After decades of abusing his eyesight by staring at a screen, Mel Croucher is seeing the world through new eyes, thanks to a Chinese doctor and the miracle of technology
He may be a technological visionary, but Mel Croucher has been unable to see anything at all for some time now. But computers have now restored his 20/20 vision, and what he’s seen is a revelation
COMPUTERS HAVE RUINED my eyesight. A dimmer switch has been applied to the world, which has itself become more and more out of focus, and those floaty things and zig-zag patterns are no longer amusing.
It’s my own fault, of course. I spent 50 years slouched in front of a screen, peering at pixels and absorbing the damage they cause. Those early cathode ray tubes fried my retinas with radiation and beta rays. Then I allowed TFT displays to bombard my eyeballs with charged dust particles. And I embraced ultrawide screens as soon as they hit the market. What I mean is, I threw my arms around them and physically embraced them for hours on end.
These days I can transfer gunk directly into my orbital sockets thanks to touchscreens and an eye-rubbing reflex. The greater the retinal display, the greater the retinal decay. And I have written many articles about the hazards of staring into screens for a living, but I have never taken the slightest bit of notice anything I advised you lot about.
You know how it goes; never view less than an arm’s length away, take a break at least once an hour, minimise reflections and excessive sunlight, adjust background lighting, brightness and contrast to match your surroundings, increase font size, blink like an owl, walk like a man, and all that other sensible stuff. I never took a blind bit of notice.
So when Grace, my eye doctor, aligned her laser beam at my throbbing orbs where the cataracts grow and the pressure explodes, and whispered, “Just a little prick”, I whispered back, “I know I am”.
Even though my stupidity and complacency have allowed computers to ruin my eyesight, do not weep for me, because computers have also saved my eyesight. A clever software program has scanned my eyes from the inside out and created an amusing three-dimensional interior map, which looks a bit like a pair of rotting lychees. A tame robot has drilled 32 precision holes into my eyeballs to stabilise the internal pressures and reduced them from ‘off the scale’ to ‘hmm, that’s better’. And computers have been harnessed for my benefit to guide robotic machines called an auto-refractometer, a phoropter, a lacrimal sac rougine, and a chorizo scoop, although I think I may have misheard that last one.
Slicing eyeballs is one of the oldest surgical procedures in the business. 2,500 years ago they waited for the cataract to get completely opaque and rigid, then waited for the patient to get completely pissed, and then whacked them in the eye with a special eye-whacker, which dislocated the wobbly bit and broke up the crispy bit. Vision was either miraculously restored, or the patient went completely blind. A bit like Brexit.
It wasn’t until 1748 that some bright spark first used a scalpel to successfully restore eyesight, but patients had to be kept immobile with weights on their eyelids and sandbags round their head until everything had healed. Today, computers work out the diagnosis and their robots perform the cure painlessly, without a sandbag in sight.
Grace, my eye doctor, comes from Sichuan in China, whereas my new eyes come from Specsavers in Southampton. Grace has the most beautiful ear lobes I have ever been ordered to stare at, whereas the Specsavers factory is a sterile megalith. It is where hushed humans clad in white spacesuits task another load of robots to churn out precision glasses. Their output accounts for 42% of the UK market and, thanks to the scale of economy provided by these opthalmic automatons, the stylish new specs I am wearing to type these words cost only £35. I happily stumped up another £35 for the prescription sunglasses I wear when I stride outdoors with a confident step, thanks to their collision-avoidance properties. It goes without saying that my prescription sunglasses are rose-tinted.
The world is beautiful, especially when out walking. Those blurry things in the sky now have delightful nuances of colour and texture. I can see that individual bricks in walls have intermittent layers of mortar. I rediscover that the carpet underfoot is made of individual blades of grass and exquisitely camouflaged dog waste. I no longer have to wait until people in the street are within sniffing distance before I can recognise them. I can also tell the difference between a swan and a plastic bag floating in the old moat down by the seafront.
Things are slightly different in the privacy of my own bathroom, where I am aware that curly stray hairs, which used to be invisible, now need disposal on a regular basis. And when I look in the mirror I no longer see a vague hole where my electric toothbrush needs to go, but the detailed wreckage of my former face. Definitely older. Definitely wiser. Definitely defined. I am born again, and eternally grateful to my eye doctor and all those robots. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see.
Slicing eyeballs is one of the oldest surgical procedures in the business