at my newly discovered world finding delight in facial expressions, colors, and a world that conformed to its appropriate place in space. No longer were the perimeters stretched and curvy, distorted beyond recognition.
Later in life I returned to Dr. Boshnick’s office. This time I was not a patient but instead a student. I had the fortunate opportunity to shadow him at his practice. He took the time to explain procedures to me and he showed me the latest diagnostic machinery. He taught me how to identify abnormalities within topographies and we discussed potential causes of such abnormalities. He was gracious with his mentorship. However, the most critical lesson that Dr. Boshnick revealed is the importance of compassion, empathy, and dedication towards others. Dr. Boshnick exhibited these qualities in his care for me, and because of that I can drive a car, see a friend’s face in passing, read a book, and engage in other daily activities that would otherwise not be possible. Vision, like other innate qualities, is something so many of us take for granted until it becomes impaired; but every morning while putting on my lenses, I am reminded of how fortunate I am that Dr. Boshnick took the time to diagnose my condition and perfect the curvatures of my lenses so that I could fulfill my goals and aspirations. I have him to thank for the friendships I have made, the experiences that have shaped me, the education I have received, and for the ability to see the wondrous colors of the world in its amazing array.
I have wanted to become a physician since I was a young. However, Dr. Boshnick showed me the type of medical provider that I want to become and the type of practice that I want to maintain. The way an individual perceives a stimulus, will define the way they think, behave, and will determine their worldview. Prior to Dr. Boshnick’s intervention in my eye care, my reasoning for wanting to become a physician was “to help people.” Now that I can see how a deficit can truly change the course of an individual’s life, my reasoning has extended from this. I would like to become a physician so that I can help others fulfill their goals and aspirations, and also to enable an individual to experience an unclouded worldview as Dr. Boshnick has done with me. Dr. Boshnick has showed me that by combining medicine with key qualities, such as compassion, empathy, dedication, creativity and flexibility, this can be achieved.