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.
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.
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.