Media Coverage regarding our patients and services.

Byron’s Lens:
An Eye For An Eye

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Byron Harris, a 40 year reporter for WFAA-TV, writes Byron’s Lens.

Eyemaking is taught thru apprenticeship. Randy Trawnick has trained half of the ocularists in the state.

Click the link above to see the photos and the story!

On a recent Monday in a small office in North Dallas, Randy Trawnik is delicately shaving curls of wax from half of a white elipsoid. It resembles an eyeball without an iris. Curl by curl, he is crafting someone’s re-entry into normal life.

Helping a patient with a missing eye is a melding of art, science and psychology.

Randy Trawnik lost an eye when he was 17. Since then he has helped thousands of patients, and trained others in how to construct prosthetic eyes.

The sign on the door out front reads Dallas Eye Prosthetics, but it might just as well say “Souls Rebuilt Here. ” For if the eye is a window into the soul, losing an eye is akin to losing a little bit of one’s essence, and in addition to custom-making prosthetic eyes, Trawnik and his associates help those who have lost their soul-windows heal their spirits.

Of a morning, the waiting room is a parking lot for eye patches and desperation. Patients are silent, looking inward, perhaps contemplating what they no longer have. By the end of the day their patches will be gone and the faces they show the world will be approaching wholeness. In the process of waiting with others to have their eyes finished, they will have found a support group in those with the same malady.

The goal of the office is to treat each patient fully in one day. Randy Trawnik speaks of a well-to-do golfer who began his day in the waiting room hiding behind a newspaper, crushed after losing his eye to an errant golf ball, apparently certain that no one in the room could equal him in misfortune. Soon he discovered his error and was consoling others, filling the hole in his own psyche as he did so.

Sixty percent of the patients who come to Dallas Eye Prosthetics have lost an eye through some kind of trauma such as a gunshot, a car accident, or a mishap at work. Adult and childhood diseases cause most of the other losses. Both kinds of patients must have their prosthesis replaced several times during their lives because eyes change shape as we grow older. An infant may need a prosthetic replacement a few times a year as it grows up. Without a such size updating, a child’s face may grow asymmetrically. In older adults, the eye becomes smaller, requiring the prosthetic to be downsized.

Glass eyes are a thing of the past in the United States. Prosthetic eyes are now made of acrylic. Advances in ophthalmic surgery now often allow replacements to move with their active mate, disguising their artificiality. I was in an examination room with a mother, fathe and daughter, who were visiting the office together for the first time. Although mom had a prosthetic for years, her daughter did not know about it until the visit. The mother was in to have her prosthetic resized.

To create a properly sized replacement, an ocularist must first take an impression of where the eye used to be, using injectible, flexible molding material.

An impression is made of the cavity where the eye used to be.

That impression is used to make a mold. Which is used to make a ‘working model’ of wax.

That material is then put into a mold, which is cured and used to produce a wax facsimile of the missing ocular material, which is then inserted into the patient to check for size.

Then the “art” aspect of the “art and science” comes into play. Looking into the eye of the patient, the ocularist paints an iris to exactly match the one the patient still has. In older eyes, where veins may be visible, the ocularist may use curled strands of thread to replicate those veins.

She matches the newly painted iris to the patient. (This patient is receiving a resized prosthesis).

The painted iris is then inserted into another mold, made from the modified wax facsimile. That mold will be filled with acrylic material that will be cured to make the final prosthetic device. The eye takes shape.  

John Trawnik has been working in his father’s office since he was 12. He’s becoming a central figure in the practice. Now he’s a Board Certified ocularist just like his dad.

“There’s great satisfaction in helping people feel better, ” John Trawnik says. There are only thirteen ocularists in Texas. Many states have none. Patients come to this office literally from around the world because of the renowned quality of the work, and the emotional support they receive while they’re here. Many of them have been patients for years, who visit repeatedly as their eyes change shape. Most were so comfortable with the demeanor of the staff that they let me watch the fitting process. Despite nearly two decades in the practice, John doesn’t see himself tiring of it.

