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I was born in the summer of ‘69’, so yes: that means I am officially in the 50+ category. I have this group of ‘so-called friends’ – eight guys that I know since childhood – that consider me to be in the serious health risk category. They themselves are (just marginally!) under 50. In a cautious way we are thinking of getting together again face-to-face which we used to do on a monthly basis for the last 30 years or so. But they are considering placing me in a separate glass container though, separate from the rest of the group…

Our kids haven’t been to school – apart from the virtual one – for months now. While they seem to be doing fine, there is a huge question mark regarding ‘dropout rates’ of a significant part of the teenage population. It is not the bulk, but it is ‘an important portion’. On the outer edges of the spectrum, kids seem to drop off the radar as they do not participate (enough) in online classes, and simply don’t get the education they need. What does this do to their lives, their future and our society going forward?

 

The origin of the word ‘quarantine’ comes from the Italian ‘Forty Days’ (quaranta giorni). In the Netherlands the official lockdown measures started March 15th, which means we have passed the 50-day mark (today is day 55 of the lockdown measures to be exact). The ‘40 days’ comes from the plague epidemic in the 14th century. Ships in the harbours had to be in ‘quarantine’ (a medical term) for 40 days – after which it was safe to leave the ship and the sailors could mingle amongst the population. Back to the current situation: this actually means we are in cinquantine (‘50 days’) now rather than in quarantine.

Many elementary schools in the Netherlands have put letters behind their windows saying ‘we miss you’ as a message to the children. Heart-breaking and sweet. Most probably, by now the kids actually do miss their respective schools and the interaction with others after having been in lockdown for over a month. The promising outlook of ‘staying at home for a month’ turned out to be a bit of a utopia it seems.

 

This column over the last couple of weeks has covered topics on eyecare and contact lens related topics in COVID-19 times. Sometimes the link between the two was subtle, in others it was quite directly related. This topic is 100% ‘on-topic’. I never seriously considered telemedicine to be honest, until now.

Iowa

Granted, the US is way ahead of Europe in this regard. Typically, distances are much smaller here. I was following a live webinar recently by the Scleral Lens Education Society – an excellent resource for everything you need to know about scleral lenses by the way. John Gelles from the CLEI Center for Keratoconus in Teaneck New Jersey, Marcus Noyes from the University of IOWA and Clarke Newman from Plaza Vision Center in Dallas, Texas hosted a fantastic, clinically relevant and to-the-point panel discussion on the topic. To illustrate the point above: Marcus mentioned that some of their patients ‘called in’ because they had a six-hour drive ahead of them, to come to their clinic. Six-hour drive? From Amsterdam, if you drive six hours you are not only in a different country: you are in the next country after that.

While the terrible disease keeps spreading, it appears there is a sparkle of light in some parts of the world. It isn’t gone by any means and although it is too soon to draw final conclusions, it appears that in the Netherlands at least we seem to have reached some kind of plateau. That is what they have been calling #flatteningthecurve. We can only hope that this is true and that the rest of the world will follow soon.

 

 

Songwriter Harlan Howard coined the phrase “Three chords and the truth” to describe the necessary ingredients for country music. He stated that you only need three chords to make country music, which shows the basics of the music style and music in general in a simple way.

 

Vision is a beautiful thing. It sounds complex, how our optical system works. And it is. The first part is pretty easy to understand: in an ideal world the focal point of the eye is positioned where the retina is. If the focal point is slightly behind the retina, it’s called hyperopia and if it is in front – its myopia.

It gets slightly more complex when dealing with astigmatism. Because one meridian of the optical system of the eye is different from the other meridian – typically 90 degrees apart – the two focal points are at a different distance from the retina. We can still pretty easily correct this with glasses that have two focal points. Even with contact lenses, there is no ‘stigma’ anymore when it comes to astigmatism. About 1/3 of the people needing an optical correction has astigmatism, and most of that group within the lens wearing population is served with a so called ‘toric lens’ to correct that.

What day this is? This is I-lost-count-of-the-quarantine-day. But we are somewhere in week four of homeschooling. The idea that my kids get on their bikes to their respective schools is a distant memory by now. The teens have locked themselves up in their rooms for the remainder of the day. I have to say, the way they respond to this crisis is impressive. They work; they work hard – and stay up to speed with what the schools dictate. Big thumbs up to the schools as well. This is a Guinness-book ‘turning-physical-schoolinginto-digital-schooling’ record. An achievement that makes me proud: of my kids and the system.

Hereditary

We were just faced with a significant extension of the Corona-measures in our part of the world, which means we are spending way more time together as a family coming weeks. Let’s take the time to combine ‘family’ and ‘extension’ here. ‘Extension’ – quite literally – refers to myopia: axial myopia per definition is just that: an eye length above the norm and too long for the refractive power of the eye’s optical system.

What has social detachment to do with retinal detachment? At first sight (no pun intended) nothing, but if you look closer, these two can actually be connected in this corona-reality. Our government has summoned citizens to practice social distancing, and to keep 1.5-meter distance. Literally. And in the Netherlands you are not allowed to be together with more than three people (except households) at the same time, at the risk of a fine of €400. This even counts for birthdays and other parties. We have to get used to that for the foreseeing future, with an unknown effect on our social lives and potentially with the risk on social detachment, especially for some of the elderly in our community.