Stories From the Clinic
by Emily C. Lierman. Stories From the Clinic was first published in 1926.
THE patients who come to our clinic do wonderful things, especially the school children. We can give each one of them, as a rule, only about five minutes of our time, and yet they are able to carry out their instructions at home, and to get results. This is a great tribute to their patience and intelligence.
Most of the children and adults are helped by palming, and remarkable cures have been obtained by this means alone. A little lad had been so injured in an automobile accident that he had only light perception in his left eye. It was some time before I could get him to palm regularly, but as soon as he became willing to do so many times a day, his sight began to improve rapidly, and he is now completely cured.
There are some patients, however, who cannot or will not palm. One of these was a little colored girl, with corkscrew curls, looking for all the world like Topsy of "Uncle Tom's Cabin." She had been sent to the clinic because she could not see the writing on the blackboard, and the school nurse told me later that she was unruly, and a great trial to her teacher. She was something of a trial to me, too, at first, for I could not get her to palm for a moment, and did not know what to do with her. Then I discovered that she had an excellent memory when she chose to use it, and I resolved to treat her with its aid. I was able to improve her sight considerably.
Soon her teacher noticed such a notable change in her deportment, that on the next clinic day the school nurse came with her, to gee what had been done for the child. Then I asked the girl to remember, with closed eyes, a letter on the test card as gray instead of black. This effort produced such a strain that she could not stand still a minute, and when she opened her eyes there was no improvement in her vision. Then I asked her to remember the blue beads she had around her neck. She did so for a few minutes with eyes closed, standing perfectly still all the time, and when she opened her eyes she read another line of letters on the test card. Again she closed her eyes and remembered the blue beads perfectly. In a short time, by alternating the perfect memory of the blue beads, with her eyes closed and open, her vision soon improved to 10/10.
The nurse was impressed by this demonstration, which proved to her that perfect memory improves the sight and relieves nervousness. She returned another day and brought a child that she herself was unable to benefit. Sometime later she informed me that Topsy was cured, and busy every day at recess teaching the girls of her classroom how to rest their eyes, and testing their eyes with a test card I had given her. The janitor of the school hid it away every day for her, until she was ready to play the game of curing eyes. With Topsy's help the janitor now gets along well without his glasses. I wish we had more like Topsy.
George, Gladys and Charlie are three children who came for treatment at about the same time. They were of the same age, nine years, and all were suffering from headaches and had about the same degree of defective sight. They entered a very interesting three-cornered contest, in which each one tried to beat the others at getting cured. George and Gladys were colored and Charlie was a white boy of a most pronounced blonde type, with fair curls and blue eyes.
George was the first of the trio to visit US. He had been sent from his school to get glasses because of his headaches, and it was easy to see from his half-shut eyes and the expression of his face that he was in continual misery. My first impulse was to try to make him smile, but my efforts in that direction did not meet with much success.
"Won't you let me help you?" I asked.
"Maybe you can and maybe you can't," was his discouraging reply.
"But you are going to let me try, aren't you?" I persisted, stroking his wooly head.
He refused to unbend, but did consent to let me test his vision which I found to be 20/70 with both eyes, I showed him how to palm and rest his eyes. He continued to come to the clinic, but for three weeks I never saw him smile, and he complained constantly of the pain in his head.
Then there was Gladys, accompanied by her mother who gave me a history of her case very similar to that of George. Her vision was 20/200 and in a very short time I improved it to 20/40. At her next visit it became temporarily normal, and this fact made a great impression upon George. I saw him roll his black eyes and watch Gladys while I was treating her, and later, when he thought I was not looking, I saw him walk over to her and heard him say:
"You ain't going to get ahead of me. I came before you. I wanna get cured first. See?"
I separated the two children quickly, for I foresaw trouble; but all the time I was grateful to Gladys for having, however unintentionally, stirred George up.
Next week Charlie came. He looked very sad, and his mother who came with him was sad also. His headaches were worse than those of the other children and were actually preventing him from making progress in school. Promotion time was near, and both mother and child were anxious for fear the latter would be left behind. They hoped that by the aid of glasses this misfortune would be averted. Of course I explained to the mother that we never gave glasses at this clinic, but cured people so they did not need them. I tested Charlie's sight, and found it to be 20/100. I told him to close his eyes and remember a letter perfectly black, just as he saw it on the test card. He shook his head in dismay and said:
"I can't remember anything, the pain is so bad."
"Close your eyes for part of a minute," I said, "open them just a second and look at the letter I am pointing at, then quickly close them again. Do this for a few minutes, and see what happens."
What happened was that in a few minutes Charlie began to smile and said:
"The pain is gone." Alternately opening and closing the eyes helped him to relax and relieved the terrible eyestrain which caused his trouble.
I showed him how to palm, and left him for a while. When I came back his sight had improved to 20/70. I was very happy about this, and so was Charlie's mother, who was pleased to learn that he did not have to wear glasses.
Charlie continued to come regularly and became an unusual patient. One day he told me that he had been out sleigh-riding with the boys, and that the sun had been shining so brightly upon the snow that he couldn't open his eyes, and his head ached so that he had to go home and go to bed.
"Why didn't you palm for a while and remember one of those letters on the card?" I asked.
"That's right," he said, "I wonder why I didn't think of it."
The next time he came there had been another snowstorm, and he could hardly wait to tell me what had happened.
"I went sleigh-riding some more with the boys," he said, as soon as he could get my ear, "and the pain came back while I was having fun. But this time I didn't go home and go to bed. I remembered what you said, covered my eyes with the palms of my hands right in the street, and in a little while the pain all went away. I could look right at the snow with the sun shining on it, and I didn't mind it a bit."
From the start, the two colored children were greatly interested in Charlie, and thinking that a little more of the competition that had proved so effective in George's case would do no harm, I said, "See who beats." But they needed no urging on my part. Every clinic day, an hour before the appointed time, the black and white trio was at the hospital door. If a crowd was present the children forced their way through without much ceremony, and then started on a dead run for the eye room. There they practiced diligently until Dr. Bates and I arrived, and I fear they also squabbled considerably. There was no lack of smiles now, and as for George, he wore a grin on his face all the time.
Charlie was the first to be cured. In just a month from the time of his first visit his vision had improved to 20/10. Usually patients do not come back after they are cured, but this boy kept on with the practice at home and returned to show me, and incidentally his two rivals, what progress he had made. We had a visiting physician at the clinic that day, and I rather suspected Charlie of trying to show off, when he walked to the very end of the room, a distance of thirty feet from the card. To my astonishment and the great annoyance of George and Gladys, he read all the letters on the bottom line correctly. The colored children made haste to suggest that he had probably memorized the letters; so I hung up a card with pot hooks on it, such as we use for the illiterate patients, and asked him to tell me the direction in which those of the bottom line were turned. He did not make a single mistake. There seemed no room for doubt that his vision had actually improved to 30/10, three times the accepted standard of normal vision. Not more than one other patient at the clinic has ever been able to read the card at this distance. Charlie returned several times after this, not from the best of motives, I fear, and I took great pleasure in exhibiting his powers to the nurses and to visitors.
George and Gladys were cured very soon after Charlie, both of them becoming able to read 20/10. I was sorry that they could not have done as well as Charlie, but since their vision is now twice what is ordinarily considered normal, I think they ought to be satisfied.
It is about two years since George, my pickaninny boy, was pronounced cured, but he comes to see me now and then, just the same. About six months after he obtained normal sight, I noticed him standing in a far corner of the room apparently trying to hide. When I approached him finally and asked him if he were suffering again with his eyes, he answered:
"No ma'am, my eyes are all right, but I want to come and see you."
I said, "Oh, you just want me to love you a little bit, don't you?"
George looked very shy and rolled his big eyes as only a darky can, edging up to me until his kinky head rested on my arm,—just a little pickaninny boy hungry for love.
An Italian boy named Joey, nine years old, was struck on the head in an automobile accident and injured in such a way that he became almost totally blind in the left eye. From Joey's brother Patsy it was learned that when the accident occurred Joey was at the head of his troops, conducting a well ordered retreat after a fierce conflict in which he had been obliged to yield to greater numbers. His face was to the foe and the automobile was behind him, yet Joey did not know that an automobile had struck him. He thought that more enemies were attacking him from the rear. Later when he found himself lying on a hospital cot and realized that he was hurt, his first remark was, "Let me at the guys who soaked me from the back."
Patsy told me later what an awful time he had convincing Joey that an automobile and not his enemies, had struck him. What a punishment it must have been to Joey to lie there on his cot! To suffer pain was bad enough, but more painful to him was the knowledge that his gang was without a leader.
A week later he was brought to the hospital clinic by his aunt. Dr. Bates examined him and found that he was suffering from an injury to the optic nerve of the left eye, as a result of which the vision in this eye had been reduced to mere light perception.
The child was then brought to me for treatment, and never have I seen a more forlorn little specimen of humanity. I did not know then that a gang of street boys had once looked up at him as their leader, and I never should have suspected it. There was not the shadow of a smile upon his face, and he had not a word to say. Both his face and his clothes were dirty. The latter were also ragged, while his shoes were full of holes. His teeth were wonderful, however, and beneath the grime on his small countenance one could catch glimpses of the complexion of perfect health, I told him to rest his eyes by closing and covering them with the palms of his hands, and after a few minutes he was able to see the largest letter on the test card with his blind eye at five feet. The vision of the right eye was normal. I told him to rest his eyes by closing them six times a day for five minutes at a time, and to come back on the next clinic day.
The next time I saw him not only had he made no progress, but he was as blind as he had been at the beginning. His aunt said: "You scold him. Tell him you will keep him here, because he will not palm or do anything he is told to do at home."
I answered, "You do not wish me to lie to him, do you?"
Joey, so sad and worried, looked up into my face, waiting for me to defend him again, as his aunt replied: "Well, I will leave him here and not take him home again."
"All right," I said. "I live in the country, and perhaps Joey would like to go home with me and play in the fields and watch the birds build their nests. Maybe he will learn how to smile then as boys should."
It was good to see his dirty little face flush up with excitement and pleasure. I really meant what I said, but Joey did not give me a chance to take him to my home, because he did not come back after his eyes were cured. However, when I noticed that he began to take a little interest in what I was trying to do for him, I said, "Joey, you are going to love me a whole lot, because I love you already, but you must mind what I say, because if you don't you will go blind."
