Eye of the Beholder

Photo by Lauren Lu

During SRT, Room B212 is quiet. Only the shuffling of papers and the occasional cough can be heard in chemistry teacher Timothy “Tim” Mylin’s classroom. He sits at his desk, patiently waiting for any confused student who may approach him with a particularly challenging chemistry problem.

Very few of these students will look closely enough at his left eye to realize that for the last 34 years it has not actually been an eye.

Mylin lost his left eye during his sophomore year in college.

“I had been home for winter break and was out rabbit hunting with some buddies. We jumped a rabbit,” Mylin said. “I didn’t shoot because initially, it went towards my friends, (but) then it went out towards the middle. I heard them shoot, and then one pellet ricocheted and somehow got me in the eye. ”

The pellet lodged in the fatty tissue of his brain, where it remains to this day, surrounded by calcium. Doctors were reluctant to remove it because of the pellet’s close proximity to his brain.

Originally, he retained some peripheral vision. Upon closer examination, however, doctors told him the vision would fade over time and may cause a sympathetic reaction in his right eye, which would result in losing vision in both eyes.

Mylin said, “So when we finally decided that I was going to end up losing my eye I prayed about it a lot, and at that point, I was just thankful it wasn’t going to be two eyes and I could still see. I try to look at the positive, and I’m just thankful to God that I can still see out of one eye.”

Mylin does have an eye patch, but in school his fake eye suffices. The fake eye he obtained is a thick, plastic contact lens painted by an artist to match the colors of his right eye.

“The eye is held into place by six different muscles that go around it, as well as it’s connected to the brain with the optic nerve in the back of the eye,” Dr. Jonathan Burns, who holds a doctorate in the field of optometry, said. “It depends on how much of the eye that they have to remove. If they have to remove it all, then they cut every muscle and the optic nerve. Then they take (the eye) out and replace it with an artificial one.”

Mylin said the surgery was difficult. “The doctor had not ordered proper pain medication for after the procedure,” Mylin said. “I felt like somebody had put a knife through my head.”

The recovery time lasted about three weeks, and Mylin said while he no longer thinks about his missing eye, he does have to remove and clean his plastic eye every day with antibacterial soap and saline solution. Despite his eye doctors’ suggestions, he does not sleep with it in at night.

“I used to wear contacts too so (putting in a prosthetic eye is) real easy. It’s easier to handle than a contact,” Mylin said. “A contact is so thin and my eye, it’s really easy to just pop in. But contacts, sometimes you have to get it in right.”

“When we finally decided that I was going to end up losing my eye I prayed about it a lot, and at that point, I was just thankful it wasn’t going to be two eyes and I could still see. I try to look at the positive, and I’m just thankful to God that I can still see out of one eye.”Chemistry Teacher Timothy ``Tim`` Mylin

At about the same time Mylin began wearing his ocular prosthetics, he also took to wearing glasses. Initially, they were for protective purposes, but now they are necessary for his remaining eye.

Burns described the eye as a system designed to bend light into the back of the eye to hit the retina. The eye has difficulty seeing when the it bends the light in such a way it no longer hits the retina. “When you put glasses or contacts in front of the eye those bend the light in the opposite direction the correct amount,” said Burns. “So that when you add the light bending by the glasses to how much the lights bending in there (the eye), it makes it so that the light does get sent to the back of the eye and the retina.”

After his recovery, he returned to Butler University as a biological chemistry major.

“The first make-up lab I had to do was in comparative vertebrate anatomy, and I had to dissect a sheep eye as my first project back,” Mylin said. “That was kind of weird.”

Later during his college years, he remembered one particular speech class in which he was doing a presentation on prosthetic eyes and took his own prosthetic out during class. However, he said he has never taken it out during his teaching.

His eye has been a source for some humorous moments during his teaching career. “I had a kid who raised his hand once right in the middle of class and said, ‘Mr. Mylin, do you really have a fake eye?’ I didn’t really bother me or embarrass me, but I would have thought that from his standpoint it would have been embarrassing to ask that, particularly if I didn’t have one.”

Photo by Lauren Lu

Burns said the eye sees by reflecting light to the back of the eye into the retina. When light is reflected in front of the retina but not directly into it, vision becomes blurry. Glasses solve the problem by bending light in such a way that the light will hit the retina, according to Burns.

Mylin said, “Sometimes, I miss having that really good vision and depth perception.” Although Mylin can see clearly with glasses, he said he has difficulty with depth perception and cannot see to his left.

“I was nervous about track and field,” Mylin said. “I was worried. ‘Am I still going to differentiate between the hurdles?’ ‘Am I going to be able to shoot a basketball?’ All that stuff came back just from muscle memory. The biggest issue I have playing basketball is I’ve just got to turn my head more.”

Burns said eyes use the distance of the object they are looking at combined with the difference the eyes are turning to determine depth perception. The loss of an eye loses the second image to calculate the distance of an object.

Mylin said, “When I walk up to a curve, even though I know there is a curve there, I have a hard time differentiating between the curb and the lower level.”

Despite challenges posed by Mylin’s eye, which he has never described as a handicap, he said he is still able to do everything he could before the accident, including hunting.

“I never did go rabbit hunting again, but I did shoot a shotgun again,” he said. “I went pheasant (bird) hunting once or twice, and then after that I pretty much put away my shotgun and started pursuing archery. You adapt, move on, and it becomes kind of a natural thing.”

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Annika Wolff


"Darling, I'm fabulous."