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The French movie and our ALS patient Heather

Wang Vision 3D Cataract & LASIK Center, Nashville, Tennessee

The French movie, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (French title: Le Scaphandre et le Papillon), is about a man who became 99.9% paralyzed from a stroke, unable to move anything but his eyelids. He lived in a confined world, yet through his immobile eye, he was able to see the true nature of people, especially since most of them assumed he had also lost his mind and was completely out of it because he could not move, so they were their true selves in front of him. However, his intellect was 100% intact, in! So, he saw the world as it really is. He wanted to write a book about his  truthful and unique view of the world, but how this would be possible. Fortunately, a nurse helped him by teaching him to communicate letters by blinks of his eyes, i.e., blink once for the letter "A," twice for the letter "B," etc. With the nurse’s assistance, he spent several years writing the book one letter at a time. Unfortunately he died on the day the book was published, but it remains a unique, unexpected view of the world that is now a treasure to all of us!

Today I had the remarkable experience to take care of Heather, who has ALS and lives in a way that is very similar to the man mentioned above. Heather is 43, her severe ALS has caused her to be 99.9% paralyzed, and she too is only able to move her eyelids. But she had even more to endure since had also been imprisoned in a world of darkness. Her eyesight was very bad, and the only way she could see anything at all was to wear very thick coke-bottle glasses. Unfortunately, she could not wear the glasses since her paralysis prevented her from being able to put them on or take them off. Even if someone else put them on for her, if the glasses fell off or moved on her face, she could do nothing about it. So she had to constantly deal with looking through shifted glasses with distorted images, and total blindness when the glasses fell off, until someone showed up to put them back on her face.

Heather's world has decreased significantly in recent years as her ALS has gotten worse. Now she is completely restricted physically due to her total paralysis, and the only joy she has been able to experience was reading and watching TV, which could only happen when her glasses happened to be in the right position on her face. Since her ALS has stolen so much from her life, her bad eyesight had threatened to rob the small amount of joy that she had left. To make matters worse, like Stephen Hawkins, Heather is 100%mentally competent, intelligent and completely aware of her surroudnings. This has caused her suffering to be so much worse, as she understands everything going on around her and wants to be able to experience life with others, but cannot; to move, but cannot; to talk to people, but cannot; and finally to see, but more often than not, her bad eyesight and difficulty with glasses made even that desire impossible and frustrating.

Through patients and doctors, Heather finally found Wang Vision and had a full evaluation for 3D LASIK. Although she was a candidate, her 3D LASIK procedure was going to be very difficult. Not only was it physically difficult for her to be put on the surgical bed, but since Heather cannot move her eyeballs and cannot talk, it seemed nearly impossible that she would be able to have 3D LASIK. But we fully prepared her for the procedure, and before I began her surgery, Heather and I prayed deeply that God would perform a miracle and allow her extremely difficult sight restoration surgery to be successful.

During the surgery, we had to use a special computer tracking technique, since Heather could not follow the gaze because her eyeballs could not move. I talked to and her reassuringly throughout the procedure, even though I knew she was unable to give me any feedback. We both trusted God, and I did everything humanly possible to perform her surgery very precisely. It was the most difficult 3D LASIK surgery I have ever done.

Well, God did allow a miracle to happen. Heather's 3D LASIK procedure went beautifully, praise God! After the surgery, Heather and I took a photo together, and she tried her very best to smile! (See the attached photos.)

The most amazing part is still to come. Over the next few days, Heather will try out her new vision. She has a special computer system at home that recognizes her eyelid blinking pattern, and similar to Morse code, allows her to type, one letter at a time!

Just like the man in the movie The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Heather may be able to tell the world, for the first time, what it was like to be in a prison of darkness, and now what it is like to be free, to be able to see ALL the time! To be able to freely enjoy reading books, which she loves so much, will allow her to be transported throughout the world any time she wants, which will enhance her life immensely, all because of the miracle God has given her!


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Drs. Wang and Frenkel, Eye Surgeon, provides laser vision correction, 3D LASIK, laser cataract and many advanced laser eye surgeries to patients in the Nashville, TN area
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