Tuesday, March 12, 2013

In My Face - the journey to a pretty plastic eye



I once worked with a guy who laughed when I told him I had a fake eye- he responded with 'oh, you're like a circus freak, you should go on tour'. It's safe to say he was a dick.

Most people will say something along the lines of 'well that's a neat party trick'... So here's my rabbit out of a hat. The practical in's and out's (quite literally) of having a prosthetic eye.

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The most encountered artificial eye is an acrylic prosthetic eye, which is what I have. It's used to replace a natural eye which has been either “enucleated” or “eviscerated.”  These are the medical terms for surgical removal of all or part of a severely damaged, diseased or tumored eye. 

Having an artificial eye made is a time consuming and painful process with lots of poking, prodding, analysing and correcting. The very nature of the process is invasive both physically and emotionally. If you're lucky, it takes a couple of days from start to finish, with a few days of waiting in between. If you're not, it can take weeks while the eye is perfected again and again. 

 Firstly, an impression of the eye socket is made with wax (kind of like the wax a surfer would use to block his ears whilst in the water- it's soft and mailable and rough in texture) to assure proper fit for maximum comfort and mobility. This is done by moulding a small portion of wax until it fits the eye socket perfectly. There are to be no gaps and no flat bits. The upper eye lid is kindly encouraged to sit at the same level as it does on the 'real' eye while the bottom lid is encouraged to do the same. This is where all the hard work is done- it's easily the most uncomfortable part of the process and leaves one feeling like they have been punched in the eye ball for at least 3 days. 

 After the exact shape for the artificial eye is determined an acrylic mould is cast. Did you know they use some kind of plaster of paris (or something) to make the mould? It's just like the Plaster Fun House except with eye balls, not miniature animals.

 The next step is artistic replication of the colour of the eye. 

This is where the true art form in artificial eye making becomes evident. Over many years and many hours I have watched Edit, my now retired ocularist, match shades, mix colours and painstakingly paint tiny sheets of white plastic with a perfect pupil, iris and veins. Every minute detail is taken into account. 

In the following sitting the iris is painted on a small 'dot' called an Iris button and then embedded into the mould. Once these two components are combined the veins are added, some are hand painted while others are simply teeny tiny bits of red cotton (so arts and crafts, darling). As an artificial eye rarely fits perfectly the first time, many additional sittings are often needed to add/ remove acrylic and fine tune that plastic puppy. 


If people are brave enough, they will ask if I can take my eye out (i've even been asked for a live demonstration- given my last post about this, i'm sure you understand how I'd feel about that). 

The answer is Yes. I can take it out- but no, I won't be showing you. 

It's necessary for proper care of the eye and socket to keep it clean and give it time to air. I take my eye out every evening as it's simply too uncomfortable to wear all the time- consider it a stiletto, if you will. It makes you far easier to look at and detracts attention from your sizeable rump (just me?) but it's entirely uncomfortable and those that really love you can just deal with the fat arse situation. The only people who have seen my face sans 'eye' are my parents, brother, husband and children - so that's where the analogy and reality depart- most of my friends have enjoyed a viewing of my large bum at some point in time.

 It's something deeply private for me and i don't relish the thought of my kids becoming aware that it's different and asking questions. 


When it's out, I avoid mirrors because... well, it's ugly.


It's funny, I thought writing my previous story would be far more emotionally draining than it was- it's actually all this 'practical' stuff that leaves me a quivering mess. 

Tomorrow, four days before my 30th birthday, Dave and I will journey to a new artificial eye maker and he will take a wax mould of my socket. The process with begin again. It will be shit and I will cry and feel like i've been punched in the face for a few days. But it's part of me and part of my life - my journey. 

Tomorrow I will be both an adult and a child. I will be almost 30 and a mother to my own babies. I will be grateful that they are healthy and have two beautiful seeing eyes each. I will also be grateful for my experiences, for my parents who nurtured me through 28 years of eye making ordeals and told me I was beautiful, eye in or eye out. 

I will be grateful for my one seeing eye and for the pretty plastic one, too.

related posts

my untold story
my mum's story- having a baby girl with cancer
the cancer residue- part one
the cancer residue - part two


Below is a little video about the process if you're interested.


58 comments:

  1. You are a brave & beautiful woman. I know I am not alone in feeling appreciation for your realness & honesty. Thank you for being so vulnerable & sharing something so personal with us all. Bless you!!

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  2. What a shit process to have to endure. Let's hope with the invention of the hover board in the not to distant future, painless awesome synthetic eyes that see and last are not too far behind.

