My name is Gee Kim, and I learned that I have convergence insufficiency in a roundabout way. I responded to an ad through Indeed.com to become a vision therapist, a position that afforded the opportunity to work with patients – many of whom are children – that appealed to me.
As part of my orientation, Dr. Press and I began to discuss visual aspects of reading. He asked me if I enjoyed reading, a question that I could tell by the books surrounding me he would have answered in the affirmative. I thought for a moment and realized that I didn’t love reading. It’s not so much that I avoided reading. After all, I went to a competitive high school and handled classwork well at Carnegie Mellon University, so I could deal with reading assignments. But it’s rare that you would catch me reading a book for pleasure.
Curious about my vision, Dr. Press asked if I wore glasses or contact lenses. I have both, but I wasn’t wearing either that day. He explained that in diagnostic testing one of the instruments we use is the automated refractor, which measures the amount of nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism present. We walked over to the instrument and I peered inside a hole which opened my view to a highway with a beautiful hot air balloon in the sky. After a moment’s whirl the colors came into crisp focus, first the right eye and then the left eye.
The printout told only part of my visual story. I had seven units of astigmatism in my right eye, and four units of nearsightedness in my left eye. Interested in how this might affect my focusing, Dr. Press took out his pen and slowly moved the tip in toward my eyes, asking me to keep it clear and single. At the distance of about 12 inches I could feel my left eye begin to drift outward. It was a revelation.
We ran several other tests together, and it was readily apparent to me even as a novice that I was struggling to use both eyes together at near. I recalled that my brother did vision therapy when he was younger, and as Dr. Press explained that I had convergence insufficiency it all started making sense to me.
Thinking back to my childhood I realized that my mother had taken me to the same doctor who diagnosed my brother’s problem, but she felt that my eyes were fine at the time. As a young adult I’ve been examined for whether I needed a prescription to see better far away, but I don’t recall anyone asking me about reading. So here I was, embarking on a journey to become a vision therapist, feeling visually vulnerable for the first time. I am poised to become my first patient, with guidance from a team who will help me learn to appreciate what I have been overlooking. My first week as a vision therapist in training has been exhilarating and revelatory for reasons that I couldn’t possibly have anticipated. Now the job has become personal.