Monday, April 16, 2012

Day 107: How Do You Thank Someone For The Gift of Vision?

After I finished writing the post about my eye color, I got to thinking about Dr. Apt. As I wrote then, he performed 3 surgeries to correct the problem with muscles in my left eye which caused it to cross and turn in terribly. If it had been left like that, it would have left me blind in that eye, likely before I reached the age of 10.

I know I already wrote about this, but he is such an incredible man that I am putting it in here again. And, it is relevant to the current post, so please hang in and read it :)! Dr. Leonard Apt was a founder of the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA Medical Center. Here's some of what this web link (when he was chosen Physician of the Year) says about him, "He is the first physician to be board-certified in both pediatrics and ophthalmology and helped create pediatric ophthalmology as a new sub-specialty in medicine.  He is a founding member of UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute and is recognized as the founder of academic pediatric ophthalmology."

The description of his career ends with this: "His first priority, however, is to preserve the eyesight of infants and children." He certainly has done that throughout his career, and he did that for me. Because of him, thousands of children (like me) have their sight.

After writing about him last month, I realized that I never thanked him for saving my sight, and for preserving the incredible gifts that come with vision. While they are literally too numerous to mention, there a few things that move me so much just by looking at them including the sunset, the coastal redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains, purple irises just as they are opening up, a full moon on a clear night, the Golden Gate Bridge, the view of San Francisco from Twin Peaks, the Eiffel Tower and the view of Paris from the Eiffel Tower, Coit Tower and the view of San Francisco from Coit Tower, and the Getty Center, especially the gardens, and the view of LA from the Getty Center.

Rocking the eye patch, which apparently I hated since I have been told I'd rip them off and stick them on walls, my crib, the table, pretty much anything that wasn't my eye!

So, the day after writing the post, I decided to try to find him, but, I was worried that it might be too late because doing the math (yeah, not easy for me, being math challenged), I figured he would be about 86 now and it was likely he might not still be around.

But, I called up the Jules Stein Eye Institute and asked the poor guy answering the phone if Dr. Apt was still alive and did he still have an office there. And lo-and-behold, he said, "he's got an office number, I will transfer you but he's not on staff here and don't know if he still uses it, but you can try it."

After a couple of rings, a woman's voice came on the voice mail system stating that it was the office of Dr. Leonard Apt and instructed callers to leave a voice mail, which I did.

That was just a little over a month ago. After about 3 weeks went by, I figured that he no longer used that number and that I wouldn't hear from him. But, on Friday I received a voice message from him, and he told me to call him back with times that I was available to talk. Since I am a rule follower (of course I am), I did as instructed and waited for his call.

He called me back yesterday and we talked for about half an hour. He is a human dynamo, he's as sharp as ever, and he says he doesn't see patients anymore on a regular basis but he will see them when the other doctors need another opinion, and he does go into the office regularly still, but not always at the same time. He is on several boards at UCLA, mostly having to do with the arts and is a big supporter of Royce Hall.

After telling me all about himself, he said, "I want to hear about you, and your life. I am so happy to hear from you." After I told him I had gone on to college, and to graduate school and that I am a researcher and a writer, he said, "it sounds like you have had an interesting life. I am glad." 

He also said, "you are one of my oldest patients and sadly, we don't have all the records anymore, they didn't keep them all and now everything is electronic. But, I am going to check to see if I can find anything."

I told him I would love to see him in person to catch up and he said that after the spring is best because this is his busy time. He said he'd call me in about a month to set up a time to meet and we hung up. About 15 minutes later he called back and said, I know you said you were married but isn't your last name the same as it was before? I said, "yes, I never changed it." He said, "okay, it will help me to know what name to look up."

Then he said, "I have to know, how is it cosmetically?" I said, "oh, it looks great, just when I am really, really tired, sometimes it still crosses a bit." He said, "oh, that's very common, glad to hear that you are okay with how it looks." I told him that I never thought that he would be concerned about how it looked, because all he ever did was work me to death doing eye exercises to make sure my eyes were working together and that I could see.

I also told him that I didn't know how to thank him for what he has done for me, I don't think there are enough words to describe the gratitude I feel. He said, "well, you are a writer, why don't you write me something and I can add it to my scrapbook. I have received many letters and am finally putting one together. I would love to include yours. You can give it to me when we see each other."

I am looking forward to being able to do that and am glad it is not too late. I only hope that I can really express how grateful I am. 


  1. Great post! I recently looked up my fourth grade teacher....wanted to say thanks and was hoping it wasn't too late, also. It took a while to track her down but I eventually got an email from her. It was wonderful to connect and I'm hoping we'll be able to get together next time I'm down in California. Sounds like he appreciated hearing from you!

  2. Hi Robin!

    That is cool you managed to track her down and it would be really great if you do get to see her. I am sure as a teacher it means even more to you do thank your own teachers. I haven't had luck in finding my 6th grade teacher who was so inspirational to me. Might try again!