Summertime... and traveling with scleral lenses!

I'm really good at doling out advice about scleral lenses.

I mean, REALLY good. It's one of my favorite hobbies.

But when it comes to following my own advice? Possibly... not quite so much.

I had ample opportunity to ponder this strange inconsistency today on my way to Chapel Hill, NC to speak at the National Keratoconus Foundation's family symposium taking place tomorrow morning.

So first of all, thanks to some hyper-budget-conscious fit of lunacy, I booked myself on a flight departing Seatac Airport at 5:45am. I live an hour and a half away from the airport, and I saw something in passing the other day about how insanely busy the security lines at Seatac have been recently. To make sure I got there in time to make it through security, I had to get up at 2am, which meant I had about two hours actual sleep.

That was mistake #1. I never, ever put my lenses in without at least 4.5 hours sleep. It just doesn't work. But... I did this morning, because I couldn't drive to the airport without them and, in the mad scramble to get ready, I couldn't get to bed any earlier either.

So I get to the airport, get through security, and head to the gate. At the last restroom before my gate, I hesitate, then dash in and take out my lenses. I hate doing that in airports. But I really, really wanted to sleep during the flight and there was NO way I could keep my sclerals in for a 4+ hour flight AND have my eyes in good enough condition to drive immediately afterwards.

Unfortunately, one lens was quite tight this morning, and as I was removing it I heard that dreaded "fwiiing" as it flew off my eye. Thankfully, it landed in the sink and, even more thankfully, it did not break. Flashbacks to a great many Facebook conversations where I have seen myself glibly advising everyone to bring a towel with them for such occasions.

But... did I have a towel with me? No, of course not, because why would I follow my own advice? Seriously. 

At this point, I can't see, and within about 10 minutes, my eyes are hurting like the dickens.

Airports are the pits. They really are.

Between dry air and fluorescent lights, it just doesn't get a lot worse than this, unless you're on the banks of Lake Michigan or something. 

But eventually, we board the flight and eventually, we're airborne.

I sleep for about 20 minutes.

But I am so excited about the top secret project Aidan and I are working on for Dry Eye Awareness Month, that before long, I'm up and working. Only, I can't see.

Dilemma. I have a window seat. Do I disturb a whole lot of sleeping people to get to the lavatory to put my lenses in?


Do I put them in on my tray table?

If it were an international flight, where we have a reasonable amount of personal space, I wouldn't hesitate. But on a high density A320 seating plan, no way. Visions of a lens dropping to the floor in those conditions are absolutely intolerable.

So, I ditch the laptop, take out a legal pad and pen and resign myself to squinting.

We land in Charlotte.

I head to the loo again to put my peepers back in.

Oh. My. Gosh.

Charlotte, my favorite, lovely, friendly little airport, is a disaster. Everything everywhere is torn up and the whole place is a zoo.

There's a queue from the loo extending well into the corridor and everyone is being jostled. Eventually I make it in to the restroom. I get out my gear. But then I find that the stupid sink has one of those automatic taps that starts spurting water the moment you look at it or breathe upon it. I'm terrified that it will knock the lens out of my hand. Either that, or the throngs of people pressing on every side.

Once again, visions of the infamous towel that I tell everyone *else* to bring along. when they travel. Where. Is. Mine.

Eventually, my lenses are in my eyes and I'm on my way. Phew. It's not just the airport (inside and out) that's torn up... so is I-85, for the next 20 stop-and-go miles.

Some hours later, I make it to Chapel Hill. And I find that the air conditioning in the motel room, while it seems to have lots of handy little control buttons, will. not. turn. off.


There is NOTHING worse than air conditioning on my eyes. Nothing.

I know, I know, everyone else thinks heat in the winter is worse than air conditioning. But for me... it's the a/c that's the killer. And with 95 degree, high humidity weather here in lovely NC, the a/c is not shutting off automatically anytime soon. 

Sooooooo about all those dry eye goggles and shields I'm always telling people about, that protect their eyes while they sleep. Do I have any, personally? Did I bring any, personally, on my trip? Of course not. Sheesh. 

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1 comment
  • such an entertaining, well written but sad story about your trip. But you persisted !👍 I’m particularly interested in travel with sclerals because there are clearly a number of challenges. I’m going to have to get over my carefully set up scleral station at home. I share your concern about public bathrooms. I’ll definitely bring a towel. Thanks for your helpful post !!

    Ruth on

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