Chapter 28: The Story of Emily

The efficacy of the method of treating imperfect sight without glasses presented in this book has been demonstrated in thousands of cases, not only in my own practice but in that of many persons of whom I may not even have heard; for almost all patients, when they are cured, proceed to cure others. At a social gathering one evening, a lady told me that she had met a number of my patients; but when she mentioned their names, 1 found that I did not remember any of them and said so.

“That is because you cured them by proxy,” she said. “You didn’t directly cure Mrs. Jones or Mrs. Brown, but you cured Mrs. Smith, and Mrs. Smith cured the other ladies. You didn’t treat Mr. and Mrs. Simpkins, or Mr. Simpkins’ mother and brother; but you may remember that you cured Mr. Simpkins’ boy of a squint, and he cured the rest of the family.”

In schools where the Snellen test card was used to prevent and cure imperfect sight, the children, after they were cured themselves, often took to the practice of ophthalmology with the greatest enthusiasm and success, curing their fellow students, their parents and their friends. They made a kind of game of the treatment, and the progress of each school case was watched with the most intense interest by all the children. On a bright day, when the patients saw well, there was great rejoicing, and on a dark day there was corresponding depression. One girl cured twenty-six children in six months; another cured twelve in three months; a third developed quite a varied ophthalmological practice, and did things of which older and more experienced practitioners might well have been proud. Going to the school which she attended one day, I asked this girl about her sight, which had been very imperfect. She replied that it was now very good, and that her headaches were quite gone. I tested her sight and found it normal. Then another child whose sight had also been very poor spoke up.

“I can see all right too,” she said. “Emily” – indicating girl No. l – “cured me.”

“Indeed!” I replied. “How did she do that?”

The second girl explained that Emily had had her read the card, which she could not see at all from the back of the room, at a distance of a few feet. The next day she had moved it a little farther away, and so on, until the patient was able to read it from the back of the room, just as the other children did. Emily now told her to cover the right eye and read the card with her left, and both girls were considerably upset to find that the uncovered eye was apparently blind. The school doctor was consulted and said that nothing could be done. The eye had been blind from birth and no treatment would do any good.

Nothing daunted, however, Emily undertook the treatment. She told the patient to cover her good eye and go up close to the card, and at a distance of a foot or less it was found that she could read even the small letters. The little practitioner then proceeded confidently as with the other eye, and after many months of practice the patient became the happy possessor of normal vision in both eyes. The case had, in fact, been simply one of high myopia, and the school doctor, not being a specialist, had not detected the difference between this condition and blindness.

In the same classroom, there had been a little girl with congenital cataract, but on the occasion of my visit the defect had disappeared. This, too, it appeared, was Emily’s doing. The school doctor had said that there was no help for this eye except through operation, and as the sight of the other eye was pretty good, he fortunately did not think it necessary to urge such a course. Emily accordingly took the matter in hand. She had the patient stand close to the card, where, with the good eye covered, she was unable to see even the big C. Emily now held the card between the patient and the light, and moved it back and forth. At a distance of three or four feet this movement could be observed indistinctly by the patient. The card was then moved farther away, until the patient became able to see it move at ten feet and to see some of the larger letters indistinctly at a less distance. Finally; after six months, she became able to read the card with the bad eye as well as with the good one. After testing her sight and finding it normal in both eyes, I said to Emily:

“You are a splendid doctor. You beat them all. Have you done anything else?”

The child blushed, and turning to another of her classmates, said:

“Mamie, come here.”

Mamie stepped forward and I looked at her eyes. There appeared to be nothing wrong with them.

“I cured her,” said Emily.

“What of ?” I inquired.

“Cross eyes,” replied Emily.

“How?” I asked, with growing astonishment.

Emily described a procedure very similar to that adopted in the other cases. Finding that the sight of the crossed eye was very poor, so much so, indeed, that poor Mamie could see practically nothing with it, the obvious course of action seemed to her to be the restoration of its sight; and, never having read any medical literature, she did not know that this was impossible. So she went to it. She had Mamie cover her good eye and practice the bad one at home and at school, until at last the sight became normal and the eye straight. The school doctor had wanted to have the eye operated upon, I was told, but, fortunately, Mamie was “scared” and would not consent. And here she was with two perfectly good, straight eyes.

“Anything else?” I inquired, when Mamie’s case had been disposed of. Emily blushed again, and said:

“Here’s Rose. Her eyes used to hurt her all the time, and she couldn’t see anything on the blackboard. Her headaches used to be so bad that she had to stay away from school every once in a while. The doctor gave her glasses; but they didn’t help her, and she wouldn’t wear them. When you told us the card would help our eyes I got busy with her. I had her read the card close up, and then I moved it farther away, and now she can see all right, and her head doesn’t ache any more. She comes to school every day, and we all thank you very much.”

This was a case of compound hypermetropic astigmatism.

Such stories might be multiplied indefinitely. Emily’s astonishing record cannot, it is true, be duplicated; but lesser cures by cured patients have been very numerous, and serve to show that the benefits of the method of preventing and curing defects of vision in the schools which is presented in the foregoing chapter would be far-reaching. Not only errors of refraction would be cured, but many more serious defects; and not only the children would be helped, but their families and friends also.

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