Randy Travnik is not a physician but he sees his vocation as a medical and social mission.

Entire families accompany their injured parents and siblings to this office on their journey toward wholeness. When they leave, their vision may not have improved, but they see the world in a different light.

A Patient Profile:
Lauren Scruggs Kennedy

Two months after a plane propeller sliced the left side of her body, fashion blogger and one-time Gossip Girl wardrobe intern Lauren Scruggs was fitted with a prosthetic left eye today.

Her left eye and arm had to be removed after the accident. She has already undergone some reconstruction on her left face and shoulder. “It is beautiful,” Lauren’s mother Cheryl Scruggs wrote of her daughter’s new eye on the Caring Bridge website, which she updates regularly about her daughter’s recovery.

“Jeff, myself, Lo and Britt showed up at 9am at the ocularist,’ Cheryl wrote, using her daughter’s nickname, Lo. We didn’t know what to expect, other than it would be an all day process from 9 a.m – 5 p.m. Another new step. She was fitted and measured. The ocularist carefully painted and shaped the new eye. By 5 p.m., it was done, and her new eye was in place. Thank you God for providing. Bittersweet…”

She added that the family had met with professionals this week about options for a prosthetic limb. Lauren, 23, has been recovering for nearly two months since she accidentally walked in front of a plane propeller in Dallas after taking a ride with a friend to see the city’s Christmas lights.

Best of luck, Lauren. Stay strong.

Here’s a nice update
story on Lauren

Lauren Scruggs, who is a fashion blogger, found herself in the news in December 2011 after a plane propeller accident robbed her of her left eye and arm.

By Diana Pearl – People Magazine
Posted June 14, 2017

The incident left her insecure about love. “I wondered if men would ever find me attractive again,” Scruggs recently told people. But she made a miraculous recovery, and her journey

 

gained national attention — including an interview on E! News in 2013. After meeting Giuliana Rancic during the show, Rancic told her she thought Scruggs should meet her co-worker, Jason Kennedy. “I didn’t know who he was. But she told me that he had this amazing Bible study in Los Angeles and had great friends,” Scruggs told PEOPLE. “She texted Jason and asked if he was going to be on set. When I was asking Giuliana about places to go hiking, she told me, ‘Just ask Jason places to go. He hikes all the time.’ ” When he showed up to set, she did ask, and Kennedy gave her a few suggestions — plus his number

The First Date

Along with his number, Kennedy told Scruggs that he’d love to come hike with her the next day. So Scruggs, Kennedy and Scruggs’ mother went for a hike in Los Angeles. The connection, Scruggs later said, was instant. “It was such a fun hike,” Scruggs recalled. “We had the best conversation. It was funny, because Giuliana was saying, ‘I feel like you two would be so good together.’ And [after meeting him], I thought, ‘I think you might be right.’

The Long Distance

Seeing Is Believing:
Half-Blind Isaiah Austin’s Unique Journey to the NBA Draft

Jared Zwerling – bleacherreport.com
June 19, 2014

 


AP Images

Randy Trawnik is a world-renowned ocularist who hand-sculpts prosthetic eyes, either in his office in Dallas or in Germany. Most of the time—60 percent, he says—Trawnik works on trauma victims and patients who have developed eye problems in the early stages of their lives. Some of those have included professional athletes who are still playing today.

But in his 40 years in the profession, Trawnik has never treated someone like Isaiah Austin, 20, who started suffering blindness after injuring his right eye in a baseball accident six years ago. Now, fully blind in that eye, Austin could be one of the 60 players selected in the upcoming NBA draft. “What he has done is unbelievably unique,” said Trawnik, who lost his left eye around Austin’s age years ago when he was shot in the face during U.S. military training. Unlike his other patients who play professional sports, Trawnik said that because Austin went blind later on “he didn’t have the many years to retrain himself.”

