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Closing a blind eye

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- In the light of the day or that of a room, you are able to see a lot of things. However, if you take a moment and close your eyes and try to navigate a room you are familiar with, could you make it to the other side of the room safely? Odds are you couldn't. As humans, we take a lot of things for granted. We enjoy the sound of children playing under a sprinkler and watching the beauty of life unfold around us on a daily basis. But, if you take away one of your senses, such as your eyesight, would it still be as much of a blessing?

Daily, we see things that should be addressed and in the right frame of mind. However, there are times when our minds overlook what we do see, regardless of how obvious it may be, and we don't say anything. Put yourself in the position of someone who has lost their eyesight and you'd do anything to have it back. There are a number of problems that can lead to a loss of eyesight; anything from an eye injury or even glaucoma can lead to partial blindness or total blindness. It is our responsibility to take the actions necessary to protect our vision -- whether it's making necessary appointments with an eye doctor or wearing eye protection.

Something I've come to learn over these past five-and-a-half years is that there is no price to be put on the value of your eyesight. For example, my wife's family has a history of glaucoma, and in each generation it has been identified earlier and earlier. One of the things she hopes for is to be able to keep her sight long enough to see our son become a father. She is constantly having surgeries and exams in hopes of slowing down the degeneration of her vision. We are constantly fighting this and trying to be as proactive as possible to maintain her eyesight and the possibility of being able to one day see the grandchildren that she hopes to have.

There are many of us who don't have the misfortune of living with glaucoma, yet we must take steps to protect our eye sight as long as we can. Something we can do is wear the protection we need when there is a possibility of sustaining an eye injury. Whether on the job or at home, it doesn't take much to sustain an eye injury. Take recreational activities such as basketball, racquetball or softball for example; if you go to play racquetball at the base fitness center, one of the things they require is the use of eye protection in the form of athletic goggles. They do this because of the damage a racquet or ball can inflict if it impacts you in the eye. You may get rattled a bit from the impact, but you'll still have your vision. With basketball, there's the hazard of getting a finger in the eye or getting hit by someone's elbow. This would be an example of selective use as opposed to the required use on the racquetball court. The same would be said about softball or baseball. We must make the decision to wear eye protection when it isn't required to protect ourselves.

Another activity that we sometimes over look is riding a motorcycle. We as military and Department of Defense-employed civilian personnel know that eye protection is a requirement. What I've come to see with motorcycle riders on base is, for the most part, we meet the requirement of having it, but we don't always meet the requirement of using it properly.

Air Force Instruction 91-207, Paragraph 3.4.2.3.2 defines eye protection as goggles, wrap around glasses or a full-face shield properly attached to a helmet designed to meet or exceed American National Standards Institute Z87.1 for impact and shatter resistance will be worn and properly used. The catch phrase is if we have a full-face shield it must be properly attached to the helmet and used. However, what if we have a modular helmet with a flip up face shield or have the shield open. Would it still be properly worn if those portions are not in their closed position? The answer is no. The helmets would no longer offer the full protection they are designed for. With some understanding that it does get a little warm or stuffy and even a little foggy with the shield completely closed, there are options that can be used. Most helmets do come with vents that can be opened to allow circulation and, in my experience, I have noticed most have set positions where the shield can be opened to allow additional ventilation. In these cases, riders must wear eyewear that meets ANSI standards that will provide the same protective barrier as the shield.

So, while we have the knowledge to make the right decisions on eye protection, it is ultimately up to you to if you wish to keep your vision protected. Keep in mind that while there may be a lot of people using their eyes to identify what you may be doing right or wrong, you only have two eyes that you need to worry about, and those are the ones in your head. As I said before, a price can't be placed on your eyesight. It is up to you do determine how much value you place on your vision.