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    1. I'm so with you Astred! Gotta get me a hover board too, I mean- if i've gotta have the eye, I deserve the board, right?

      xx

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  3. Such a beautiful post! When I first read that you had artificial eye I was so amazed at how well you coped and how great the detail is, you really would never know. You should always be proud of who you are and what you've gone through. Unfortunately it's not always easy, I know too well as I used to have a Colostomy bag from when I was 17 and I'm sure you can imagine the endless jokes that 'friends' came up with at my expense. But not once was I ashamed because I wouldn't have been there to hear their jokes if I hadn't become a 'bag lady'.
    You're an amazing lady, I wish you tons of luck with the whole process.
    x

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    1. Hey bag lady, i'm circus freak. Nice to meet you :)

      Together we stand!

      xx

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    2. Glad to hear it all went well yesterday, you're an inspiration to us all. xx

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  4. Just another unique thing about you, thanks for sharing........I think your cool!

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  5. You simply are a remarkable woman! Full stop no captial letters. Wishing you a gentle time tomorrow and an indulgent and utterly divine lunch afterwards. :) xx

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  6. Gosh, that does sound very painful. How often do you need a new one? There's someone particularly private and special about eyes isn't there - the gateway to the soul and all that. I think you're super brave for sharing this about yourself and all the best for tomorrow and the next few days. Mel xx

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    1. Not very often these days. I think it's been at least 5 years!

      xx

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  7. I have read this post several times. It has moved me. It has made me think.

    I so admire the way you put yourself out there. Your vulnerablility is also your strengh.

    Thank you for this brve and honest post.

    Leanne xx

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    1. Thank you Leanne, I'm so grateful for your words.

      xx

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  8. What an incredible process of creation, but I wish it weren't so painful for you. I'll be thinking of you tomorrow. How often do you need to go back for a new one? I figured it would be fairly often as a kid, but what about as an adult? Take care and sing out if you need anything :)sarah

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    1. It truly is a creative process!

      I needed a new eye every two years growing up but these days it's every 4 or 5 or so! I just knew I wouldn't have time once this baby came and at 30, my eyes are as saggy as my breasts, so it needed to be done

      xo em

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  9. I love your honesty and braveness (is that a word!?) that is why I visit here. Happy birthday and all the best for the fitting x

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  10. I'm very moved by this post, and all I notice in those photos of you is your beautiful smile. x

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  11. Good for you. I'm grateful for you too. ;)

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  12. All the best for the upcoming journey. You really are so brave sharing this with us x

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  13. Hello, new to your blog - just have to tell you how beautiful you are, how your eyes light up your face as does your smile - most likely lit by your soul! I hope you are struck with bodicean bravery and their are plenty of arms to hold you afterwards so you can rest like a babe. Take care now xx

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  14. Oh Em, I am so touched that you shared this with us....
    I will be thinking of you tomorrow, and praying.
    So much love,
    Ronnie xo

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  15. I hope its over as quickly as possible and with minimal pain, doesnt sound fun but I echo all those above and thank you for your honesty and willingness to be vulnerable and share this personal story. How often do you have to endure this process over and over again, understand (or think I do) that as a child your/your face/bones etc would grow and change meaning (I assume) more changes to the eye? but why as an adult and how often. Pardon my ignorance. Really just hoping you dont have to repeat this process annually or anything like that?

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  16. ps laughing about your arts and crafts comments with the red thread

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  17. Em it only makes you more interesting! Plus you are stunning with or without that eye in, im sure! Do you have the eyelids around the eye? My mother-in-law is an ocularist...she's so talented at what she does, I love watching her make the eyes, what a process! I truly admire her patience, and the patience of what her patients (and you) have to go through!
    x

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    1. yes, I have eye lids. everything but the ball, m'lady.

      xx

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  18. Good for you, brave sista.

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  19. Thank you so much for sharing what must be such a private and intimate part of your life. Thinking of you tomorrow. x

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  20. you are amazing. thankyou for sharing. all the best for tomorrow, i will keep you in my prayers.

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  21. Thank you for feeling like you could share this part of your story with us Em. You are very brave. I hope tomorrow goes smoothly for you and you aren't in too much discomfort or pain afterwards. And you truly are beautiful... every time you share a photo of your pretty face I think about how gorgeous you are, truly :)

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  22. I hope it all goes well, Em. Thank you for sharing such a personal and interesting life experience with us all. x

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  23. Laurie Colwin wrote about the world dividing between people on her side and those that were not. In other words the people who she clicked with, who made her feel comfortable and loved. Well I'm on your side and I'm certain if we met you would be on mine! Another brilliant, personal, thoughtful post, Jo xx

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  24. What a fascinating post, thank you for being so open about this. I think if everyone in the "blogosphere" were braver in sharing all the little things that make us all unique, we would celebrate those differences more and be less vested in homogeneity. You are beautiful and no doubt loved and supported by your family and medical community. I wish you the best of luck with this next process, may it be as painless as possible!

    Thank you again for writing this post!

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  25. This was so interesting, thank you so much for being so honest and sharing this. I can't imagine having to deal with that on a regular basis but I can tell that it's made you stronger and more grateful for what you do have. I will be thinking about you tomorrow . . . xo
    You are beautiful and I'm so happy to be along with you on your journey.