Joey consented to palm for a few minutes, and his sight improved so that he was able to see the large letter of the test card three feet away. He now made an effort to see the next line of letters but not only did he fail to do so, but he also lost the large letter. The strain had made him blind again.
How I wished I had more time to spend with him. But the room was full of patients, and more were coming continually. I had to attend to them. So I asked Joey, very gently, to palm and not take his hands from his eyes until I came back to him. After ten minutes or so I returned and asked what he could see. To my surprise he read five lines of the test card with the blind eye. Much encouraged I sent him home and he promised to palm six times a day. He stayed away almost a week and I worried about him, for I knew he would forget what I had told him to do. Then one day he returned with his brother Patsy. My, how Patsy did talk! Joey had not a word to say, and did not smile until I asked him. Patsy said that Joey did not practice, and that his father hit him on the head and threatened him with all sorts of things to make him do so. It was quite evident that he had not practiced. When I asked him to read the card, all he could see was the big letter at the top at three feet.
Poor little Joey! I gathered him in my arms, patted his dirty face and told him that if he would count six fingers for me and practice palming as many times every day, I was sure Santa Claus would have some toys for him at Christmas time. Joey was all smiles, and stood with his eyes covered for a long time. When he again looked at the card he read the fifth line, which is called the forty line letters. In the meantime Patsy was telling me all about the rest of his family. His big brother was going to be married, he said, but not until another brother, eighteen years old, was out of prison. Patsy talked like a man and his voice sounded like a foghorn; but I saw that he had a gentle nature, and I enlisted him as my assistant for Joey. I asked him if he would not try to get Joey to palm more, and told him that he must always speak kindly to him. The father was warned not to hit Joey on the head again, because that made the hemorrhages worse and Joey would go blind. Bless Patsy's heart! He promised to help me all he could, and I am sure he deserves much of the credit for what I was afterward able to do for his brother.
Thereafter, Joey's progress was steady. He responded to kindness as a flower responds to the sun. But if I ever forgot myself and spoke to him without the utmost gentleness, if I even raised my voice a little, he would at once become nervous and begin to strain. One day I remonstrated with him because he had not done what I had told him, and a few moments later when he read the test card with his left eye, he said, "I can only see the large letter." I explained how important it was for him to see with both eyes, because he might be a great man some day. He smiled and palmed, and in a short time he again read five lines of the card.
At a later visit he was very conspicuous because he had had his face washed. I could see that he wanted me to notice this, as of course I did, giving him high praise for his improved appearance. He smiled and started to palm without being told, and his sight improved more rapidly than at any previous time.
His last visit was a happy one. He saw all of the bottom line at ten feet without palming. Dr. Bates then examined his eyes with the ophthalmoscope and found that the retina had cleared up, and that there were no more hemorrhages. The optic nerve had become normal.
One day Patsy appeared at the clinic wearing spectacles.
"Patsy, for heaven's sake, what are you wearing those things for?" I inquired.
"The nurse in school said I needed glasses and my father paid four dollars for them—but I can see without them."
His vision without glasses was 20/200. After resting his eyes by palming five minutes, his sight improved considerably.
"Do you want to be cured without glasses?" he was asked.
"Sure, I don't want to wear them."
"Well, you ask father's permission and I will cure you."
Fortunately, father had no objection, and now Patsy sees much better without glasses than he ever did with them. He says that the blackboard looks blacker than it used to, and that his lessons do not seem so hard.
Patsy continued to come with Joey for treatment until both were cured.
Christmas time was near at hand and when the day arrived for our Christmas party, the boys appeared at the clinic two hours ahead of time, to be sure that they would not be disappointed. Never did I see two kiddies happier or more grateful than they were, as they marched out of the room with their gifts and candies.
Hyman, a Jewish boy, aged ten, was not a patient, but his mother's escort. She was having her eyes treated because of headaches, but her trouble was not half so bad as that of her son. His poor eyes stared painfully behind his thick glasses, and in order to see through them at all he made the most awful grimaces. His head moved constantly in all directions, and later on I learned that he had chorea, or St. Vitus' dance. He was an unusually bright boy, and was never satisfied unless he saw everything that was going on in the clinic. Whenever he was in the room he would stay as close to me as possible, listening eagerly to every word I said and watching every movement I made. One day I said to him:
"Look here, young man, I don't mind having you watch me, but I don't think the patients like you to stare at them so much. If you want to know how I help people, why don't you let me treat you so that you won't have to wear glasses?"
"My teacher says I must wear glasses, because I cannot see the blackboard without them," he replied.
Later I told his mother that I was sure I could help not only his eye trouble, but also the nervous twitching of his head. She did not seem to understand me, and appeared to doubt my ability to do anything for him. She had been told by a doctor that perhaps some day he would outgrow his nervousness. The boy himself seemed to be equally skeptical, but was, nevertheless, much interested. He was evidently curious to know what I would do for him, and quite willing to let me entertain him.
I tested his sight with his glasses on, and found that he was able to read only 10/50, all the rest of the card being a blur. I took the glasses off, and noticed that he stared less without them. With his glasses on, his face looked hideous and wrinkled like that of an old man. When Dr. Bates examined the glasses, he said it was quite evident that they caused the St. Vitus' Dance. Straining to see through lenses that were not suited to him, produced this nervous condition.
I told the boy to cover his eyes with the palms of his hands so as to exclude all the light and to remember one of the letters of the test card perfectly black. He seemed to think this was a game of hide and seek, and kept continually looking through his fingers. My patience was tried considerably, but I did not let him know it. Instead I told him that I was especially fond of little boys, and wished to help him. He squared his shoulders and made an effort to keep his head still, but failed. Finally I succeeded in making him understand that if he wanted to stop the twitching of his head, he must keep his hands over his eyes until I told him to remove them. He became as serious as I was myself, and though I watched him while I was treating other cases, I did not once see him uncover his eyes, or peep through his fingers. No doubt the fifteen minutes that he spent in this way seemed like hours to him. When I was able to return to him I said very gently:
"Now take your hands from your eyes, look at me, and be sure to blink often to atop your staring."
He did so, and to my surprise his head was perfectly still. Then I told him a story—being careful to preserve the same gentle tone of voice—about a boy who lived in the country town where I live and who stole some delicious big apples from a farmer. He ate too many of the apples, and soon began to feel that there was something wrong with his stomach. The farmer caught him and punished him; so he suffered both inside and out, and came to the conclusion that stealing apples was not very much fun. I took as long as I could to tell this simple tale, for my object was to keep my patient from thinking of himself, or his eyes. He seemed to find it hugely amusing. His eyes beamed with fun while he listened to me, and his head never moved once.
"Now," I said, "do some more palming for me, and then we will read the card."
When he uncovered his eyes the second time, his vision had improved to 10/30. His mother's indifference vanished. She did not know how to show her gratitude for what had been done for her boy, but promised to see that he spent a sufficient amount of time palming every day. The next clinic day she told me that the twitching of the head had become less frequent. She was instructed to watch the boy, and have him palm at once whenever she noticed the twitching. This always relieved the trouble.
Hyman was anxious to be cured before vacation began, and was quite willing to do as he was told. He and his mother practiced reading their test card every day for an hour at a time. During the summer they came quite regularly and the mother was cured of her eyestrain and headaches. Hyman looked like a very different boy, and in the fall when school began he was apparently cured because the twitching had ceased, and his vision had improved to 10/10.
Betty, aged 13 years, usually found a convenient comer of our room where she could watch the patients having their eyes treated. She had no trouble with her eyes, but always came with her school chum who was under treatment. She listened attentively as I encouraged the patients, but was never troublesome nor did she ask any questions at any time. Somehow, she obtained a Snellen test card and helped some of her playmates recover their vision. She brought several of them to me to make sure that they could get along without their glasses.
One of the children was a boy, twelve years old, named John, who had worn glasses for five years and was very near-sighted. The school doctor had ordered glasses for him at the age of seven. Dr. Bates examined them and discovered that the boy was wearing far-sighted glasses for myopia, or near-sight. When they were changed the year before, the optician who sold them had made a terrible error. No wonder Johnnie was willing to have Betty help him! She told me that he could only see the fifty line of the card ten feet away without his glasses. When I tested Johnnie he placed himself fifteen feet away from the card and read every line of letters without a mistake. He told me how Betty spent an hour with him almost every day for three weeks, until he became able to read the card at any distance Betty desired him to read it. I am sorry she stopped coming to the clinic. Her parents moved away, and I lost a very good assistant.
Then a mother came to the clinic with her two little girls. Marjorie, the older, had been to us some years previously and was cured. The younger child was sent home by the school nurse and told to see a doctor about her eyes. Dr. Bates told the mother to wait for me, that I would test the children's eyes. The mother kept looking at me, smiling all the while. She asked: "Don't you remember me? Don't you remember my little girl? I brought her to you and Dr. Bates six years ago. She had alternate squint when she was three years old, and Dr. Bates cured her without an operation."
Hundreds of cases had been treated and cured in that time, and this dear little girl had grown from a wee tot of three years to a big girl of nine. The mother waited patiently for me to say yes. I tried my best to remember, for my memory is usually good, but I failed this time. Before I knew it I answered, "Yes, surely I remember." How grateful this mother was because I did not forget her child, and how sorry I was because I told a fib. She just knew that I would not forget, so I could not convince her that I did. If Dr, Bates had had his retinoscope handy, he would have found that I was made near-sighted by telling the fib. When one tells an untruth, the retinoscope always reveals the fact.
Marjorie's eyes were as straight as mine, but everyone in the clinic who would listen to the mother that day, heard how we had cured her child of cross eyes.
Her Sister Katherine, aged seven years, stood by, wondering what we were going to do with her. Both girls were dressed with the greatest of care, and Katherine looked very much like a big French doll with her head just covered with curls. Dr. Bates examined her and said she had myopia, but not a bad case. I placed her ten feet from the test card and she read every letter correctly down to the forty line. As I walked over to where the card was placed to assist my little patient, the mother got ahead of me, and in a soft tone of voice, encouraged Katherine to palm and remember the last letter of the forty line of the card. Katherine did so, but she had only covered her eyes for a minute when she removed her hands and opened her eyes to read again. I wanted to tell the child that she had not palmed long enough, but before I could say a word, she began to read the next line of letters as her mother pointed to each one. After each letter was read, her mother very gently told her to blink and that would help her to see the next letter without a strain.
