Letter from Bill Guspie 


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Dear NAPE Friends,

While chatting with Fran Benham at the recent NAPE Conference in Detroit, I described my use of the Eccentric Viewing technique to make the best use of my remaining vision. I also mentioned that I still ride my bike and play golf. Fran asked me to share how I do these things for the newsletter. Here is my story.

I ride my bike using mostly the same routes, riding on the sidewalk as much as possible and wearing brightly colored clothes. So, along with my orange flag which is permanently attached to my bike, and wearing my helmet at all times, I am pretty well ready to go.

The picture shown is of me bringing home groceries from a store located less than a mile from where I live. The basket on the front of my bike holds one paper bag perfectly, and I make a couple of trips a week to the store. If I have a few extra items, I usually just carry them home in my backpack.

I also carry a cell phone and my white folding cane in the backpack, along with a note explaining that I am legally blind as well as an “If Anything Should Happen to Me” list including the names of people to contact, phone numbers and my insurance information. Using the backpack allows both of my hands to be free and to carry a few additional items without any strain. Using the bike is also great exercise!

When I go golfing, I bring a friend who stands behind me when I swing and tells me where the ball goes after I hit it. He is my “watcher.” This golf shot shows me putting and lining up a shot with the club facing the target line. Another shot shows how I use the white cane to measure the distance from the ball to the hole.

A tip to other blind golfers: since normally amateurs will pick up the ball if the distance from the hole is within the leather grip on the putter, measure with the leather on your cane instead (it’s longer...). Unfortunately, my very astute golfing buddies usually don’t go along with this excellent tip – so when I’m with them, they show no mercy to the blind guy and I get NO SPECIAL ADVANTAGES!

Now on to Eccentric Viewing. One morning in the early 1990’s, I woke up with some “fogginess” in one of my eyes. I thought I was just having a hard time getting focused after a hard night’s sleep and, like many of you know, the condition kept getting worse. Several laser treatments later, most of the vision in the central point of my left eye was gone.

My doctor informed me it was essential for me to start using the Amsler Grid for both the right and left eyes because if my eye condition deteriorated, it would become more difficult for me to notice subtle changes in my vision. He asked me to note any waviness, blank spots, or changes within the grid lines of the Amsler Grid. I tested my vision at that time on a monthly basis. As my vision loss has now mostly stabilized, I only test with the grid about every 6 months.

One of the most important side benefits of using the grid is that it allows me to continually check for any vision changes that may occur. I’m then able to alert my doctor right away for possible treatment. 

Following the loss of sight in my left eye, I learned that I have PXE. I began learning more about the disorder and how to manage daily tasks with what now is described as “low or limited vision.” I came across a book that described a viewing technique known as “Eccentric Viewing” so I set about learning how to use it. 

Here’s what I do: In simple terms, this technique explains and gives suggestions on how to make use of the large portion of viewing area that remains after losing central vision. The viewing area of a person with normal vision is 180 degrees, left to right. Amazingly, it only takes approximately three degrees to the left and right of center to decrease our vision from 20/20 to more than 20/200, which is considered legally bind. That still leaves a whole lot of good 
viewing area. The Eccentric Viewing technique shows you how to get to it in order to use it! 

Using the Amsler Grid, I am able to detect the areas where I can still see objects and those areas where I cannot. It’s important to test each eye individually to determine which one has the better vision. In my case, my right eye has the best vision, so I close or cover my left eye to perform the rest of the test.

I always start with a blank Amsler Grid and focus on the center dot. Then using a pen I rotate the grid clockwise from the outside of the grid border towards the center dot, while still focusing on the dot. Each time I lose sight of the point of the pen, I make a mark on the grid. 

As I circle the grid, I think of it like the face of a clock. I typically make about three marks in each fifteen minute time interval, until I end up with about twelve marks total when I reach high noon, the 12-o’clock position. The more marks you make, the better picture you will obtain of what you can and cannot see.
I then connect the dots to make a shape. 

The shape resulting from the test to my “good” right eye is irregular. The area inside the line is my blind area where I am unable to see anything. The area outside the line is where I still have viewing ability. Since the center dot of the Amsler Grid represents 20-20 vision, it is the area outside the line, but closest to the center dot, that is the area where one will have the best vision. 
The grid results showed that the area to the LEFT of the center dot on the Amsler Grid is where I have the greatest clarity to focus on an object.

Now is when the Eccentric Viewing technique comes into play. I point my nose at the object I’m trying to see, and lock my head and neck in that position. Here’s the tricky part. I then move MY EYES ONLY and look to the RIGHT of the object that I am trying to see (the opposite of what the grid shows). Looking to the right actually moves my greatest clarity point (sweet spot) into position. If your sweet spot is to the right, you will actually look to the left of the object which, again, pulls that clarity point into position like a string pulls a toy train. It really works! 

I now use the Amsler Grid not only to monitor changes in my vision, but also to verify that the areas where I focus the Eccentric Viewing technique are still the best areas (closest to the center dot on the Amsler Grid) to choose for viewing.
Using Eccentric Viewing has enabled me to do many of the same things I did before my vision difficulties, just more slowly, or with a bit of assistance. I am not able to do everything I used to do with full sight… but I refuse to become a hermit and have a daily pity party for myself! I will always be open to new ways and ideas to increase my remaining vision. I have to. After all, I’m now the proud GRANDPA of three very active grandsons (triplets), and I have to be able to convince them that I have eyes in the back of my head!

Happy Holidays,

Bill Guspie

PS: If you would like to contact me regarding this article, you may email me at billguspie@msn.com

If you or another NAPE member have an interesting and positive way of coping with PXE problems, please let us know so that we can invite them to share their stories for the newsletter. Please contact the NAPE office with this information.