What a spectacle! – By a parent

I’m writing to tell you of our recent breakthrough with regard to our daughter’s glasses. I hope this information might be of some help to others who suffer with glare from the sun.

Our youngest daughter Sarah was born in September 2000 with a retinal eye condition called Lebers Congenital Amarousis. We were told when Sarah was a baby that she had no vision and it was unlikely that she ever would have. Sarah is now 6 and is in senior infants in School and doing very well. She did develop quite a lot of usable vision and now is managing to use large print. Sarah’s usable vision is however totally dependent on the right lighting conditions. She manages very well indoors as long as there is not too much sunlight in the room but outside or in a bright room Sarah is totally blind. She would rather have the curtains pulled and the light on than have the sun coming through the window. In our house this meant lots of time for us as a family shutting out the sunshine we see so little of in this country!

She used to wear transition lenses, which made it a bit more comfortable for her but didn’t do a lot to help her vision. Sarah’s uncle who trained as an electrical engineer suggested to me on many occasions that if we could just figure out which frequency of light was bothering Sarah we could filter it out and help her see better outside. He also drew on his own experiences of wearing sunglasses when he was mountain climbing and said that ordinary glasses were just no good as they let in too much light around the sides and that “wrap around” glasses were the only ones that would work for him to help with the glare reflecting off the snow at high altitudes. It all sounded so easy!

We could not find wrap around glasses that would take a prescription of +5. After nearly two years of looking and lots of strange looks from “the professionals” I went to a low vision clinic in the NCBI office in Waterford. Kjell Nolke had opened his opticians locally and was running the clinic.
As I sat there telling him about my brothers “theories” he sat there nodding his head in agreement. I was amazed.

Kjell said the lens of the eye focus’s every frequency of light (except blue light) on to one spot on the retina and the retina converts this into an image the brain can interpret. It cannot however focus blue light. It scatters blue light across the retina. This causes glare, which for people with normal vision is not a huge problem but for most people with visual impairment it wipes out everything else. In Sarah’s case this was making her totally blind outside. Kjell went on to say that he could provide Sarah with glasses that would filter out blue light. Different people find different colours easier to wear. Personally I found the black ones comfortable for my eyes but Sarah picked a brownish shade.

Not entirely convinced as to how well these glasses would work we said our good byes and left the office with the new glasses in my bag. Sarah walked confidently through the building as usual but when we reached the front door of the building she stopped dead in her tracks as usual and the “wait for me mummy” “hold my hand mummy” came. I suggested to her that we would put on the new over glasses and see how we would get on. What happened next took my breath away. Sarah said “mummy I can see. Look! I can see cars over there. Don’t hold my hand I want to find our car myself”. With a small amount of verbal guidance but without holding my hand, for the first time ever Sarah walked through the car park and found our car herself.

Kjell had also mentioned that he had a pair of small wrap around sports frames that would take Sarah’s prescription lenses. These lenses could also have the blue light filter on them. This means she only has to wear one pair of glasses not two.

Sarah can now find her own way into school in the morning, weno longer live in the half-light at home and Sarah’s life is generally improved as a result. The name of the opticians in Waterford is Ardkeen Opticians, Ayres Court, The Uluru Centre, Dunmore Road, Waterford. The man who took us out of the dark is Kjell Nolke. Phone 051 855638

Kjell says that while he is more than happy to talk to anyone and fit glasses for anyone who can get to him he says these glasses and lenses should be available to any optician. He gave me the make and model of them to pass on to any one who might be interested. Sarah’s glasses came from Norville Optical in the UK the frames are Mx20 Sports frame and they come either with side arms or these can be removed and an elasticated strap can be fitted. The lenses are PLS 540 lenses with +5 prescription (Obviously this will vary according to each individuals needs). There is also a wide range of over glasses.

Sarah’s grandmother has developed macular degeneration and also suffers greatly with glare. When she tried on Sarah’s first pair of over glasses she found them to be of great help also. She now wears her own over glasses whenever she is outside.