When Katherine had finished reading all of the thirty line without a mistake, the mother did not stop, but kept right on to the next line, pointing to one letter and then another until she read all of the twenty line.
Then the mother advised Katherine to swing her body from side to side, and to notice that everything in the room seemed to move in the opposite direction. While her mother was advising her what to do, the child did the best she could to read the card. The mother smiled when she saw how amazed I was to see her improve Katherine's eyes without my help. I asked: "Where did you learn how to do it?" She answered: "From reading your articles in the 'Better Eyesight Magazine.' I have been a subscriber for a number of years."
Some months later I saw them again. Katherine's vision was 10/10 in each eye. It is interesting to report that the child was cured entirely by her mother.
Staring is one of the greatest evils. Children demonstrate this repeatedly.
A little Jewish girl had been coming to us for a year. On her first visit, she told us that the school nurse insisted that her eyes should be examined for glasses. Her mother was with her and begged me not to put them on the child, as she had a great dislike for them. She also believed that glasses could not possibly cure her. I was glad that I did not have to spend time convincing the mother that her little girl would not need them.
I tested the child's sight with the card and found that she had 20/70 with the right eye and 20/100 with the left. The girl stared constantly while she read the letters and I drew her mother's attention to this fact. I instructed the child to look away in another direction after she had read one or two letters of a line; she then improved her sight with both eyes to 20/50. Her mother was a valuable help to me in supervising the child's practice at home. No matter what the child was doing, or whenever she read a book or studied her lessons, the mother told her not to stare.
The directions for treatment at home and in school were simple. For instance, when she was asked to read something on the blackboard, she was not to look at the whole of a word or a sentence at one time. She was to look at the first letter of a word and blink her eyes. It would then clear up, and she could see the whole word without staring. In order to read a sentence without staring, she was to look at the first letter of the first word and then look at the last letter of the last word of the sentence, and to blink her eyes frequently while doing this.
How proud I was when she was promoted into a higher class without the aid of glasses I She was very grateful for what we had accomplished. Her school teacher, who had a very high degree of myopia, was so impressed by her marked improvement that she also became a patient of Dr. Bates, and is now enjoying good sight without glasses. Proof of her cure may be seen in the wonderful needle work which she is able to do.
A school nurse brought us a child who was causing her teacher a great deal of worry because she could not remember anything. It was thought that glasses might help her. She was very nervous, and her face plainly showed a strain. At ten feet the letters on the bottom line of the test card were only black spots to hen This little child did not like to palm, so I asked her to look at a letter on the bottom line, which was a C, and with her eyes closed imagine it had a straight top. She said she could better imagine that it curved. Then she found she could imagine two other sides, one curved and one open, and when she opened her eyes she saw the letter C distinctly. I also noticed that she had stopped frowning.
By the same method, she became able to read all the other letters on the bottom line, demonstrating that her imperfect memory had been due to eyestrain. She had unconsciously seen the letters, but the eyestrain had suppressed the memory of them. With her eyes closed the strain disappeared, and she became able to remember, or imagine the letters.
It should be emphasized that palming regularly is a great help not only to the sight, but also to the mind. What a pity it is that all school nurses do not know what can really be accomplished in a few minutes each day, for the relief of eyestrain in school children. Teachers are always grateful when their pupils are cured of eyestrain, for after the children are cured, it is much easier to teach them.
Jennie's mother was informed that her daughter needed glasses. I told the mother that Dr. Bates did not fit glasses at the clinic, and in order to get them she would have to come another day and ace another doctor. The mother could not speak very good English. Her first question was: "I get der glasses fer nottink, yes?"
"No," I replied, "I am sorry to say, you must pay for them."
She started to leave the room, when I called her back and tested Jennie's sight. I felt sorry for the little girl, because she was very pretty, except for her eyes, which were partly closed most of the time.
"I don't like to wear glasses," she said. "I wore them for two weeks and then I broke them. Please help me so that I won't have to wear them again."
The mother seemed bewildered at first, and then she said, in a burst of confidence:
"You know, nurse, if der glasses was fer nottink, I should vorry. But all der time money, money for glasses, when all der time she breaks dem."
I told the poor mother not to worry, because her child could be cured and that she would not need glasses, if she would do what I told her.
"Sure, sure," she replied. "Det's all right, lady. You fix my Jennie's eyes, yes? Ven ve don't buy glasses ve got more money to buy someding for der stomach, yes?"
An Irish woman was standing by, and she roared with laughter. To keep peace in the room I had to use some tact and I thought it best to usher the Irish woman outside until I had treated the little girl, who turned out to be a very interesting patient. Jennie had never seen a test card before, and after palming was able to read the thirty line at fifteen feet. Below this, the card was a blank to her. I told her to follow my finger, while, with a rapid movement, I pointed to the large letter at the top of the card and so on down to the ten line. I directed her to palm, and pointing to the last letter on the ten line, which was an F, and quite small, I asked her if she could imagine some letter her teacher had written on the blackboard that day. She replied:
"Yes, I can imagine I see the letter O, a white O."
"Keep your eyes closed," I said, "and imagine that the letter I am pointing at has a curved top. Can you still imagine the O?"
"No," she said, "I can't imagine anything now."
"Can you imagine it is open, or straight at the top?" I asked.
She became excited and said: "If I imagine it has a straight top, I can still remember the white O."
"Fine," I said. "Can you imagine it has a straight line at the bottom?"
"No, if I do that I lose the O. I can imagine it's open much better."
"Good," I said. "It is open. Now imagine the left side open or straight."
She replied: "I can imagine it is straight. I think it is an F."
And when she opened her eyes she saw it plainly. The fact was that, although she had been unable to see this letter consciously, she had unconsciously seen it for a fraction of a second, and could not imagine it to be other than it was, without a strain that caused her to lose control of her memory. And when she imagined it correctly she relaxed so that when she opened her eyes, she was able to see it. Jennie continued to come for treatment until she was cured. A month later her vision became normal and she had no more trouble. It would be very wonderful if all patients had as good an imagination. In that event the cure of imperfect sight would be much quicker.
For a long time Alice, aged nine, had been complaining of headaches. She did not like to wear glasses, and her mother was also opposed to them. Her vision with each eye separately was 10/20. I told her that she could be cured easily, and directed her to palm for a little while. She began to weep, and then I asked her a few questions. I learned that she stood in fear of her teacher, but I soon realized that her fears were unfounded. She said: "In the mornings, before school, I feel perfectly well. After playing in the street with the other children, I also feel well, but when I go into the class-room and start to study, my head begins to ache. It also aches when I am doing homework, but not so badly."
Again I asked her to read the test card at ten feet, and unconsciously I raised my voice a little. Immediately I saw her start as though some one had scared the very life out of her. I guessed at once just what was the matter, and lowering my voice, I told her as gently as possible that there was nothing to be frightened about.
"What you are not able to read on the test card today, you will read next time," I said.
She was encouraged to palm, and I left her for a time by herself. Coming back in a few minutes, I told her to remove her hands from her eyes, and tell me what she could read. I made my voice as low as I could, not much above a whisper. I placed her fifteen feet from the card this time, and she read all the letters without a mistake. Her vision was more than normal, and she said that her pain was gone. She came to the clinic several times after that to report that her headaches did not come back. She had practised palming her eyes many times a day and remembered to blink all the time she was awake.
Alice confided to me that an unruly scholar in her class disliked her teacher, and influenced Alice in the same way. I asked her if she could tell the number of scholars in her class-room.
"Yes, about sixty," she replied.
"My," I said, "if your mother had sixty children, wouldn't she be nervous and worried? Wouldn't you want to help her all you could? Suppose you make believe that the teacher is your mother, and try to help her all you can."
This had a good effect on Alice. The next time she came, her attitude toward her teacher seemed to have changed completely. At every subsequent visit she always had something nice to say about her wonderful teacher.
While the work with the children is always interesting, we sometimes have a case so remarkable that it stands out from all the others.
Jim had imperfect sight and constant pain in the back of his eyes. He did not like to raise his head, because the light bothered him so much. Having tested his sight, which was 15/70, I placed him in a chair and told him not to open his eyes, even for a moment. After I had attended to a few more patients, I came back and asked him to open his eyes. What happened seemed like a miracle. He didn't look like the same boy. His formerly half-shut eyes were wide open, and without any trouble he read the bottom line of the test card at fifteen feet. When I praised him for what he had done, he smiled and asked, "When shall I come again?" I gave him the sun treatment, and told him to sit in the sun with his eyes closed whenever he found time.
At the next visit he read 20/10 with both eyes, and he told me that the light did not trouble him any more.
Later Jim brought a friend aged twelve, who had been wearing glasses for two years or more. When he came into the room he did not wait for his turn, in his eagerness, but placed himself right in front of me, took off his glasses, and said, "You cured Jimmie's eyes. Will you cure me too?"
"Surely," I said, "If you wait your turn." As soon as I could I tested his sight and found that he could see just as well without his glasses as with them—15/20. I told him to palm, and before he left the clinic that day, he saw distinctly some of the letters on the bottom line at fifteen feet. This was even more remarkable than Jimmie's case, for patients who have worn glasses are usually much harder to cure than those who have never worn them.
Sometimes the mothers come with the children, and then I always try to enlist them as my assistants. If they are wearing glasses, I try to persuade them to cure themselves, so that the children will not copy their bad visual habits, and will not be subjected to the influence of people who strain. Not long ago, a mother who had trouble with her eyes, brought her child for treatment, and agreed to help the latter at home. I said that would be fine, and then I asked the child to help me cure her mother.
"After mother has given you a treatment," I said, "tell her to close her eyes and cover them with the palms of her hands, and to stay so until she feels rested. Be very quiet so that she will not be disturbed, and when she opens her eyes, you will surely find that mother can see better."
Both made rapid progress. At the first visit the child's vision, which had been 15/50, improved to 15/30, and in six weeks it became 20/15. The mother now exhibits to her friends with much pride her ability to thread a needle without glasses.
