By Marisol Rodriguez, ABO-AC, NCLEC

Every morning when I wake up, the first thing I do is reach for my glasses. As a high-myope, without the assistance of corrective lenses, I cannot comfortably, or at least independently, navigate in the environment around me. As an optician, one of the most rewarding things for me is to fit someone with their first pair of glasses and I can tell based on the conversation and prescription in front of me, it's going to improve that person's quality of life.

Every optician has memorable experiences that have impacted them when assisting someone with their first pair of glasses. For me, there are two that immediately come to mind. One occurred with a nine-month-old very early on in my career, and the other this past week with a ninety-year-old! Both were equally heartwarming for me. 

With the nine-month-old infant, I recall he had about 8 to 9 diopters of hyperopia with about 2 to 3 diopters of cylinder. Though I was still fairly new to opticianry, about 2 years in, I knew based on the prescription in front of me that this child's world would be enriched by having glasses. At the time, it was one of the stronger powers I had worked with. I was closely monitored by my mentoring optician at the time and shown how to properly fit a child, paying close attention to the bridge, temple, and orbital fit. I was involved every step of the way, including edging the lenses for the frame. At the day of dispense, there was a little apprehension on the little guy’s part to leave them on. But once he realized he could see mom a little clearer, you could see his facial muscles relax, and he left them on for longer than a minute. I started to see that little smile grow and he just continued to be his silly little self and almost forget the glasses were on. That was the first time I really understood what kind of positive impact an optician can have in someone’s life.

This past week, I was dispensing a pair of glasses to a gentleman aged ninety years, and he had brought a family member. I placed the glasses on him, and I first went through my normal fitting procedures and adjustments before I provided reading material to assess his comfort level with the glasses. He wasn’t really verbalizing how he felt, but much like the nine-month-old, he kept removing them, looked at something then put them back on. I handed him literature and he placed it down and started to look around the room and outside at the trees, then he started to look down and his hands. I was a little confused because he had such a curious but pleased look on his face as he scanned the room. I asked him if everything seemed ok, and his family member disclosed it was his first pair of glasses, which his family decided to purchase for him. To be quite frank, that was the most heartbreaking and heartwarming thing I had heard. I quickly started to help him navigate with his new bifocals and instructed him how to comfortably utilize them. He left with such a glow in his face and in his eyes!

These are just two isolated instances of the positive impact you can have on a patient's life. As an eye care professional, everyday people make a choice to ask you for help and assist them. Whether they are nine months old or ninety, their gratitude is shared when they keep coming back or celebrate your work with their family and friends.