How Contact Lenses Changed This Writers’ Life

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When the zombie apocalypse happens, you won’t find me smashing through the glass doors of a grocery store in search of food and fuel. I’ll be the lone scavenger at Lens Crafters.

I’m super-nearsighted. So, for me, modern contact lenses are among the greatest inventions of all time. By Darwinian logic, there’s no way I should’ve reached middle age—and I’m not even talking about perishing in some survival-of-the-fittest death, like a wolf attack. I’d be the one falling down an escalator, or something even less dignified.

If I spend 30 seconds every morning putting my contacts in my eyes, and another 30 seconds removing them at night, I have perfect vision all day. I’ve been told LASIK surgery is an even better option. But I follow the old adage: If it ain’t broke, don’t shoot weapons-grade laser beams at your eyeballs.

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To be fair, I had my doubts about contacts early on. My first lenses were six-month disposables. I was 14 years old, and I remember sitting in the opthamologist’s office, listening to her explain the care regimen: Rub them clean with a special saline solution each night; on weekends, soak them in an enzymatic cleaner that eat away any accumulated eye gunk. Be sure to rinse the lenses extra well, because that enzymatic cleaner, given the chance, would devour my eyeballs like a labrador yanking a Thanksgiving turkey off the dinner table.

“Yes, I will totally do all those things,” I told the opthamologist, peering at her through glasses that could be cleaned with tap water and were also pretty dirty.

In high school, I spent a good part of my freshman year weathering the sting of my own neglect. My algebra teacher told my parents I was always rolling my eyes in class. In fact, my eyeballs were squirming in pain. Fortunately, I switched pretty quickly to two-week disposables, which were better suited to my teenage laziness. These days, I rinse my contacts thoroughly each night. I also floss regularly and drink beer from a pint glass, instead of through a hole I punched in the bottom of a can with a key. That’s because I’m now a responsible adult

Newtown Square’s Pete Kennedy is eternally greatful to Adolf Gaston Eugen Fick, the German ophthalmologist who invented contact lenses in 1888, and Otto Wichterle, the Czech scientist
who made them soft 73 years later.

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