Only one thing about this work with the children made me sad, namely, that we could do so little of it. Many children came from other districts, and were, of course, turned away by the dispensary clerk. But even if the hospital rules did not require him to do this, we could not have admitted all who came. There was a limit to the number we could treat, and there was so little space in our eye-room that we were obliged to treat the overflow in the outside general waiting room. I wish that teachers and nurses in the schools could be instructed in the very simple art of preserving the eyesight of the coming generation.
A kindergarten teacher requested me to help one of her little charges who was afflicted with squint. She informed me that the little one was very poor, so I advised the teacher to bring her to my clinic.
To become more acquainted with me, and the way in which cases were managed there, this teacher, at my invitation, visited the clinic. It is interesting to note what she accomplished with her slight knowledge of our method.
She had a sunny disposition, and I could well imagine a good mental picture of the children, as they greeted her every day in the classroom. She was devoted to her little pupils, and she was also a great lover of nature. She explained to her class, in her lovable way, just how the flowers grow, and made them understand what happens before the first shoots push their noses above the ground.
This teacher's name is Cecilia B. Eschbach, and the kindergarten is connected with the Brooklyn Orphan Asylum. Some time ago I received the following letter from her:
Dear Mrs. Lierman:
In spite of North Wind's biting breath, the little children of the kindergarten know that Spring is here. Their gardens give evidence of it, for the crocuses are up, the daffodils have twelve fat buds; the hyacinths and tulips, too, have grown to quite a size. To create a situation for conversation about awakening Spring, I placed eight empty flower pots in a paper bag. The one who opened the bag was called the gardener. He chose eight children, and gave them each the name of a flower, to go with the pots.
Every child was familiar with the following flowers, and could name and identify the real ones: crocus, tulip, dandelion, daffodil, hyacinth, Easter lily, pink sweet peas, rose. The little gardener decided to give away his flowers, but could not remember the name of the eighth one. I said, "Palm your eyes, William/' He did so, and in a moment said, "Pink sweet peas."
The children have learned to palm their eyes with good results. Two, who have casts in their eyes, play the swinging game and keep looking at the ceiling. Sometimes we sing, or sway to the rhythm of the piano. They are improving.
Hoping this report will be of interest to you, and thanking you for your kindness, I am
Very truly yours,
Cecilia B. Eschbach.
Jennie, aged ten years, will always be remembered by Dr. Bates and myself. She was a very intelligent little girl for her age. She had the most to say of any child I knew. Most talkers do not impress you, they rather tire you,—but not Jennie. Her left eye had caused her a great deal of suffering and pain for a long time, so she was ready to adopt any measure to be cured. Palming and blinking helped her. Her vision at the beginning was 10/10 in the right eye and 10/200 in the left.
After her first visit to us, she was ready to cure all those in school who had trouble with their eyes. On her second visit she told us of her experience with some of the teachers and pupils. At first she was punished for causing a disturbance in the classroom. Later, when her teacher saw her without glasses, reading her lessons from the blackboard with perfect ease, she began to ask questions.
The result was that Jennie was allowed to palm for a few minutes before each lesson and then the rest of the class followed suit. It was interesting to hear her describe the way she went about improving the sight of her teacher who wore glasses for reading. We could not find out how long the teacher had been wearing glasses, but Jennie said that after the treatment she was not seen wearing them again.
Jennie's vision improved steadily and she had no more pain, but even though she was cured she came to the clinic just the same. While I was ill and could not attend clinic for a few months, Jennie came in very handy. She was so small that she had to stand on a stool to reach the letters on the test card with her finger tips. Dr. Bates would ask her to point to the different letters he wanted other patients to see, which was a great help to the patients and to him as well.
One day a boy, sixteen years of age, appeared for an examination of his eyes. He was disagreeable, and sneered because he wanted to be anywhere but at the clinic. As the room was crowded with patients, Jennie took it upon herself to help. She singled out this lad and with a voice of authority said: "Now don't be afraid, little boy, the letters won't hurt you. Tell me how much you can see." At this remark the boy laughed as loud as he could and took it as a joke. She finally convinced him that she was serious, and before he left the clinic he had normal sight. The boy had myopia, and the vision in both eyes was 15/70. When he left the room his vision had improved to 15/10. He came a few times after that, but he had no more trouble in retaining normal sight.
Another day Jennie demonstrated her intelligence by treating a doctor who had come from the West to learn about the treatment. Of course she did not know she was talking to a doctor, for if she had, I fear she would have lost her nerve. The doctor stood where he could observe best the patient being treated. Jennie approached him gently, saying: "Now how do your eyes trouble you?" One can imagine the doctor smiling at the little girl desiring to do so much for a big man. Without returning the smile she walked to her stool, chin up in the air as though she were a princess, and as she pointed to a letter, asked the doctor if he could see it. The patients were amused, but Jennie was not in the least troubled. The doctor patient said no, he could not see the letter at which she was pointing, a letter of the 70 line. He stood 15 feet away from the card. She told him to palm, and he obeyed, in jest at first, but when he saw that the little girl was really trying to help him, he did as she told him. The result was that the doctor's vision improved to 15/15. Jennie taught him how to rest his eyes by palming and alternately closing and opening his eyes. This doctor now uses the Bates method in curing his patients of imperfect sight.
Another patient was Mary, a colored girl, twelve years old. She complained of such violent headaches that she could no longer attend school and stayed in bed most of the time. The school nurse had advised glasses, and she had come to get them. Mary kept her head lowered much of the time, but when I was about to treat her she tried to open one eye and look at me. The effort was so great that all the muscles of her face were contracted. As the light seemed to distress her, I decided to give her the sun treatment, that is, to focus the rays of the sun on the upper part of the eyeballs with a sun glass. I placed her on a stool where the sun could shine on her eyes, but when I tried to use the sun glass she was frightened to death. To reassure her I asked a patient, who had already had the treatment, to let me repeat it on her. When Mary saw her enjoy the sun bath, she readily submitted to it herself. Afterward her eyes opened wide and I was able to test her sight. Her vision was 10/50, both eyes. I showed her how to palm, and when, after ten minutes, she opened her eyes, her pain was gone and her vision had improved to 10/20. I was quite proud to have accomplished so much in one treatment.
Two days later Mary came again, and with her came the school nurse and a friend, both eager to hear more of the miracle that had happened to Mary. Could it be possible, the nurse said, that the child had been cured as quickly as she said? I was surprised myself at the change in the patient's appearance. Her eyes were still wide open, and the constant grin on her face made her almost unrecognizable as the sad creature I had seen two days before. I told the nurse what had been done for the child and how she could help the other children in her school, by having them stand in the sun with their eyes closed, letting the sun shine on their closed eyelids for a few minutes every day. The nurse came a few times more to watch our methods, and told me that she was teaching all the children sent to her for examination of their eyes, how to palm. This always relieved them at once to some extent, she said. The more difficult cases, however, she sent to us without deity.
Another remarkable cure was that of a girl with nystagmus, a condition in which the eyes vibrate from side to side. Cases similar to hers come to us from time to time, and they are always benefited by palming. Her vision was 10/30. She improved quickly and soon obtained normal vision. When anything disturbed her, the vibration returned. This always happened, she told me, when the teacher asked her a question. At the same time she lost her memory. The teacher allowed her to cover her eyes to rest them, and in a few minutes the vibration ceased and her memory improved. Before she came to the clinic she often became hysterical and was obliged to leave the class-room. Later the hysterical attacks disappeared.
A puzzling case was that of a little girl, ten years of age. A patient of ours who came from the same school which she attended, told me that the child was stupid, and she certainly appeared to be so. I asked her if she knew her letters, and in trying to reply she stuttered painfully. I tried to reassure her by speaking as gently as I could, but without avail. I could not get her to answer intelligently. I tried having her palm, without results. I held the test card close to her eyes, and asked her to point out certain letters up to the fifty line, as I named them, but only in a few cases did she do this correctly. Completely baffled, I appealed to Dr. Bates. He asked the child to come to him and touch a button on his coat which she did. He asked her to touch another button, but she answered:
"I don't see it."
"Look down at your shoes," he said. "Do you see them?"
"No," she answered.
"Go over and put your finger on the door-knob," he said, and she immediately complied.
"It is a case of hysterical blindness," the doctor said.
The child attended for some time regularly and became able to read 10/10 correctly with both eyes. Palming, blinking, swinging, and using her imagination for letters of the test card and other objects, were a benefit. She stopped stuttering and soon lost her reputation for stupidity. She became a good Samaritan in her neighborhood, for on many a clinic day she brought with her some little companions to be cured of imperfect sight. She never had any doubts as to our capability to cure her little friends, and so far we have not disappointed her. I hoped she would not bring anyone who was beyond our power to help, for I would have been sorry to see that sublime faith, which we had inspired in her, shattered.
Two of our patients graduated at the end of the school term. After the final examinations they told me that they had been greatly helped in their tests by the memory of a swinging black period. One of them was told by the principal that if she failed to pass, it would be because she refused to wear glasses. She gave the principal Dr. Bates' book, which was one of her precious possessions, and after that, though he watched her closely, he did not say anything more about her eyes.
"I made up my mind to pass without the aid of glasses," she said, "and 'put one over' on the principal, but you can bet I never lost sight of my precious swinging period. The book has become a family treasure," she continued. "When one of us has a pain in head or eyes, out of the bookcase comes the book. It is natural to see mother palming after her house work is done. She enjoys her evenings with her family, because palming rests her and she does not get so sleepy before bedtime."
The other graduate said: "I did not have to think of a black period when the test was easy, but when I had to answer questions in the more difficult subjects, I certainly did find the period a life-saver. I know I would have failed without it."
Marie, ten years old, told us that she had headaches, and the pain in her eyes was so bad at times that she was put to bed for a few days. Her mother directed her to ask us for glasses. The doctor in school had ordered her to get them.
At first I found it hard to make her smile. Her head and eyes pained her so much that she found it an effort to look pleasant. Then, too, she did not want glasses,—she said they frightened her.
I placed her in a comfortable position and showed her how to palm. After I had treated several patients, I asked Marie to remove her hands from her eyes and to look up at me. She did so and smiled. That was encouraging. Adults, especially some women I know, imagine that there is something wrong when one smiles. Marie smiled because the palming cured her pain.
