What's the worst pain you've ever experienced? And what number would you give it from 1 to 10, if 10 is the worst pain? When it comes to 90-year-old Arlene Acrey: "She's having 8 or 9 out of 10," says Dr. Bryan Sires, Ophthalmic Plastic Surgeon at Kirkland's Allure Facial Laser Center.
"It's bad. It's very sore," says Arlene who uses sign language to communicate. Arlene has been deaf since she was 5-years-old.
"She's had a blind painful eye which is the end result of a disease, which she's had," says Dr. Sires. It's a pain she's endured for the last ten years in her left eye.
"It needs to be taken out of her," says Sonia Robinson, Arlene's daughter.
Dr. Sires will do the job.
"She's already lost the vision in that eye. So she's already gone through a grieving period. And now the second stage is accepting the physical loss of the eye," says Sires.
In August, Dr. Sires removed Arlene's eye and then: "We put an implant back in, letting the tissues heal over the implant. And several weeks to months later, you get a prosthesis just like a large contact lens that fits behind the eyelid that's painted to match the opposite eye."
That's where Ocularist Todd Cranmore comes in. "We're going to keep painting and painting and painting until it matches you," he tell Arlene two months after her surgery.
Arlene had to wait the two months to make sure the swelling was gone. Cranmore is an ocularist with Erickson labs in Kirkland. "It's kind of like model making in a lot of ways," says Cranmore who has been creating prosthetic eyes for fourteen years. He figures he's made 2,000 artificial eyes in all those years. "It's almost like sculpting in a lot of ways," he says.
It's not just the color and look he has to get just right. The fit has to be perfect. "It's a lot of paying attention to what the tissue does, how their eyelids are blinking, the protrusion of the white," he says. There's chopping and shaving, cooking and sculpting, grinding and polishing. There's the fitting and refitting. And the fun part, the painting. And more painting. "So that you can actually see through the cornea, like you would a natural eye," he says.
Finally, the day Arlene and her family have been waiting for. Cranmore puts the finishing touches on her new left eye, and it looks just like her good eye. Arlene loves it and tells her Ocularist: "I'm proud of your work and your job. Thank you. Thank you. "
Arlene's daughter Sonia said it best when she said "Wow." She must have said "wow" twenty times as she smiled and stared at her mom, who is pain free now after all these years.
"It's fun to look at you," says Cranmore leaning forward and checking his work. "I see you winking at me!"