By Lara Sokoloff
She sat down and removed a plastic bag from her backpack. She unzipped the bag and placed five glass eyes of various sizes across the table.
“You can tell by the size that this is one of my early ones,” Jackie Arkush ’12 said. “And this is the first one. I had that when I was nine days old.”
Arkush suffers from micropthalmia, a developmental disorder that directly translates to “small eye.”
A benign tumor grew in her left eye socket when she was in utero inhibiting it from fully developing.
Her left eye, which is hidden by her prosthetic eye, has a small pupil but no iris, and moves slightly due to some muscle development.
The glass eyes are formed exactly to the shape of her actual eye, she said, which is why her prosthetic eye moves slightly also.
Arkush has no vision out of her left eye, but sees 20/20 out of her right eye. She said it mostly affects her driving, and she has to be extra careful when merging lanes or turning left.
She also had to fill out extra forms at the Department of Motor Vehicles and present multiple doctors’ notes.
Arkush said her condition also affects her on a daily basis.
“It’s little things,” she said. “I walk into people a lot, and door frames sometimes. Trees hit me in the face. I honestly don’t see a lot of the things that come at me.”
Arkush said she tries to sit only on the left side of classrooms so she doesn’t have to turn her head all the time to look at the board, but that her inhibited vision doesn’t affect her while taking tests.
Arkush gets refitted for a new glass eye about every three years. Plaster is poured directly into her eye socket to form the prosthetic eyes.
“It is the most uncomfortable thing, and I just have to sit there until it sets,” she said.
Arkush said she was often made fun of in elementary school. She was always asked why her eye doesn’t move whenever she met new kids.
“Children aren’t that nice about it,” she said.
Arkush has not been asked about her unmoving left eye in two years because most people at Harvard-Westlake already know about it. Most assume she just has a lazy eye.
People often ask her what she sees out of her left eye, and she often has to explain that she just sees nothing, she said.
“It’s like your forehead or your cheek. You just don’t see a color there,” Arkush said. “Everyone has a hard time grasping that. I don’t see.”
Arkush said she often wonders what it would be like to have vision in both eyes. Her eyes inhibit her from seeing three-dimensional movies, and she always wonders if they really work or not.
“My eye has made me see the world in a different way,” she said. “Not seeing half the world has made me really interested in discovery and furthering my knowledge.”