    Sarah

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  26. You are such an inspiration, and I truly enjoy reading about your experience. Thank you for sharing, and showing your readers a look at the subject from your perspective.

    All the best to you!
    Audra

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  27. You are super beautiful Em, and a real inspiring mama to boot. Congratulations on your upcoming thirtieth (wow, so young!) and hope the eye process is bearable this time round. xxx

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  28. I am brand new to your blog, and I just wanted to say, thank you for sharing with us. It was so beautifully written. I`m sorry to hear that it will be a painful experience for you, but it's wonderful to hear how supportive your family is, and how dedicated the man that makes the eye is.

    Some Snapshots Blog
    Jess

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  29. May the force be with you tomorrow. It's very good of you to explain the process here. Although I've been reading your blog for a while, I keep forgetting about your glass eye - it's probably shallow to say, but you wear it well!

    Felicitations on your imminent birthday! I hope you're able to celebrate in style. I'd also like to wish you good health for what remains of the pregnancy! Autumn babies are delicious ;-)

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  30. you are so amazing! The more i read your blog the more i think that! what a fabulous post and your parents are so right, you are so very beautiful x

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  31. You are a truly beautiful woman, do you know that? x

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  32. Em, I read this and the other related posts, through unabated tears and sobs. You are so brave and so beautiful. I have an eye condition, that is very, very minor, but I do know what it feels like to have kids say hurtful things, and people stare (I wore a pirate patch at primary school or had one lense of my dame edna style specs blacked out - to build strength in my bad eye). I know what it is like to have endless visits to the eye and ear hospital and miss school, and return to find my friends had moved on without me. I remember the painful exercises all too well. Thankyou for sharing you story - you are an inspiration xx

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    1. I don't think the size/ severity of the condition really matters, it's the being different that stands out.

      I was a pirate too ;)

      xxx

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  33. I've just stumbled upon your blog (whilst I'm supposedly working, eek)! It is beautiful and the way you tell this story is so brave! How you tie your words are extroardinary!!

    Much Love

    Shelley
    http://selectlearningnet.blogspot.com.au

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  34. I've just stumbled upon your blog (whilst I'm supposedly working, eek)! It is beautiful and the way you tell this story is so brave! How you tie your words are extroardinary!!

    Much Love

    Shelley
    http://selectlearningnet.blogspot.com.au

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  35. Em, when I was in high school, I had a friend who had lost both her eyes to childhood cancer and she had two gorgeous prosthetic eyes. She used to describe them as her wearable art, and that's something that's stuck with me to this day. She would take them out when she came for sleepovers, and like you, she was (and still is) beautiful with eyes in, or out. Thanks for your vulnerability and humility in sharing your story with us all, and I hope that today went ok!

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  36. Em, when I was in high school, I had a friend who had lost both her eyes to childhood cancer and she had two gorgeous prosthetic eyes. She used to describe them as her wearable art, and that's something that's stuck with me to this day. She would take them out when she came for sleepovers, and like you, she was (and still is) beautiful with eyes in, or out. Thanks for your vulnerability and humility in sharing your story with us all, and I hope that today went ok!

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  37. I only just read this now Em, but I am so glad today went so well for you and that the new guy was so gentle and kind. You are so beautiful and so brave. Thank you for sharing this with us. Much love xo

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  38. So glad today was better! I can't believe people would ask you to take it out??? So rude to ask

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  39. i just think your wonderful, a blog is such an easy platform to hide behind and share only shiny happy, cheery things, I feel a bit honored that you chose to 'keep it real' and share with us. And i think your a beacon of shiny, happy, cheery things just by being you and can't thank you enough for it! your little ones have a roaring role model who will notice that you are different only because your awesome!

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  40. you're so honest and awesome :)

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  41. Glad to read you had a better day today. Big hugs to you beautiful lady x

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  42. I don't really know what to say except that you are amazing, quite inspirational in fact, and I do hope the eye fitting goes well and doesn't leave you too physically and emotionally bruised. x

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  43. Newish to your blog, I have never once picked up on this in any of your images. I am so glad you choose to share and to be positive about it. My little sister is going blind and jokes, she use to fall over when she could see, so being blind is not much different. Hearing you say you are grateful for the vision in the other eye is just, well, amazing!

    http://iliska-dreams.blogspot.com.au/

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  44. Em, what an inspiration you are! Thanks for sharing something that most of us would have no idea about unless it was happening to someone close. You are Beautiful! Inside and Out! xx

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  45. My goodness Em - it sounds like a harrowing experience. I just read on your most recent post that things went better than expected - so pleased for you. You are one amazing lady, lady! xx

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  46. I like reading this blog. Its a very useful blog for me. Thanks a lot for sharing. Keep sharing. for more details and information's, visit the site if necessary,

    www.artificialeyeco.com

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Thanks so much for your words of encouragement, advice and solidarity.

xo em