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Patient Ken Strickland tests out a pair of bioptic telescopic lenses to help improve his sight. (photo by Joe Howell)

Lenses help eye patient zoom in on better vision


3/24/2011 - When Chattanooga resident Ken Strickland was wheeled into the examination room at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute, he could barely make out the images around him.

Left legally blind from a hit and run accident in 2005, his vision was 20/800.

Jeffrey Sonsino, O.D., F.A.A.O., assistant professor at the Center for Sight Enhancement, hoped to change all of that with a pair of bioptic telescopic lenses. The corrective lenses have miniature telescopes mounted across the top of eyeglass frames.

Strickland, 43, was asked to recite the letters on the eye chart. He paused between attempts to make out the bold, black script. Using the corrective lenses of his glasses his vision improved to 20/600.

During the next part of the exam, Strickland viewed the chart through the telescope atop the glasses.

He slowly began uttering the names of the letters, as if he couldn't believe his own eyes.

Jeffrey Sonsino, O.D., F.A.A.O., fits patient Ken Strickland with bioptic telescopic lenses, which helped dramatically improve his vision. (photo by Joe Howell)

Jeffrey Sonsino, O.D., F.A.A.O., fits patient Ken Strickland with bioptic telescopic lenses, which helped dramatically improve his vision. (photo by Joe Howell)

The telescope function allows the user to focus in up to 8 times normal power.

“Is that a C?” he asked tentatively. The visual acuity was improving to 20/500.

Each correct pronouncement was rewarded with another slide with better visual acuity.

“B,” he said more definitely. “F, N,” he continued.

The exam continued until Strickland was able to read the print at 20/50.

To put that in perspective, what Strickland can see at a distance of 20 feet, a person with 20/20 vision can see standing at 50 feet.

“This is a complete game changer for him” said Sonsino. “These glasses give him the ability to zero in on objects. He went from legal blindness to having functional vision.

“You never really know when a patient comes into the clinic if you will be able to help them,” Sonsino said. “Patients like Kenneth Strickland are the reason why I enjoy doing what I do.”

Strickland, owner of Country K-9 Training, suffered multiple broken bones and internal injuries after a former tenant, angry about an eviction notice, ran him over — twice.

The accident cost him his right hip, right eye and minimum vision in his left eye. To date, he has endured nearly 150 surgeries, with more expected.

He was referred to Vanderbilt by Patrick Bowers Jr., M.D., his eye doctor in Chattanooga.

“This is a pure miracle,” said Strickland. “Vanderbilt is an amazing place to be able to help me and I didn't even need a surgery. I wasn't sure it was possible and now … I can read what that badge says,” he exclaimed.

“And I can read the clearance sign on the garage across the street. I can read newspaper print.”

Strickland adjusts the dial on the telescope to focus, much like using binoculars or a scope on a gun. The glasses also have bifocals to enhance his reading ability.

“This is just plain remarkable,” he said. “I love this. It's absolutely fantastic. I couldn't ask for any better.”

Strickland's outlook has not always been positive. The 6'2, 220-pound former private security officer and investigator admits that he has felt like giving up.

But now he has a clearer vision.

“By the grace of God,” he said. “I am moving forward. Maybe people can learn from my experience and it can help others. I am so thankful for all my doctors, Sonsino, Louise Mawn and Uyen Tran here at Vanderbilt.”

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