Superheroes with designer eyes

Posted on 2019-08-29

Kristen was surprised by how perfectly her baby boy’s new prosthetic eye matched his left eye. She felt that her son was finally feeling like himself again after a heartbreaking battle with Retinoblastoma claimed his right eye.

Today, superhero Jayden is a happy, talkative and smiling seven-year-old—and five years cancer-free.

“If you’ve done a good job, they’re happy—and yeah, I know it sounds a bit corny but it changes their lives,” says ocularist David Carpenter when interviewed about his career by Mosaic. “And that’s honestly the best part of it, that you know you’ve helped somebody out.”

Carpenter works at Moorfields Eye Hospital in England where he creates around 1,400 customised prosthetic eyes each year, serving patients who have lost their eye to accidents and disease.

In the U.S., there are only a few hundred board certified ocularists. Since ocularistry isn’t taught in any school, apprentices must instead spend 10,000 hours, or five years, training in the craft under a certified ocularist.

Prosthetic eyes have come a long way from crude glass eye replicas that were uncomfortable to the wearer.  Now custom-fit prosthetic eyes made from acrylic are painstakingly molded and painted by an artist for a precise replica of the original eye.

No detail is spared. Even the whites of the eyes are carefully colored to match a truer version of the eye’s off-white color, and red threads of silk are laid in, covered and polished, to replicate the eye’s blood vessels.

Of course, some children with a prosthetic eye like to add their own signature design. Our superhero Austin initially had trouble coping with the removal of his eye, but said in the end that he was glad to be out of pain. He now has a prosthetic eye with a Batman pupil—a prosthetic eye worthy of a superhero.

With growing research and sophisticated practices, both children and adults are finding prosthetic eyes life changing—but there is another field of research that is expanding thanks to the indomitable spirits of those with monocular (one-sided) vision.

Scientists are finding that the brain can relearn depth perception, making athletes like Isaiah Austin, a professional basketball player, an example of what the brain will adjust to with practice.

We also think Isaiah is a great example to young athletes because of his consistent choice to wear goggles during games. This protects his remaining left eye from further trauma, a leading cause of vision loss. Unfortunately, Isaiah lost his right eye due to trauma during a baseball accident—a reminder that goggles are always a good idea!

We are so proud of our superheroes who prove each day that there are no limits to the great things they can achieve. We know that those with monocular vision have achieved success in literature (like Alice Walker), acting (like Peter Falk), and politics (like Theodore Roosevelt)—and we can’t wait to see what amazing things our superheroes achieve in the future!