It was through Sue Barry’s Facebook post that I learned about Robert Bryan (Buzz) Crockett, and of his passing. Like another famous Crockett before him, Buzz was described in his obituary as an adventurer, storyteller, sailor, author, and all around bon vivant.
In the foreword to Cross-eyed Optimist, Sue writes: “As Buzz gained greater control of his vision, colors became brighter and surfaces more textured. By balancing the input from his two eyes, his face, body, and gait became more symmetrical and balanced … ‘Stereoscopic vision’, Buzz wrote, ‘to someone who has never experienced it, is more than seeing. With it comes a whole new feeling of having a world around me, of being included in it, and it being more alive and fluid.’ As he began to see the world in its fullness, he saw himself differently too. He no longer regarded himself as broken but felt himself as whole.”
Both Sue in Fixing My Gaze, and Buzz in Cross-eyed Optimist, describe ways in which absent binocular vision despite early eye muscle surgeries and straight-looking eyes presented significant challenges early in life that they had to work very hard to overcome. These include difficulties in school which, until recent years, has received scant attention in the ophthalmic literature. Buzz writes: “I couldn’t read properly, focus, or retain what I had read. In school, they labeled me unmotivated, rebellious, and other terms that told me I was a problem.”
Patients with non-cosmetically noticeable strabismus or small angle misalignment of the eyes are frequently stereoblind despite sharp eyesight in each eye individually. In many regards their quality of life (QoL) is compromised as it is for individuals with individuals having non-strabismic amblyopia, as thematically diagrammed in this recent article in Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics.
As the authors of the article note: “These findings urge eyecare practitioners to look beyond clinical parameters to understand the larger implications of amblyopia and to have meaningful conversations addressing patients’ QoL
concerns.” When Buzz was about 20 he saw Dr. Larry MacDonald in Massachusetts where he lived at the time, but buried the Brock String he was given in his drawer, not having the maturity to commit to vision therapy. When he was in his 50s and living in Florida he saw Dr. Richard Sorkin who gave Buzz more tools to work with, but he was still not sufficiently motivated to undertake vision therapy. It was only after reading Oliver Sacks’s article about Stereo Sue that he found a role model who inspired him. After reading Fixing My Gaze while living in Halifax Nova Scotia he was determined to seek out an optometrist experienced in adult strabismus therapy, much as Dr. Theresa Ruggiero collaborated with Sue Barry. That no such person existed in his area didn’t deter him, and Buzz hand-picked Dr. Angela Dobson who took a year off from her practice to become the partner that he visualized.
From what I gather, Dr. Dobson had taken OEP courses and was already working with brain injury patients, but Buzz was her first adult vision therapy patient with strabismus. His book, with honorable mention of names familiar to many VT practitioners such as Drs. John Abbondonza, Robin Lewis, Steve Gallop, and Pilar Vergara Giménez, is a wonderful tribute to the benefits and rewards of a mutually respectful doctor/patient relationship. Please order at least one copy, and after you’ve finished reading it be sure to share this remarkable story within your social networks as Buzz had envisioned.
Toward the end of the book, Buzz shares how his incredibly improved vision enabled him to dream about purchasing a restored 1946 Cessna 140 in his early ’70s, hopes that were dashed when the aircraft was severely damaged while taxiing. Buzz writes: “… a medical certificate and my license to fly remain beyond my grasp, and I’ve halted the pursuit. I’ll have to earn my next wings in heaven.” If this book is any indication, he is well on his way.