Strikingly real prosthetic eyes

Rick Bowen is a second-generation ocularist in Orlando, Florida, who uses his skills to help patients see themselves in a whole new way.

TRANSCRIPT

TO HELP THOSE WITH EYE LOSS OR DAMAGE, OCULARISTS ARE CREATING PROSTHETICS THAT ARE REALISTIC, COMFORTABLE, AND SOMETIMES, EVEN LIFE-CHANGING.

ONE SPECIALIST IN ORLANDO, FLORIDA, USES REALISTIC PROSTHETICS TO HELP HIS PATIENTS SEE THEMSELVES IN A WHOLE NEW WAY.

A WORD OF WARNING, SOME OF WHAT YOU'RE ABOUT TO SEE MAY BE A LITTLE UNCOMFORTABLE TO WATCH.

AN OCULARIST IS HALF MAD SCIENTIST, HALF ARTIST.

YOU HAVE TO WANT TO DO IT.

YOU HAVE TO WANT TO BE AN OCULARIST.

IT'S TEDIOUS.

IT CAN BE VERY CHALLENGING AND FRUSTRATING MANY TIMES.

RICK BOWEN IS A SECOND GENERATION OCULARIST.

I ENTERED INTO AN APPRENTICESHIP UNDER MY DAD.

TOOK ME ABOUT 8 YEARS TO GO THROUGH IT ONCE I FINALLY SETTLED DOWN AND GOT SERIOUS WITH IT.

I WENT THROUGH THE EDUCATION SEQUENCE THROUGH THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF OCULARISTS.

I SEE PEOPLE IN MY OFFICE WHO HAVE LOST THEIR EYE COMPLETELY, AS WELL AS PEOPLE WHO STILL HAVE AN EYE THAT MAY BE BLIND OR UNSIGHTLY THAT NEEDS COVERING.

[ DOOR CREAKS ]

SAMANTHA JAY WEARS A PROSTHETIC OVER HER DAMAGED EYE.

WHEN I WAS ABOUT 8 OR 9 YEARS OLD, UH, IT WAS A FREAK ACCIDENT.

A SCREWDRIVER WENT DOWN, BOUNCED OFF THE GROUND, AND IT CAME UP AND HIT ME IN MY EYE AND IT DETACHED IT.

I GOT A PROSTHETIC EYE WHEN I WAS 18.

I CAME HERE TODAY TO GET A NEW EYE MADE.

IT WAS NOT MOVING GREAT.

THE COLOR WAS OFF.

IT WAS JUST -- IT WAS TIME.

OVER TIME, THEY DEGENERATE.

HELLO, SAMMY, HOW YOU DOING?

THE LAST ONE I MADE FOR HER WAS ABOUT 5 YEARS AGO.

I HAD DONE SEVERAL ADJUSTMENTS AND RECONDITIONINGS TO IT.

AND HER EYE SOCKET HAD JUST CHANGED TO THE POINT WHERE SHE NEEDED A NEW ONE.

BRIGHT?

LET ME GO WASH MY HANDS SO WE CAN GET STARTED. OKAY?

THE FIRST STEP IN MAKING A PROSTHESIS FOR SOMEONE IS TO TAKE AN IMPRESSION.

SAMMY, LOOK DOWN.

IT'S GONNA BE A LITTLE BIT CHILLY, LITTLE PRESSURE.

THAT'S NOT ME PUSHING.

IT'S JUST THE LIQUID FILLING IN.

THE IMPRESSION MATERIAL IS ALGINATE, THE CALCIFIED REMAINS OF ALGAE.

AND ONCE IT REACHES BODY TEMPERATURE, IT HARDENS WITHIN A MINUTE.

HERE WE GO.

AND THERE'S AN IMPRESSION OF THE EYE SOCKET.

THE IMPRESSION LEADS TO A FITTING MODEL WHICH IS WHAT THE MEASUREMENTS ARE TAKEN FROM.

AND THAT FITTING MODEL IS REVERSE MOLDED INTO A STONE CASTING.