Her sight was tested and I found that her vision with each eye was normal. While she was standing, I taught her how to swing her body from side to side. I did the swinging motion with her to be sure she was doing it right. At first she complained of dizziness, which showed that she was making an unconscious effort to see things stationary. When I told her to take it easy and swing more gracefully, the dizziness left her and she became more relaxed and enjoyed it.
"I could keep this up all day," she said. "I like it because all my pain is gone." She was instructed to continue the palming and swinging at home and to come again the next clinic day.
When Marie returned, she brought her mother, who was anxious to know what there was about palming and swinging that could cure eye strain. Was it a faith cure or did we perform a miracle? She said that Marie had suffered for a long time with pain in her eyes, which prevented her from attending school regularly. Now, for the last few days Marie, after school, had played with the children in the street instead of going to bed. She had studied her homework without being told, after palming her eyes for ten minutes or longer.
The mother was eager for me to know what palming had done for her also. "At first my husband and I thought Marie was joking," she said. "We did not think that such a simple thing as covering the eyes with the palms of the hands could relieve pain. Ever since my children were born I have suffered with backaches and my eyes have been troubling me. Marie suggested that I should try the palming. As a result my eyes are rested and my backache has left me. Now, won't you please tell me about the swing, too?"
I went through the motions with her until she was able to do it. The last time I saw her she told me that she was not half so cross with her babies since she learned how to swing her body, and see things moving. Palming helped her to read to her husband. She said Marie did not complain of pain any more, but was more willing to help about the house and never retired until bed time. Relief from strain, relaxation through palming and swinging the body from side to side, cured both this tired mother and Marie.
During the last year many school children have been benefited and cured of their imperfect sight at our clinic. Some had been wearing glasses, but a larger number had not worn them. The latter were cured quickly and in a few cases needed only one treatment. The records show that all those who were wearing glasses obtained better vision without them. There were no exceptions. For the benefit of those who are interested in eye clinic work, I shall tell about a number of high-school boys, all from the same school, who came for treatment.
A director of a Boys' Physical Training Department in one of our largest high schools in New York City heard of our clinic. About nine-tenths of the boys under his care were wearing glasses. Others struggled along without them, even though they had imperfect sight. The boys were between the ages of 13 and 17 years. Late in the fall of 1924 one of them, by the name of Arthur, came with a note from the physical director. We accepted him gladly and he began treatment under the supervision of Miss Mildred Shepard, my assistant. His vision on the first day was 20/100 with each eye. It was noticed that his eyes were partly closed as he looked at the test card. When placed in a bright light, he had difficulty in keeping them open, and his forehead was terribly wrinkled. Anyone observing him for the first time would have thought that Arthur never smiled. I thought so myself as he appeared week after week, during the winter months, and through the spring. Recently I treated him and helped him to read 10/10 on a strange card. I also received a shock. He smiled. By closing his eyes to rest them, and flashing each letter, he read 10/15 without a mistake. I wanted to stop his treatment then, because there were about twenty others waiting. Arthur begged, however, for one more chance. We gave him the sun treatment and then he returned to the test card and read 10/10. It was at that time I found that Arthur could really smile. Palming, blinking and swinging, with sun treatment, cured him.
The next case was William, whose vision was 10/200 with each eye. I do believe that William practiced faithfully at home and elsewhere but he is just one of many cases of myopia who are slow in obtaining a cure. He is not discouraged, and knows that he will eventually have normal vision if he keeps on. His sight improved to 10/40, or one-fourth of the normal, in six months.
The physical director wrote to me again, asking if he might send more of his boys who were anxious to get rid of their glasses. We have not the room nor the time to take care of even a small percentage of those who are crying out for help. I read the letter to Dr. Bates. He did not answer right away, but just looked at me. Then he said: "Now, you know how much I love school children, and you also know how much I disapprove of glasses." I said: "All right, that settles it." My answer was: "Send them along. There's no limit to the number."
Twenty or more came in response to my letter, and all of them were nice boys. How glad I was that I wrote what I did. After they had received their first treatment, and I had spent more than three hours with them, Dr. Bates appeared at my room to ask if I were tired. His voice sounded most sympathetic, but I was perfectly relaxed, and not a bit tired. As I instructed the boys to palm and swing, I practiced with them. As their vision improved, so did my nerves become more relaxed. I was nappy, but not tired. Treating the boys was not easy, but since every one of them did as he was told, the task was made lighter.
Samuel had worn glasses about two years. He had a great deal of pain in his eyes and his sight was getting worse. The optician who had fitted him with glasses said that he would have to wear them the rest of his life. His vision without glasses was 10/200 with his right eye and 10/100 with the left. He stared continuously, a practice which, I believe, was the main cause of his pain. The first thing I did was to teach him to blink. This relieved his pain. Palming and the swing improved his vision in both eyes to 10/50 on his first visit. Every time he was treated, his vision improved for the test card. At times he did not do so well end he would apologize.
When I became better acquainted with Samuel he said: "You see. Mother is not forced to do it, but she peddles things, and helps my father to earn more money. In this way Mother will see that I can go to college." I told him that he should be proud of such a wonderful mother. I look up to her with great respect and honor, because of her courage and sacrifice. Heaven bless such mothers I Samuel had to have four months treatment before he could read with normal vision, but he was determined and won out.
Abraham had symptoms of St. Vitus' dance with much pain in both eyes. His vision was: right 10/15 and left 10/10. He had no organic disease of his eyes but the ophthalmoscope showed eyestrain. After three treatments the symptoms of St. Vitus' dance had entirely disappeared and he had no more pain. His vision also became normal, 10/10.
Morris hated glasses and wore them but a short time. He had normal vision in his right eye, but only perception of light in the left. I held the test card up close to his left eye, and told him to cover the right one. By alternately blinking and flashing the white of the card, he became able to see the letters as black spots. He was instructed to practice with the test card every day, seeing the letters move opposite to the movement of his body. While doing this, he was to keep his right eye covered. After the third treatment he read the bottom line of the test card at three feet, or 3/10 with the left eye. He had been told by many doctors that nothing could be done for the left eye, because it was incurably blind. Dr. Bates examined him with the ophthalmoscope and said the trouble was called amblyopia exanopsia, or blindness from effort. Dr, Bates stated that such cases are usually pronounced incurable. Morris believes that with constant practice there is no reason why he should not obtain normal vision in his left eye.
Benjamin had never worn glasses. For a long time the constant pain in his eyes made it difficult for him to study. The ophthalmoscope revealed only eyestrain. His right vision was 10/10, left vision 10/20. After palming a short-while and with the aid of the swing, the vision in his left eye improved to the normal 10/10. Me had four treatments altogether. On his last visit I helped him to read 20/10 right eye and 20/20 left. He was instructed to practice with very fine print daily, and this, I believe, had most to do with relieving his pain permanently. He was more than grateful for the relief he obtained. He had a little brother named Joseph, who was wearing glasses. Timidly he asked me if I would help him, too. "Surely," I said. "Bring him along next time."
Joseph had been wearing glasses for three years, but his sight was not poor without them. Without glasses his vision was 10/15 with each eye. Blinking while he was swaying improved his vision to the normal in five minutes' time. He promised not to put his glasses on again, and came to me for four more treatments. These were really unnecessary because his sight stayed normal, 10/10. If our method had been in general use in the schools, this boy and others would not have been forced to wear glasses.
Hyman wore glasses four years for progressive myopia. His vision with his right eye was 10/100 and 10/70 with the left after his first treatment he was able to read 10/50 with each eye. Constant dally practice, by palming and improving his memory, brought his vision to the normal, 10/10. This boy required only five treatments.
Charles wore glasses about four years, although he had no organic trouble, merely eyestrain. His vision was 10/30 with each eye. He was told to close his eyes, and white palming to remember a small square printed on the test card. He was directed not to remember all parts at once, but to remember or imagine one part best at a time. His vision then improved to the normal, or 10/10, Sun treatment was also given him. Charles was cured in one visit.
Harry had worn glasses one year. His vision was 10/30 with the right eye and 10/70 with the left. Regular dally practice and the sun treatment improved his vision to 10/10 in three visits. He vows that he will never wear glasses again.
Tobie was a fine, lovable chap, a trifle younger than the others. He was not so sure that he liked to see his name in print—I told all my wonderful boys that I was going to write about their cases—but he did not object when he realized that it would be a help to others. His vision was 10/50 with the right eye and 10/70 with the left. Palming and sun treatment unproved his sight to normal, after three treatments. The other boys were cured mostly with one treatment. It was only a matter of teaching them how to use their eyes right.
My work was not confined to the clinics but extended to other places as well. Occasionally when I visited a department store to make a purchase, the girl who waited on me might be suffering from the results of eyestrain, pains in the eyes or with headaches. It always gave me pleasure to give them immediate relief with the aid of palming, swinging, or in some other way. I could write many stories about the help I gave these girls, whose gratitude was indeed worth while.
I live in the suburbs and commute. The trainmen know me very well, and always come to me to have a cinder removed from their eyes, or to be helped when their sight is poor.
Every day during the fall, whiter and spring at our station I meet a cheerful group of girls, who attend high school in another town. Some of them I have known since they were babies, and while I am in their company on the train, I forget sometimes that I am grown up and join them in their fun. Several of these girls wear glasses, and I offered to cure them any time they were willing to discard them.
No more was said on the subject until one day, just before school closed for the summer, one of the girls appealed to me to help her. She was Lillian, aged 16, who had a higher degree of myopia than any of the others. I insisted that she consult her parents first. If they were willing and would cooperate with me, I would try my best to cure her before school opened again in the fall.
Lillian was very much excited, and begged the other girls to discard their glasses also. One said her mother feared that such a wonderful cure could not be accomplished. Another girl thought she would wait awhile. I still feel that they did not believe in me. The day after school closed, Lillian called at my home with her sister, Rose, aged 13, who had a decided squint of her left eye. Lillian had not spoken of Rose, as she was afraid of imposing upon me, but when Lillian came to me, Rose made up her mind that she would be cured also.
