But, far greater than getting his words about working with me was the fact that he let you know about his eye condition, keratoconus, which is astigmatism “gone wild”.
Astigmatism occurs when the cornea, the front outside dome over the colored part of our eye, has a cone shape, like a football instead of rounded like a basketball.
Keratoconus occurs when that cone shape continues to push forward. (I liken it to the story of Pinocchio’s nose that continued to grow forward when he told a lie.) Keratoconus can stay quiet for a long time or not move at all. Most begin to change because that is their nature. Eventually, the cone can push so far forward that the cornea starts to scar and ultimately requires a corneal transplant surgery to avoid blindness.
When we diagnosed Rod’s keratoconus, we fit him with special contact lenses that were designed to keep his corneas from moving forward. In most people, we use hard or gas permeable contacts. We couldn’t use those with Rod because he is an athlete and they would fall out every time he got hit. So, we chose a lens for him that was hard in the center and soft on the outside. This gave him lenses designed to keep his corneas stable while also allowing for him to play hockey.
Like most keratoconic patients, Rod’s condition continued to change before stabilizing, making it stressful on him and his eye doctor. Now, he is like the large majority of keratoconic patients who can live life with good vision and have avoided transplant surgery.
When he hoisted the Stanley Cup over his head on June 19, 2006, I felt like a part of me was lifted too because of how fortunate I was to be a person in his life, like others, who had helped him reach that moment. I knew how much he had to go through. It was a true celebration!