Training my eyes

With 47 days to go my challenge is rapidly approaching, I am slowly getting my kit together and trying my very best to fit in exercise when I can to ensure that I am fit for the challenge.  An essential part of the trip preparation has been to do with my eyes.  Who would’ve thought I need to train my eyes!

I have worn glasses since I was eight, I certainly rocked the Deirdre Barlow look in the late eighties and early nineties.

Me in rocking those glasses

Yep, I know…. super cool… I rocked it

I have never ever wanted contact lenses, I am not that squeamish about things, but I have always been a bit funny about two things, touching my eyes and the other being someone else touching my knees.  I know weird… and especially weird for a physio, but we won’t dwell on the knee thing, back to my eyes.  I can’t even put drops in my eyes I always blink and they roll down my cheeks, and I could never ever watch an eye operation.

I have astigmatism, which I have been told is that my eyes are rugby ball shaped and not football shaped, according to my optician my vision would be OK if it wasn’t for my astigmatism.  I am short-sighted and have to wear my glasses to drive, so I definitely need them for dog sledding.

I have a comprehensive kit list for this trip and I am definitely listening to the experts when it comes to finding the right equipment, I need kit that is going to work in extreme cold and is not going to let me down.  The kit list clearly states glasses wearers should wear contact lenses, as glasses will mist up and most likely be pretty uncomfortable under goggles, so it was time to face my fear and I booked my appointment with the optician.  Next it was time to get advice from some experts.  I am new to the realm of blogging and twitter but I have to say it is proving very useful for a number of reasons and in this instance I asked the advice of real life polar explorers via the twittersphere.  I even got advice from a Blue Peter presenter/explorer, that’s almost a badge isn’t it?

contact lenses 1 contact lenses 2

With  advice from @HelenSkelton @GedMc and @ELexplore in hand, off I went to Specsavers in Penge.  Firstly my optician was excited to learn that at the grand old age of 33 this was my very first consultation for contact lenses (first consultations are apparently very rare), and secondly when he heard why I wanted to have contact lenses because of the Arctic 4 Abby challenge I swear he was almost more excited than me!  We had a really detailed conversation, about the advice from the polar explorers, different types of material, I really couldn’t have asked for a better optician.  We eventually settled on the material that allows the most oxygen to get to the eyes, Silicone Hydrogel, daily disposables, and toric lenses because of my astigmatism.


Next step was my appointment to be taught how to put my lenses in, I was apparently entitled to 3 teaching sessions, I was hoping it wouldn’t take that many but at the same time realistic about my abilities.  So teaching session one, despite determination, my ability to keep my eye open and put something on my eyeball was a non-starter.  Eventually I did manage to put one lens in my right eye, but I just couldn’t get it out.  This meant they had to take it out for me, I’ve got to tell you I didn’t like that experience as it played well to my fear.  My eyes felt pretty tired after that, and I certainly didn’t look my best!

Never to give in, 5 days later, time for teaching session two.  Now I was not holding out much hope for this one for a couple of reasons.  Firstly my inability to keep my eye open and get the required technique was well and truly rubbish, and secondly my sister Philippa and I had held a small mulled wine and mince pie party at our flat the night before …  it might’ve gone on later than we thought, and hence I was off to the opticians a little tired, slightly shakey and having had a couple of paracetamol.  Really not an ideal starting point for teaching session two.

It took a couple of attempts, with great coaching, and I did it!!  I put them in both eyes and took them out, yay me and facing and beating my fear!  They then let my have my prescription lenses and I left the opticians with the biggest grin on my face and feeling like I had really accomplished something!  Thanks Specsavers Penge you did great.

I did it!

I did it!

I am still in the process of ramping up my lens wear, they still feel a little strange but I can put them in and take them out without too much problem.  I just have to get super proficient to be able to use them in the sub-zero conditions, when there is pretty poor lighting and I don’t want to take my gloves off!  I am a little unsure of how I should be storing them though whilst on my challenge, so any ideas to make sure the solution doesn’t freeze when they are in my bag out on the sled or any other advice on contact lens use in extreme environments would be gratefully appreciated.

So this challenge involves even more training than I thought, but what a great skill to now have,  it could totally revolutionise how I view the world in more ways than one, and I really feel great to have overcome one of my fears.

All photos and content © Danielle Ramsey and Arctic 4 Abby, 2015, except where stated.

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