Hope for blemished eyes

When Houston Rogers injured his left eye in an industrial accident in 1976, the traumatic experience not only cost him loss of sight in the eye but left it disfigured.

A doctor fitted him with a hard cosmetic lens soon afterwards, but the pain caused Rogers to discontinue wearing it.

Early this fall, optometrist Brad A. Altman, knowing of the blemished eye, suggested Rogers come by his Aprima Consultants in Eye Health office in Mt. Juliet for consultation as he believed he might be able to help.

“I thought there might be a solution I could offer so I asked him to come see me,” said Dr. Altman. “I asked if anyone had helped in the past, and he said, ‘Yes, years ago somebody made me a hard prosthetic, but it was uncomfortable, and I couldn’t wear it.’”

Rogers, who lives in Lebanon, was 19 years old and working as a mechanic at Texas Boot when a belt broke on a piece of equipment and hit him in the eye.

“Being a hemophiliac was what ultimately led to my blindness in that eye. When I was younger, I knew I bled more than other people. I didn’t know I was a hemophiliac until the eye hemorrhaged. I didn’t have enough clotting factors and that’s why I lost it,” he recalled.

A Nashville optometrist made Rogers a hard prosthetic, but he says, “I never could wear it. My eyes teared up so much. I wore it about a month, but it was too painful so I put it away.”

After Dr. Altman examined the eye, he knew immediately that he could put Rogers at ease with a soft prosthetic lens.

“In my mind I thought it really could be a challenge to match the color of his good iris because it was in the greenish-brown tone, and light irises can be hard to match,” said Altman.

Not to worry.

“It looks exactly like my other eye. It looks natural,” Rogers said of the prosthetic.

“Things like this…really bring a smile to my face.” – Dr. Brad Altman

As for how his eye feels, Rogers said, “Before, it was real dry. I didn’t realize I blinked so much because my eye was dry. Brad got me to putting drops in before he gave me the prosthetic. It felt better and was not so irritated. Then he put the contact in, and now it feels great, more normal. I don’t have to blink so much.”

“Matching the diameter, pupil and color was relatively straightforward,” Dr. Altman said of the process of creating the soft lens, which took four weeks from start to finish.

Margie Morgan, a friend of Rogers, saw him the first evening he wore the soft lens.

“He had it on for the first time and he was so excited. He said, ‘I used to kind of hold my head down, but now I can hold my head up and look straight at everybody.’ He made me know how pleased and how blessed he felt that Dr. Altman had talked to him about this possibility.”

Said Rogers, “I feel more self-confident and am not as self-conscious as I was.”

“All the education expense and all the time invested in training and my fellowship, it’s things like this that really bring a smile to my face and makes it all worthwhile,” said Dr. Altman.

“There can be many reasons one’s eye may appear different than the other, including an injury, like Mr. Rogers. I’d just like patients and their doctors to know that there are options available, and Aprima offers these custom prosthetics and aesthetic services for ocular trauma as well as for misshaped pupils and even those who suffer from albinism or severe light sensitivity.”