I fastened a test card to an oak tree outside of our house, and placed my patients ten feet from the card. I started Lillian first because I wanted above all else, to cure her as I had planned. With glasses on she read 10/15, and with glasses off 10/70. I taught her to palm and to remember something perfectly, while her eyes were closed, such as a white cloud, sunset, or a flower. She did this for a few minutes and then, without a stop or making a single mistake, she read two more lines on the test card. Her vision had improved to 10/40, both eyes. Then I tested each eye separately. Her vision, fortunately, being the same in each eye, it was easy to proceed with the treatment. By closing her eyes, and remembering the last letter she was able to see on the card, she became able to read another line, 10/30. When she made the slightest effort to read the smaller letters on the card, they would disappear. I explained to her that when she stared, she made her sight worse, and that was her main trouble. I told her to keep her eyes fixed on one letter without blinking, and see what happened. Immediately she began to frown, her eyelids became inflamed and she complained that her eyes hurt her. She said, "Now I know why I have headaches and pain."
On her second visit her vision improved to 10/20. I had taught her the long swing, moving her head slowly from side to side from left to right, looking over one shoulder and then the other. She had to be reminded, as all patients do, to stop staring and to blink her eyes often, just as the normal eye does. All through the summer, Lillian practiced faithfully, getting a great deal of encouragement from her sister Rose and her loving mother and father. She came to me for treatment about once a. week. A few weeks before school opened, we began treatment indoors with electric light instead of outdoors in the sunlight. I did this purposely because I knew that the light in school was not so bright as outdoors. When she first read the test card by electric light Lillian became very nervous and frightened. All she could see was the large C on the 200 line at ten feet. Palming for a few moments helped her to relax enough to read several lines. Swinging and looking at one letter, then shifting her eyes somewhere else and looking back at the next letter, helped her to read 10/15.
At each visit she improved and now reads 10/10 all the time. Before she began treatment she had to hold a book at three inches from her eyes, while reading,—this with glasses on. Since she was seven years old she had worn glasses constantly, and during all that time she suffered with headaches every day. She told me that from the day I removed her glasses and started the treatment, she had neither headaches nor pain in her eyes. So grateful is she that I am almost swallowed up with caresses when she sees me.
Some friends whom she had not seen for a year called to see her family, and to enjoy a day on their farm. Lillian had worn glasses for so many years, that she was not at all surprised when her friends did not know her. She stood in the doorway ready to greet them, but they thought she was a stranger. Her whole facial expression had changed. The eyelids, which were formerly swollen from strain, were natural looking, and her large brown eyes were quite different from the tiny, marble-like eyes that tried to see through the horrible, thick glasses she had worn previously. When her friends finally recognized her they had to hear all about the treatment and cure.
If Lillian had not been so faithful with the treatment, I could not have made such rapid progress. There were many days during the summer when she became discouraged and worried for fear she would have to put on her glasses again. Her mother was a great help to me in many ways. She was careful to hide Lillian's glasses so that she could not possibly wear them again even if she wanted to.
On the first day of school I met her with the usual group of girls on the train, and as she passed she pressed my hand and said, "Wish me luck." I asked her to telephone me that evening, and she did, saying:
"When my teachers saw me they were surprised at the great change in my appearance. I told them all about the treatment and what you did for me. When I asked to be placed in the last row of seats in each classroom, they were amazed. You see when I wore my glasses I always had to sit in a front seat near the blackboard. Today I was able to read every word on the blackboard in each class room from the last row of seats where I was sitting. I also read from my books at eight inches from my eyes without any discomfort whatever."
I praised Lillian and said that I was glad for her. I am more than happy to have given her my time evenings, when I needed rest after a day of hard but enjoyable work.
At each visit, while Lillian was having a treatment, her sister Rose watched and listened attentively to everything that was said. She had convergent squint of the left eye, and when she became excited or tried to see at the distance, that eye would turn in, so that only the sclera or white part was visible. At the age of three, it was noticed that her left eye turned in, and when she was four years old, glasses were prescribed for her. I tested her sight and with both eyes she read 10/100. Then—with each eye separately, the read 10/70 with the right and 10/100 with the left. I told her to palm her eyes and to remember the last letter she saw on the test card. She kept them closed for at least a half hour, and when she again read the card, her vision with both eyes had improved to 10/20. I tested each eye separately again. This time she read 10/20 with the right eye, and 10/40 with the left eye.
I thought the improvement in the vision of her eyes was wonderful, and Rose was delighted with the results of her first treatment. Her sister Lillian was thrilled as she saw that left eye straighten as the vision improved. She came to me with Lillian once every week for treatment, and carried out to the letter everything I told her to do at home.
She was directed to wear a cloth patch over her good eye all day long, and to do her usual, duties for her mother as well as she could, with her squint eye. What a faithful child she was, and how she did hate that patch! I asked her every time she came how she got along with it. "Well, Mrs. Lierman," she said, "I don't like that black patch at all. I want to take it off many times every day. I don't like to have my good eye covered, but I know I must wear it if I want to be cured. I do want to, so I just think of you and how much better my eye looks, and then I don't mind a bit."
On her second visit her left eye improved to 10/20 and her right eye became normal, 10/10. Never did I have e more enthusiastic patient. On her third visit she gave me a package sent by her mother, who tried in her kind way to show her gratitude to me. The package contained delicious home-made sweet butter. Rose continued her visits, and in two months her sight became normal, and her eyes perfectly straight. She practiced faithfully and the result was that, one week before school started, she was able to remove the patch permanently, without any return of the squint.
The first day at school was very exciting to Rose. She said that the teacher did not recognize her until she smiled. When Rose smiles you cannot help but know and love her. Her aunt says that a miracle was performed.
Thereafter Rose had no trouble in reading the blackboard from the last seat of her class-room, where she asked to be placed, and she saw the book type much clearer than she ever did. Rose had been attending school for a week or so, when her teacher noticed that a pupil, aged 12, could not read the blackboard from the front seat where she was sitting. The teacher told the girl to have her eyes examined by an eye doctor and to be fitted with glasses. Rose overheard the conversation and promptly met her schoolmate at the door. Rose told her how she had been cured without glasses, and that she would be willing to show her how to be cured also. The next day at recess instead of joining the class outdoors for exercise, Rose and her schoolmate went back to the class room. With the aid of a Snellen Test Card, which Rose had taken with her that day to school, she improved the sight of the little girl from 12/70 to 12/15, by palming, blinking and swinging. Every day the two little girls worked faithfully with great success and in less than a week both children occupied rear seats from which they were able to read the writing on the blackboard without difficulty.
I am anxious to tell about fifteen school girls, all from one class of Public School No. 90, New York City, Their ages ranged from nine to fourteen years. On January 5th, 1922, they first appeared. That day Dr. Bates and I had to plead for admission into our own room.
In addition to these school girls, about thirty adults, also were waiting for treatment, and all of them made a rush for us when we arrived. I found that the teacher of the girls, who was very near-sighted, was being treated by Dr. Bates at his office. The progress she was making encouraged her to send to the clinic those of her class who were wearing glasses. When I asked who came first all hands went up at once.
I could see from the start that I should have my hands full. The girls' faces wore a strained expression and, because of their actions and their manner my heart went out, not only to them, but to their poor near-sighted teacher.
Three out of the fifteen girls had squint, and two of the three were sisters. These sisters, Helen, aged 10, and Agnes, aged 12, both had squint of the left eye. Helen read 15/20 with both eyes, with glasses on. With glasses off she read 15/40. After palming and resting her eyes, the right improved to 15/20, and the squinting left eye improved to 15/30 without glasses. On January 17th, she read 15/15 with each eye separately. Agnes, whose squint was worse than Helen's, had 15/70 in the left eye on January 5th, and on January 17th improved to 15/20. The right eye improved from 15/40 to 15/15 from January 5th to January 17th.
Frieda, who also had squint of the left eye, improved from 15/40 to 15/15 in the same length of time. Her right eye had normal sight. All the rest of the fifteen, I discovered, were near-sighted.
Mary the youngest and best behaved was nine years old. On the first day she came she was suffering from terrible pain in her eyes and head. After she had closed her eyes and rested them for a short time the pain went away and her sight improved from 15/40 to 15/20. Mary, however, failed to practice at home as she was told; nevertheless, the pain did not return even though her sight had not further improved.
Muriel and another Mary had progressive myopia. Muriel became so frightened the first day she came that she ran out of the clinic as fast as she could. She feared that the doctor would apply drops or hurt her in some way. Next day at school, Mary told her what she had missed by running away. Later, after three visits to the clinic, Muriel became more enthusiastic, and even made better progress than Mary. Muriel's sight improved from 15/70 to 10/10. Palming, resting her eyes, did this for her. She practiced faithfully at home.
Mary's vision was 15/15 with glasses. Without them 15/30. Twelve days later her sight had become as good without glasses, as it had been previously with them. She also practiced faithfully, and her father became interested and helped Mary at home with her chart. The remainder of the fifteen had about the same degree of myopia, and all were eager to be cured. It was encouraging to see them improve after they had rested their eyes for just a few minutes.
When I had finished with these cases, Dr. Bates called my attention to a girl from the same school, who had opacity of the cornea of the left eye. She was twelve years old, and had had this trouble since she was a year old. She had no perception of light at all in that eye when she came. On her second visit to the clinic, she could see light in the left eye for the first time. On January 17th, twelve days later, she began to see the letters of the test card. Six weeks later her vision became normal, with the disappearance of the corneal opacity. Dr. Bates was astounded, for he never saw such a case recover before. It was the long swing that helped her most.
Is it a crime to help the sight of these poor children? Should they be forced to keep on wearing glasses to benefit the man who sells them? I am willing, and want to devote the rest of my We to this wonderful work, but we need help instead of criticism. Some mothers are helping the children in their homes. Teachers who are being cured of imperfect sight without glasses, have a very beneficial influence upon the children. But the prejudice of some of the authorities, based on ignorance of the truth, is a stumbling block. If they would only investigate the facts, we would all be better satisfied.
The second visit of these children to the clinic is one to be remembered. On January 7th, Dr. Bates and I arrived somewhat late to be greeted by an excited nurse. I knew that something unusual had happened, because this particular nurse had an even disposition. How my heart ached to hear her say, that, never in all her life, had she come in contact with such bad girls! One of them had invaded a doctor's room and placed herself in the operating chair. A team of horses could not move her. Others yelled so loud that the doctors could not hear themselves talk. Well, I cannot explain in writing just how I felt. I treated each one with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. I had planned to share between them some test cards to practice with at home, but I sent them home without them that day.
