Twenty plus years ago Donnie Franklin was in dental school working towards his future when God altered his course. In an effort to make some money he started working for an Ocularist in Dallas. He figured he could take a year or two and try out something new. Worse case scenario would be losing some time but the return to the world of dentistry would still be possible. Now in his early forties, Mr. Franklin finds himself as one of the rare Ocularists that enjoys working with children and it was in his office that we found ourselves today. Just as God had proven sovereign in finding us the perfect surgeon, Dr. Mark Alford, He placed the perfect specialist that was ready and willing to patiently work with our very scared and apprehensive Carter.
The morning started out with Carter pushing back as Mr Franklin was trying to pull out the conformer (plastic piece placed in Carters eye once the stitches were removed.) It seems like we were in for a very long, stressful, and tear-filled day. Franklin felt it was best to not do an eye mold which would require him to squirt silicon into Carter’s eye to make a full orbital impression. He said most children really struggle with this. Instead he pre-made some molds (just in case this very scenario unfolded) and wanted Carter to try a few out. After “wearing” one for 30-45 minutes he had a good feel of the size and shape needed to move forward. He sent us off for a couple hours at lunchtime and began to make Carter’s new eye. After lunch we returned and he had the eye molded and fitting well.
What happened next simply amazed me. We sat for over an hour watching him slowly and methodically paint Carter’s eye. At one point he said, “I should charge your parents extra because of the color of your eye.” We have always admired the beauty and intrinsic look of Carter’s natural eye color and the specialist was now seeing the same thing. He would paint a little, hold it up and compare it to Carter’s good eye, paint some more, answer ALL our questions, let me shoot 100 pictures, rinse and repeat. At the end of the day we had an eye that looked amazing but not good enough for Mr. Franklin. He said Carter’s eye was challenging his artistic talents and would require a few more hours tomorrow morning to finish it. I guess perfection takes time or maybe it’s difficult to duplicate the amazing work of our Creator. Seems this is a little more than just paint by number even though at one point Carter quipped “I wish he’d let me paint it, it looks easy.”
There is no doubt in my mind that Donnie Franklin has a God given talent that was seen in a patient and understanding man that has a way of making a white piece of acrylic have the depth and life-like look of a real eye. There are countless dentists out there and I’d never take for granted the schooling, training, and work they put into their trade. But the Ocularist, and especially one that is willing to work with a 6 year old, is a special person. I thank God for directing Donnie Franklin’s path 20 years ago. And I thank Him for giving my son that sparkle in his eye that he had 77 days ago.
So what’s next? After finalizing this eye tomorrow, we will be set for a couple years. Then we will return where Mr Franklin will do a full mold on Carter and give him a new ocular prosthetic. A good way to compare the two prosthetics is to think of this current one as a mitten when the next one will fit more like a glove. We will return every 6 months to have it cleaned and make sure no problems have occurred. As time passes, we will have more prosthetics made as Carter grows. Some of you have already asked about the insurance part of all this. It seems insurance companies feel like a prosthetic is not a necessity but more elective so they cover very little of the costs. Amy would like to have our insurance company call our little Carter and tell him he doesn’t really need a new eye. Actually the Ocularist told us how important the prosthetic is to keep the eye tissue and orbit healthy. It was enough to convince us that we will do whatever we can to fight the insurance companies for other/future families that cannot afford the expense.
Sorry for blowing up your timelines, twitter feeds, etc throughout today’s process. Didn’t mean to be “that guy” but the day was fascinating and plenty of family looking for updates. I’d guess another post will happen tomorrow when we are less tired. Most likely a little less factual and slightly more emotional. Until then enjoy some pictures (click one to enlarge the gallery.)