Price man sees world through a unique lens
Doug Massman lives life to the fullest and he couldn't fathom the thought of going through life any other way.
Despite being blind in his right eye since birth, Massman, 79, hasn't let that slow him down one bit. A youth filled with plenty of fond memories, a career in the Army, serving as a principal at Helper Junior High for 10 years and doing the odd-jobs here and there, Massman has plenty of life experiences under his belt.
"I never looked at being blind in one eye as a disability," said Massman. "I never cared or had any problem with it. It's like having one arm. You can't change it so you just get used to living with it."
But when he started experiencing vision problems with his left eye in 2007, Massman's zest for everything life had to offer began to wane. He visited eye doctors over the next two years before finally being told he was diagnosed with macular degeneration. Massman said he didn't really know what to expect after receiving the news since the eye condition was not something he was very familiar with.
"I didn't even know what that (macular degeneration) was," he said, "and I still don't to be honest."
According to the Mayo Clinic, macular degeneration is chronic eye disease that causes vision loss in the center of your field of vision. There are two types of macular degeneration, including wet and dry, that can affect people. Dry macular degeneration is noted with the deterioration of the macula, located in the center of the retina and is the layer of tissue on the inside back wall of the eye. Wet macular degeneration is a condition when blood vessels that grow under the retina in the back of the eye leaking blood and fluid.
Massman said doctors told him and his wife, Darlene, that things would start to get worse over time and there wasn't much that could be done to help. For Darlene, her thoughts began to drift toward what life for them as a couple would be like with Doug being completely blind.
"I immediately thought we'd need to get a service dog for him, learn braille and have to change a lot of other things in our lives," she said.
As his vision began to worsen, Massman noticed that daily activities including working, talking to people, watching television and reading scriptures were becoming more and more difficult.
"I kept thinking, if I couldn't work then I wouldn't want to be alive any more," he remembers.
While watching television one night about a year ago, Massman's daughter, Amanda, noticed a news report about a doctor who helped a woman with macular degeneration see again with a special pair of glasses. Intrigued by the report, Darlene and Doug contacted Dr. Jared Cooper, a low vision specialist who has spent much of his time helping improve the quality of life for people suffering with vision problems.
Cooper helped give Massman a pair of unique glasses with mini telescopes on each lens that helps magnify a larger area of the person's field of vision.
"It literally brings the image of what they are looking at closer to the peripheral eye that is more healthy," said Cooper.
While it can take some time to get adjusted to the unique glasses, Cooper said patients typically adjust quickly with the right prescription.
After putting on the glasses for the first time, Massman looked out the window of Cooper's office and began noticing all of the small things out in the world around him.
"The minute I put them on, I could see everything," he remembered.
"He was really giddy about it," Darlene said of Doug's reaction. "He was like a child again and it was so exciting for me to see him so happy after all of this."
For three weeks after getting the new glasses, Massman was eager to read children's books provided to him to help retrain his brain and let his eyes adjust to the glasses. He quickly went through every one of them and moved on to something he waited so long to do, reading scriptures. He remembers walking into the Westwood Ward on a Sunday morning shortly after getting the glasses and seeing everything, from the people to the architecture of the building, clearly for the first time in years.
"Dr. Cooper helped give me back what I couldn't do in life," Massman said.
He continues to keep busy on a daily basis doing household chores, plowing snow in the winter months, fixing things here and there as well as helping out AJB Properties. A key chain with dozens of keys sits on his belt and Massman knows exactly what each one is used for without having to bring a key up to his left eye to give it a long check over. It is one of many daily reminders of just how much life has changed for him.
"I have seen a 100 percent difference in his desire and ability to live life," said Darlene. "The new glasses helped take away his fear of living life as a blind person and not being able to function."
Massman plans on continuing to live life working hard, spending time with family and enjoying what life has to offer.
"I'm as healthy as a horse," he says with a smile. "I feel human again now that I can see."