On January 14th, they informed me that the school doctor said they must put on their glasses again, regardless of the fact that the sight of all of them bad improved. The mothers felt quite differently about it, however, and they declared that their children should not put on their glasses again, no matter what the school nurse or doctor ordered. After that, my girls became willing assistants, and were more determined than ever to be cured. I will confess that I had no easy time of it, but when they saw that I meant real business, rapid progress was made, which interested Dr. Bates very much. I promised them a real party at our office, with ice-cream 'n everything, just as soon as they all could read 20/20 on the test card, whereupon one of them yelled, "Oh, boy, me for normal sight!"
They asked for test cards, which I was glad to give to them for practice at home. Instead of playing on the streets after school they went to each other's homes to practice for an hour or more. Then I was taken ill and was absent from my precious clinic for two months. My pain was bad enough, but my heartache for this group of girls, who might lose interest in being cured without glasses while I was away, was a greater pain.
During my illness I stayed at one of the large hotels in New York City. One afternoon while I was convalescing, my nurse answered the telephone in my room. She turned toward me and with a frightened look, she said: "The operator says there are a lot of wild Indians in the lobby asking for permission to visit Mrs. Lierman."
Well, I had no more pain, no more heartache, for I knew they must be my rascals from the clinic. I answered: "Please have them come up."
When they filed in, one would have thought they were angels, and that they always had been angels. How glad I was to see them, and oh, how glad they were to see me!
Yes, they had good news,—they practiced faithfully, and if I would only get well soon and come back, they would show me that nearly all of my precious jewels had normal sight.
I did return to them at the clinic very soon after that, with the aid of crutches, and was mighty glad to get back. The fifteen girls were all there, and each one in turn stood twenty feet away from the test card, and read the twenty line for me. When my strength returned, we arranged for the party which was to be some time in April.
We spent an hour at the clinic before the party, and when we arrived, a surprise was awaiting us. Thirteen kiddies were all arrayed in their Sunday best, and two of them presented us with bouquets of roses and carnations. These flowers came from grateful mothers, and I am certain that it meant a sacrifice to them. The coming event must have had a good effect upon their sight, for twelve of them read 20/20 that day with each eye separately on strange cards.
Two were not there. One of them stayed away because she had put her glasses on again. The teacher informed me that she did not do so well in her studies, nor with her reading on the blackboard, after she had put on her glasses. Later, when the girl took off her glasses again, she was immediately benefited by the treatment, and soon obtained normal sight. She became more accurate in all her studies. I was told that previously, while wearing glasses, she read figures incorrectly, and usually made serious mistakes. This particular girl was one of the most nervous and unruly of any girl patient I have had. She worried her school teacher, because she found it hard to be truthful. During her treatment, Dr. Bates and I noticed, that, as her vision improved, she became less nervous and her teacher said there was a marked improvement in her conduct in school.
After clinic was over, two taxicabs drove the kiddies with the doctor and myself, through the East Drive of Central Park. The flowers were budding here and there, and it was like a moving picture show to watch the kiddies. One of them asked me if skunk cabbages grew in the park, and who fed the squirrels in the winter time. Another, though born in New York City, had never been to Central Park nor to the country. The party was a decided success.
Right in the midst of our fun two persons called from Washington, D.C., for an interview with Dr. Bates. There he was, a boy all over again, playing parlor-games, and laughing heartily with the kiddies, as though he had not a care in the world. I allowed the visitors, who came such a long distance to see him, to have only five minutes of his time; otherwise it would have been a great disappointment to him to be denied the company of the children. A game of forfeits was played, and when Dr. Bates was called upon to forfeit something, he gave his retinoscope. It was held over the head of the kneeling child, who was the arbiter of the fate of the owner.
"What should the owner do to redeem it?" was asked, and the answer was: "The owner must go to the next room and read the Snellen test card at ten feet, from top to bottom without a mistake." The doctor promptly obeyed; while two of the children went with him, to see that it was read correctly.
I could go on telling more of the funny things that happened on that wonderful occasion, but I would like to add what the children said, as they filed out of the room: "Thank you for the party, hut thank you most of all, Dr. Bates, for joining us in the fun."
I should like to say also that I have discovered that Dr. Bates is very fond of ice-cream. I can prove it because he did not refuse the third helping.
To me, Christmas is the most wonderful day in the year. To hosts of boys and girls throughout the world, it is the happiest day. But there are other little folks—all too many of them—who do not know its meaning, and whom Santa Claus seems to have quite forgotten.
This fact was brought home to me very forcibly during my first few years at the clinic. Just before Christmas, a boy of seven years came with his sister, a little girl of five, for treatment. Both the children were thinly clad and far from clean, and seemed to feel perfectly at home near a warm radiator. There was nothing wrong with the girl's eyes, but the boy had a severe inflammation of the eyelids, along with a slight squint of the right eye, I was not surprised to find later that this inflammation was caused by uncleanliness. Before treating him I asked him what he expected from Santa Clause. He looked up at me and said:
"Oh, he ain't never came to our house. I only sees him in the store windows."
"But you do have a Christmas tree on Christmas eve, don't you?" I asked.
"Nope," said he, "we never had none."
I began to think I wanted to use my influence with Santa Claus on behalf of this neglected child, but ray present thought was to treat him. No, I did not begin with panning this tune. I washed his eyes and face with water, and judging by the color of the towel, when the operation was over, I should say that he had not been washed for a week or more. I tested his sight, and with both eyes he read the ten line at fifteen feet. Then I covered his good eye, and with the squinting eye, the right, he read the seventy line (15/70). I taught him how to palm, and while his eyes were covered, I told him the story of the Babe of Bethlehem. This worked like a charm, and in a very short time his right eye improved to 15/30. I promised him that Santa Claus would surely have a present for him at Christmas time if he would cover his eyes to rest them many times every day.
The progress he made was good. A week later he read 15/15 with the right eye, and only at intervals did the eye turn in when he began to strain, I learned later that his father was in jail for theft. He had to mother his little sister and baby brother, who sat in a high chair most of the day, while his sickly mother went out to work. Yet he found time to practice. Before Christmas he had normal vision in both eyes, though the right eye turned in at times the least little bit. As for the inflammation, it had completely disappeared under the influence of the sun treatment and the daily use of water.
The day before Christmas I purchased a Christmas tree with some trimmings, and filled a basket with good things to eat. I also had a little gift for each child in the family. On Christmas eve I brought them to his home. The poverty I found there wrung my heart, but I had the pleasure of knowing that the children at least would have a happy Christmas. The sight of the Christmas tree filled them with rapture too great for speech, and the gratitude of the mother was pathetic. She was thin and careworn, she hardly ate her share of the hot meal I helped her prepare. Not once did she speak of her husband, but I have a suspicion that she loved him.
Shortly afterward the boy's visits to the clinic ceased, and on going to his home again, I found the scanty belongings of the family upon the sidewalk, all covered with freshly fallen snow. I tried to find them, for I wanted so much to help them if I could, but my efforts were in vain. Next day I returned and was told by the neighbors that the mother was in a hospital and that the children had been placed by a charitable society in an institution.
I never saw nor heard of my patient again, but he inspired me with the idea to make my big family at the clinic happy. Since then, every child and adult who came to us was remembered in some way at Christmas time, although we were not permitted to have a tree at the hospital. Incidently, I found that speaking of Santa Claus was an invaluable aid in helping the eyes. Mothers often warned me that their children would not obey my directions. I would listen, of course, and then I would talk baseball or Santa Claus, according to the season of the year. The scheme never failed to bring good results. I have known the most restless of small boys to sit on a stool, or stand in a corner, for ten minutes or longer without moving, while I would tell the story of "The Night Before Christmas." It is also astonishing how much interest a small boy takes in baseball. Nine times out of ten when I ask a boy to imagine something perfectly, he will say:
"I can imagine a baseball very well."
I think if Babe Ruth knew how my boys admired him, he would provide more seats for them at some of his games, and I think, too, that he wouldn't mind playing Santa Claus and providing baseballs for some of my patients, as he has for many other boys. I am sure nothing would make them happier, even though baseballs are of little use in a city that does not provide enough playgrounds for its children.
Santa Claus, as I said, is a fair rival of baseball, and appeals to girls and boys alike. I begin during the month of September to talk of the visits he makes to the clinic every year, and the result is magical.
Joseph, nine years old, was quite unmanageable at first, and could not be enticed to palm, nor even to stand still long enough for me to test his sight. At one time I got tired of coaxing him, and told him to wait until others had been treated. His mother, a very nervous woman, wanted to thrash him, but the little fellow didn't seem to mind that a bit. He had been sent by a school nurse for glasses. His eyes were so sensitive to light, that he could only partly open them. When I was able to get back to him I said:
"If you will read this card for me and do as I tell you, I will have you come here the day before Christmas, when Santa Claus will give you something nice."
The suggestion worked splendidly. He read the card with both eyes together and with each eye separately, getting most of the letters on the forty line at fifteen feet. He palmed when I showed him how, and before he left, his sight had improved to 15/20. After he had palmed for ten minutes or longer, his mother remarked how wide his eyes opened. Joseph came quite regularly after that, and was grateful for the gift Santa Claus brought hum at Christmas time. Even though he was cured in a few weeks, he continued to come, just to say "Hello" to the doctor and myself.
Shortly before Christmas I treated a little girl whose age I cannot exactly remember, I should imagine that she was nine or ten years old. Her wistful eyes looked up into mine, and I surmised that she was very poor and lonely. She told me that her mother and father were both dead, and that a kind neighbor, who already had nine children, was mothering her too. I knew just what I would like to have Santa Claus give her, and tried to figure out just how much I could stretch my Christmas fund, so that I could buy clothes and shoes for this little girl. It could not be done, because I was poor myself. However, I doubt if these useful things would have made her as happy as did the dolly and the necklace which I ultimately gave her, and which cost only a trifle. She was so overcome with joy that she could scarcely talk.
There was nothing seriously wrong with her eyes, but she was under a nervous strain which caused her sight to blur at times. This I soon corrected, and she was very happy when told that she did not need glasses.
We are no longer at the Harlem Hospital Clinic, and I keep wondering if my beloved kiddies will be taken care of at Christmas time, or whether they will be neglected. I miss them very much. Each year we have a tree at our new clinic, distribute gifts as in the past, and extend our good cheer as far as it will reach. But my heart goes out to the dear ones we have left behind in that other clinic.
