When it came to reading the Snellen chart,
this patient had no problems with spectacles. But his life outside the eyecare
practitioner's office demanded a new approach.
Lt. Ronald D. Casteel, Stockbridge, Ga.
was standing on the roof of a burning building the night I decided it was time to
get contact lenses. It was dark, the air was filled with smoke and, because I didn't
have time to put my eyeglasses on, I couldn't see the edge of the roof.
Fortunately, my eye doctor came to my rescue.
contact lenses have become an essential tool that helps me do my job effectively.
I compare them to the PDA I use to access drug information in life-and-death situations.
If my PDA breaks, I need to replace it immediately. My contact lenses are just
UNMASKING A PROBLEM
I work as a firefighter and paramedic. The eyeglasses
I wore for my nearsightedness always got in the way. While I'm fighting fires, I
need to wear a breathing apparatus that includes an oxygen tank on my back. The
mask has to fit tightly over my face and create a seal to supply me with clean air.
I always bought the smallest spectacles
available so they'd fit inside the mask, but they were still inconvenient. When
the alarm sounds, we can't waste time. It gets really hectic when I'm trying to
listen to the chief's orders and put on my mask at the same time.
When I wore spectacles under the mask,
it would continually fog up. I'd have to remove the mask, clear the condensation
and put it back on. Sometimes my glasses would fall off inside the mask, making
it even more difficult to see. I've even had them fall out of my mask completely
and get lost or broken.
Some people told me it didn't matter
if my eyeglasses kept falling off, because "you can't see in a fire anyway," but
I knew that switching to contact lenses could be the difference between life and
death. When I'm in a burning building, I can put my face against the wall and shine
my flashlight along it to see what room I'm in and if there's a doorway nearby.
That bit of information can make all the difference in the world.
Ron Casteel no longer struggles with the mask of his breathing apparatus thanks
to contact lenses prescribed by Kirk L. Smick, OD, FAAO.
GETTING URGENT HELP
You may be wondering why I didn't get contact
lenses sooner. The reason was because I didn't like the idea of putting something
in my eyes. I procrastinated until I was assigned to fire duty and found myself
on that dark roof. I knew I needed contact lenses immediately.
Dr. Kirk Smick and his staff were helpful
in a crisis. Dr. Smick fit me with 2-week disposable silicone hydrogel contact lenses.
Although they cost more than other types of contact lenses, I don't mind paying
extra because the lenses help me achieve my goals. I haven't had any problems with
the lenses. I'd much rather wear my contact lenses than my eyeglasses.
In addition to solving the problems I was having
with my mask, my contact lenses make it easier for me to perform other parts of
my job. I can see better when I'm involved in a swift-water rescue, rappelling down
a cliff or treating patients in an ambulance. In fact, I've actually had my eyeglasses
fall off while I was leaning over a patient in a speeding ambulance. I don't have
to worry about this with my contact lenses.
Wearing contact lenses also
has made my time off more enjoyable. Now, I can wear sunglasses over my contact
lenses while I'm running and biking in the bright Atlanta sun.
My contact lenses have become an essential tool
that helps me do my job effectively. I compare them to the PDA I use to access drug
information in life-and-death situations: If my PDA breaks, I need to replace it
immediately. My contact lenses are just as indispensable, so I always carry an extra
pair with me, just in case. When you're dealing with people's lives it's important
to be prepared.
Dr. Smick's Perspective
I first saw Ron Casteel in December 2004. He told
me his eyeglasses prevented him from performing his duties as a firefighter and
limited his flexibility in hazardous situations. I offered him two options to correct
his bilateral 2.50D myopia without astigmatism: LASIK or contact lenses.
Mr. Casteel decided against surgery,
so I fit him with 2-week disposable silicone hydrogel contact lenses. When he returned
for his follow-up visit, he was ecstatic about the comfort and performance of his
new lenses. He has no problem putting on his mask when he fights fires, and he enjoys
expanded peripheral vision. Since I treated Mr. Casteel, he's referred three firefighters,
none of whom I'd treated before, to my office for contact lenses.
Working with Mr. Casteel is a terrific
example of why I like to find out all about my patients' vocations. I recommend
that all practitioners take the extra time to discuss the various situations that
can affect patients' visual performance and review their needs annually.
Kirk L. Smick, OD, FAAO
Clayton Eye Center
Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: October 2005