ONCE THAT STONE CASTING HARDENS, THAT'S WHEN YOU CAN START MAKING THE PROSTHESIS.

THE EYES ACTUALLY MADE OUT OF WHAT WOULD BE PROPERLY KNOWN AS DENTAL ACRYLIC.

IT'S POLY METHYL METHACRYLATE.

WE USE A WHITE TINTED VERSION OF IT FOR THE SCLERAL BASE.

THE STONE CASTING IS PACKED WITH THE ACRYLIC, PUT INTO A PRESS, THEN CURED IN A STEAMER.

OKAY, THIS IS SAMMY'S FULLY CURED EYE.

THIS IS THE WHITE SCLERAL BASE WITH THE IRIS BUTTON EMBEDDED.

NEXT, BOWEN PAINTS THE PROSTHETIC EYE TO MATCH SAMANTHA'S GOOD ONE.

HE MUST CAREFULLY COLOR NOT ONLY THE IRIS, BUT THE SCLERA, THE WHITE OF THE EYE.

NO ONE'S EYES ARE THE SAME.

EVERY SINGLE ONE IS DIFFERENT.

I'VE NEVER PAINTED THE SAME EYE TWICE.

YOU GOTTA MAKE SURE YOU HAVE GOOD LIGHTING CONDITIONS.

AND, UH, HAVE THE RIGHT COLORS, HAVE THE RIGHT MATERIALS.

THERE'S ART TO IT.

YOU GOT TO HAVE AN EYE FOR IT.

I'M TAKING SHREDDINGS AND FIBERS OF THIS NEEDLEPOINT YARN.

AND I'M GONNA USE THOSE FOR THE BLOOD VESSELS.

NOW I'M GONNA APPLY ON A LITTLE MONOPOLY SYRUP TO THE SURFACE OF THE SCLERA.

NOW I'M GONNA GO AHEAD AND PUT SOME ON HERE.

AND WE HAVE INSTANT BLOOD VESSELS.

HOW 'BOUT THAT, HUH?

OKAY, YEAH, IT'S LOOKING GREAT.

WOW, LOOK AT THAT.

LOOKS REALLY GOOD.

WE PACK PLASTIC IN HERE AND PUT THAT ON THERE.

ONCE PAINTED, THE EYE IS READY FOR FINAL CURING.

THE LAST STEP -- POLISHING.

THIS IS THE FINAL BUFF.

NEEDS TO BE AS SHINY AS YOU CAN GET IT.

WELL, THAT'S IT.

OKAY, IT'S ALL FINISHED.

HERE IT IS.

THAT LOOKS GREAT.

LET'S, UH, LET'S PUT IT IN.

SEE WHAT WE GOT, OKAY?

MM-HMM.

[ CLICK ]

AND THERE WE GO.

HOW'S IT FEEL?

IT FEELS GOOD.

I'VE BEEN WORKING WITH SAMANTHA SINCE SHE WAS A TEENAGER.

AND WE'VE BEEN THROUGH A LOT TOGETHER.

[ Voice breaking ] SHE'S... SHE, UM... [ CLEARS THROAT ] SHE HAD A HARD TIME WITH HER EYE WHEN SHE WAS GROWING UP.

HER UNCLE BROUGHT HER TO SEE ME, AND IT JUST CHANGED HER WHOLE LIFE.

HELPED MY SELF-ESTEEM, MY CONFIDENCE.

I'M ABLE TO, YOU KNOW, HAVE EYE CONTACT WITH PEOPLE RATHER THAN LOOKING AWAY.

YOU KNOW, IT'S JUST -- IT'S BUILT MY CONFIDENCE UP, AND IT'S MADE A HUGE IMPROVEMENT ON MY LIFE.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

GLAD I COULD HELP YOU.

IT'S EXTREMELY GRATIFYING WORK.

I LIKE HOW I MAKE SUCH A POSITIVE IMPACT ON PEOPLE'S LIVES.