I shall try to paint a mental picture of our last Christmas with them. Little Patrick had been coming to us for eight weeks or so before Christmas. His difficulty was in seeing the blackboard in school. His teacher had sent him to us for glasses and offered to pay for them herself, as was explained in a note which Patrick had with him. He was such a dear little fellow, and one of the best behaved boys in her class, she said; his family was very poor, but they were good people, and for that reason she wanted to pay for the glasses.
On Patrick's first visit, Dr. Bates examined his eyes and said he was near-sighted. With the test card his vision was 15/100 with each eye. He did not like to palm, but he kept his eyes closed for over half an hour as he was told. On that day his vision improved to 15/20, which was unusual. I told him to rest his eyes by closing them often every day. The second week in December he read 15/10 on the test card with each eye.
When Patrick was told to come for his Christmas gift—and perhaps an orange with some candies—he begged for permission to bring his baby sister and three brothers. I believe it was an unselfish thought on his part, because he could not very well accept a gift when his sister and brothers had none. He was invited to bring his family to the Christmas party, and when I saw him that day he was radiant with smiles.
Our room surely looked as though Santa Claus had left his pack there. In one corner of the room several dozen dolls were arranged, waiting with their arms outstretched for the little girls. An operating table was loaded with games and toys for our boys. Large Florida oranges, enough for every one, both young and old, filled another corner of the room. Cornucopias, decorated with tinsel and filled with candies, were hung all about, a pretty sight to see. Dr. Bates, himself, arranged them on the windows and screens, and wherever they possibly could hang. The doctors and nurses from other clinics of the Harlem Hospital came to our room and admired the arrangements. Dr. Bates was very much excited about it all, and his face lighted up with smiles as the children and adults entered the room. He watched the expressions of the little ones, and his heart was filled with joy, because his clinic family was so happy.
For several years it had been our pleasure to greet Dr. Neuer in our room at the Christmas party. It was his delight to take one of the dollies and go from room to room, displaying that doll with all the joy of giving. Children suffering with tuberculosis, of whom many were cured by him, were never forgotten at Christmas time. When his eyes began to trouble him he came to Dr. Bates, and was cured without glasses. He did not mind in the least standing with the rest of our clinic patients, and when Dr. Bates invited him to his office, he said the dispensary was good enough for him. Shortly after our last Christmas party there, he was taken seriously ill with pneumonia, and died. He was beloved so by the poor that we know they will miss him, for he was a good Samaritan. He gave his life for his best friends,— his clinic patients.
For ten years I have watched the happy faces of girls and boys at Christmas time. Tired mothers, with sick babies in their arms, also received their share of useful gifts. Dr. Bates, though he was always busy, found time to hand each of his patients a gift, and to wish them a Merry Christmas.
Bridget, the Dispensary scrub woman, who had heard some weeks before that our patients were to have a treat again, decided, all of a sudden, that her eyes needed treatment. Just to please hen we prescribed some harmless eyedrops, for there was really nothing the matter with her eyes. She was big, fat, and good-natured, and walked around as though she owned the place. Bridget wanted to be our patient at least until Christmas time, so we allowed her to fool us.
On the day the gifts were distributed, a colored woman brought her little girl to be treated for an infection of her eyes, and was waiting to be attended. Instead of being pleased at all the pretty toys she saw, she looked very sad and downhearted. After Dr. Bates had treated the little girl, he sent her to me for a dollie. The mother begged me not to give her one, because she had two younger children at home who would not have any Christmas on account of their poverty. The little girl was taken care of by me, while the mother was sent home post haste, to bring the little brother and sister. She returned with her brood, and the tears came to her eyes when a doll was given to each of her girls and a mouth-organ to the little boy. Mother's arms were filled with oranges and candy, and there were no more tears. This little family had always been well provided for while the husband and father was living, but he was killed while at work, and the mother, being in ill health, found it very hard to keep her family together. Before she would accept a gift from us, I had to convince her that she was not accepting charity, and that real friends were merely sharing their gifts with us at the clinic.
I wish everyone who contributed to our Christmas Fund could have been with us on the Christmas of 1923. We had our first tree. Not only did our clinic patients enjoy it, but our private patients as well. I fear, too, that on more than one occasion, a private patient was kept waiting much longer than he cared to wait, while Dr. Bates hovered around that Christmas tree. Dr. Bates does not like to neglect his work, but that tree needed his attention, he thought, even though he was keeping his patients waiting. His orders were not to purchase anything cheap. The clinic family is precious to him and must have the best of everything. When it came time to distribute the toys and candies to the children, I saw him peeping in at the doorway, and this added pleasure of having a tree for them did him a world of good. The children all love him because he does so much for them.
At the Harlem Hospital we were not permitted to have a tree in our section, but the Christmas spirit prevailed in our room there just the same. Deep down in my heart, I wished each year to have a tree, in addition to gifts for our patients at the clinic. With the reserve left over from the year before, which was big enough to bring happiness for all, we were able to have gifts, and a tree that reached from the floor to the ceiling.
Everyone connected with our office helped to trim the tree, which stood in a corner of the reception room where it could be seen by all. Pretty dolls for the little girls peeped from beneath the lower branches. Games and mechanical toys were placed where every boy could choose the one he liked best. There were toys also for the smaller children, suitable gifts for the men and women and boxes of candy for everyone. At this time one of our patients was suddenly taken away from his wife and two little children. He had tuberculosis and was sent to an institution. Before he left he told me that he did not mind his suffering at all, but he was thinking of the cheerless Christmas that confronted his wife and children. However, it was not so cheerless as he expected it to be. A friend of mine supplied them with a turkey, and our Santa Claus did the rest. You never saw such a happy family. We were doubly repaid for our labor of love because at the time every patient responded to the treatment. Some were cured before Christmas time, but they were invited to come and share in the Christmas cheer just the game. Many of them came.
Something happened which was not at all expected nor planned. The son of a multi-millionaire, who was being treated by Dr. Bates at this time, came at his appointed hour. He stood and looked at the tree with great approval. It was aglow with colored electric lights. Then he spied the toys and shouted with joy. All of a sudden he disappeared. He was found later with Dr. Bates, asking the doctor questions that had nothing to do with the treatment of his eyes. Some of his questions were:
"Which toy is mine, doctor? Can I have the one I like best? Did Santa really leave this one or that one for me?"
His aunt, who was with him, was mortified. She made all sorts of apologies, imploring the doctor not to listen to him. "Why," said she, "He has money in his pocket now, to spend as he sees fit."
The doctor apparently paid no attention to her. His eyes were fixed on the little rich boy, who could appreciate a toy meant for a poor little lad. Dr. Bates informed him that the clinic Santa Claus would be pleased to have him select the toy he liked best, for we really had more than enough to go around.
There were fishing ponds, and mechanical boxers, supposed to be Jack Dempsey and his opponent. The latter was a great delight to the little fellow, so we did not have to guess which one he wanted.
A dear old man from the Blind Man's Home was very grateful for a package given him by a private patient.
One little girl, after she had chosen her dolly, said she didn't know that Santa Claus loved her so much.
I want to thank my friends who made all this possible, and to wish that their every Christmas be a merry one.
We had a lively time at the clinic last Christmas season, 1924. Many poor souls were made happy at that time, because of the generous contributions received throughout the year for the clinic fund.
I still keep up the old custom of telling a Christmas story to my younger patients. Every time they come for treatment, I tell them to palm their eyes, and then I try to improve their memory and imagination, which always improves their sight. It is necessary to remind a child of pleasant things, and what is more wonderful to the child mind than a Christmas tree laden with toys and candies? While I am treating boys and girls at the age of twelve or older, I talk about ice skating or sleigh rides, hills of snow, the pure whiteness of the drifts, or I tell them to imagine they are making snow balls. This helps to improve their vision for the test card and relieves tension or pain. Young men and women who work in shops usually find it a benefit to imagine that objects about them are moving all day. I tell them to blink slowly, but constantly, and shift their eyes while blinking. This stops the stare which causes so much body fatigue. If I have had a hard day, treating the most difficult cases, I find it a great help to palm and remember some of my childhood days. I think back to the night before Christmas. Mothers will find it a great help in improving their own sight if they make a daily habit of spending ten or fifteen minutes with their children, palming and resting. Children can easily form mental pictures while palming, especially remembering the Christmas decorations in store windows, the funny mechanical toys, and animals that move about when they are wound up. Recalling or imagining such things, while their eyes are closed, helps to relieve the mind of school studies, which sometimes cause strain. Adults, especially mothers, listen to me while I am describing such things to the children in the clinic. When it comes time to treat the older patients, I find it quite easy to have them remember how surprised their children were on Christmas morning, when the tree and toys were discovered.
It was necessary to find out the ages of the children so that we could purchase suitable and useful gifts for them. There were sewing baskets for the older girls, and handkerchiefs, three in a box, for mothers and fathers. For the little girls, we had the dearest dollies which we purchased at a reasonable price. Little boys received games and toys of all sorts, and enough money was given to a mother to buy a pair of baby shoes for her youngest.
One mother, who came quite regularly for several months before Christmas, was made very happy the day of our festival. She was invited to bring all of her children. There were seven and not one boy among them.
Dear old Pop from the Blind Men's Home of Brooklyn, was too feeble to be with us, but we remembered him just the same. Good smoking tobacco and some wearing apparel were sent to him and he was overjoyed.
While we were distributing the gifts, I suddenly remembered about the little rich boy who enjoyed a poor boy's gift the year before. I was a little sorry not to have another rich boy at this time. There were a few toys left, and no more boys to receive them. The last little girl had received her doll and departed. There was one doll left behind. She was perched among the lower branches and looked rather lonesome. There was no one to claim her. I was rearranging the lights on the tree while all was quiet. When I turned away from the tree, I saw a little rich girl from the West, admiring the lonesome dollie. Her mother stood behind her wondering what would happen next. Dr. Bates also appeared on the scene, and when he nodded his head toward the little girl and then the doll, I understood what he meant. Both arms of the little girl reached out for a poor girl's gift. She held that dollie as though it were the only one in the world. I have learned so much about private and clinic patients, and I am glad to find that all boys and girls feel the same whether they are rich or poor, their hearts beat alike at Christmas time.
Many thanks to my friends who make our clinic family happy at Christmas time.
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