“Where do you want me to start?” Eye specialist, Dr Ross Fitzsimons, looked over a list of vision difficulties that filled up half a page. If you’re Google searching your own eye specialties words like myopia, astigmatism, strabismus (squint), severe dry eyes and “is Lasik surgery really good idea if I don’t understand why neither my glasses nor contacts work” might bring you here. The behavioural implications of the above had also become significant. Imagine the things you would modify if you couldn’t read street signs, white boards, train timetables, recognise people from more than a few feet away or just sit up and take in the view. I’m so desensitised to eye drops I can insert them while riding my bike along a dirt road in a race.
I wanted to tell Dr Fitzsimons that after several years of appointments, I hoped he was the end point not the start. We agreed on two broader areas that were making my vision difficult: my eyes seemed to be rejecting contact lenses, and as my glasses had become stronger they made me want to fall asleep, hence the overuse of contacts. If we could figure out the glasses part, I would be able to give my eyes a break from their little silicon shields. The solution was found via some interesting tests and a humble little prism. Turns out that the effort needed by my eye muscles to help my right eye see things in the same point in space as my left eye is extra when I’m wearing minus eight specs.
An odd-shaped head
Prescription sports eyewear has come a long way in recent years. Stronger scripts can be fitted as inserts, and less strong scripts can be made up as part of the main lens. Long eyelashes, big eyes and some painful pressure points on the side of my head add an extra degree of difficulty to the limited set of sports frames that fit my coke bottle script. Adidas Eyewear suggested I contact Tony Cole at Individual Eyewear, Cronulla. He thinks outside the square, they said. And he has a way of making the impossible possible. If they weren’t the words they used, that’s how I translated them.
Often when people are the master of their domain, they don’t even realise how exceptional they are. I laid down a prescription eyewear challenge for Tony and he solved the problems of a difficult script and an odd shaped head with simplicity and ease. The lashing could be fixed with a new product on the market that would allow my script to sit further inside the frame – Adidas Eyewear’s Evil Eye Halfrims. Lenses were ordered and cut to size in a way that would keep the thickness and the weight down. An extended nosepiece provides the final touch here. The script can be easily removed on contact lens days, and riders with a less extreme script can go straight for custom optical lenses rather than the prescription insert. As for the pressure points, a bit of heat to mould the sides of the frame and some runners hooks to keep it snug on the ears given the extra weight up front jumped this final hurdle. For me, with the insert, the final package comes in at 38gms, not very heavy at all.
What seems special to me must be what people have been seeing for years: Crisp definition as far as the eyes can see. Even the trees in the distance have all their leaves. The world has transformed as things in the distance become part of my awareness. It’s like living in a whole new city, driving down new roads, riding my bike in places I’ve heard about but never fully appreciated. I can see race arrows, multiple line choices and up my speed. Instead of simply trying to stay on the track, I can play on it again: pump it for speed and dance on my bike as I move it around in relation to the terrain. And my depth perception has improved making things in the midfield jump out with an extra dose of 3D.
A record two-day turn around on the new specs meant the new improved vision arrived just in time to race my bike in Alice Springs. Not only was seeing the landscape thrilling beyond words, but the dry air in the Territory would have exacerbated my contact lens troubles to a point of misery. Vision without effort is so relaxing.
Who to talk to and who to thank
Sponsorship for many athletes is about getting to use some of the best products around. Sponsorship in this situation meant access to some of the best advice around too. Thank you to Chanh Lê Huy and Rod Roberts at Adidas Eyewear for knowing where to go and for their generous help with frame options once I’d arrived. To Tony Cole at Individual Eyewear, thanks for knowing exactly what would work, how to tweak it and for the lightening turn around on the race shades. Dr Kay Koutzas at Individual Eyewear was the first person to pick up on the impact of the squint and helped me with reading glasses to take the effort out of my PhD.
The above information led me to the Marsden Eye Specialists in Parramatta to see Ophthalmologist Dr Fitzsimons and Orthoptist, Melia – the tag team that made wearing distance glasses possible again and helped me see the world beyond my own nose.
Knowing where to go is obvious when you know where to look but this combination of people who are so good at what they do achieved something six years of asking others could not. So thank you again, and I hope you enjoy being able to do the same for so many others as well. If you’re reading this in relation to your own vision questions I hope it encourages you to find some answers that work for you too. Describing eye sight is hard, especially when you don’t have a vocab for what’s going on or a clear idea about how it differs from the experience of others. But if you can find ways to talk about it, and people who can translate these words into actions, the result is a life changer.
Images: Kath Bicknell (glasses) and Tim Hill (loving the trails).