So how did the Baylor big man overcome the loss of his sight to become one of the best shooters and shot-blockers in the country? While Austin experienced months of misery, his recovery was fueled by a relentless drive for a sport he loved, a strong network of family, friends and coaches, some science and good genes.

Isaiah Austin has been a regular at Mo Williams Academy in Dallas in the weeks preceding the draft.Isaiah Austin has been a regular at Mo Williams Academy in Dallas in the weeks preceding the draft. Jared Zwerling

The Journey Begins

The root of Austin’s disability started with an accident while he was playing a position he had never experienced before: first base. Austin had been attending a summer baseball camp in 2005 when he was 11 years old, and he was placed at first base because of his height. “I think they thought I was older just because I was so tall, so they put me in the older kids’ group,” the soft-spoken Austin said over breakfast recently in Arlington, Texas, near where he resides. “I was on first base, and I remember the pitcher kept faking it to me. I was like, ‘What is he doing?’ I really hadn’t played baseball that long, so I didn’t know that the pitcher can throw it back to first and try to get the person out. “So he faked the pitch and he threw it, and I put my glove up like a half-a-second late, and the ball just smashed into my eye.”

Austin went to the hospital because his eye swelled up and his contact lens got stuck. Doctors said he had a loose retina. But no surgery was required; he was simply told to monitor any pain. Little did he know, his eye would gradually get worse In February 2008, everything came crashing down. It was the last game of his middle school basketball career, and Austin had never dunked during layup lines. That’s because there was a strict rule against it: two technical fouls, and you’re out of the game. But working off of adrenaline, Austin took off, cuffed the ball back with his left hand and jammed it down. The crowd went wild and a double tech ensued, but no one but Austin knew what he immediately saw out of his right eye: red. It was blood. The powerful nature of the uncontested dunk had detached his retina, which was the diagnosis the next morning when he went to the emergency room. “Throughout the years, we didn’t know it, but [his eye] was getting more and more loosened,” Austin’s mother, Lisa Green, said. “The dunk was the last straw.”


Courtesy of Lisa Green

Dallas ophthalmologist Dr. Gregory Kozielec, who has treated Mavericks players through the years, was the first to repair Austin’s retina the day after his emergency room visit. Dr. Kozielec called the situation “one of the worst cases I had in 20 years.” While 99 percent of his consultations involve spontaneous detachments to people who are nearsighted, older in age and have a family history of the condition, Austin was an extremely rare patient.

“When I first saw him, his eye was a disaster. It was a DEFCON 1 detachment,” Dr. Kozielec said. “A detachment is almost like wallpaper peeling off the back of a wall. In young kids, that comes off pretty rapidly and becomes a big disaster. He saw red, and he already had an eye that had been injured from his previous baseball injury. “When he came in, it was completely detached, and he already lost vision. So he basically was blind walking into my office on Monday evening. We fixed it, but unfortunately, as young kids can do, it detached again [later on], and then from that point it was just a struggle effect. He had a bad prognosis to begin with.”

Austin went on to have four more operations that year in an attempt to save his eye: to further fix it; to remove silicone oil that’s used for serious detachments and keeps the retina intact; to correct a cataract; and then to clean out scar issue, which was the last operation, in June 2008. By then, Austin’s vision had actually been restored—but not before going through days of excruciating pain after each surgery.


Courtesy of Dr. Gregory Kozielec

“It felt like needles in your eye. That was the most painful part,” he said. “The first four-to-five days after the surgery, it was terrible. They give you some painkillers after, but it doesn’t really help. You try to sleep it off as much as you can.”

After going under the knife each time, Austin went through a longer extreme challenge. For his eye to heal afterward, he was required to lay face down for essentially 24 hours a day for weeks at a time. No exercise was allowed in order to prevent any stress to his eye. He could really only get up to use the bathroom. His father, Ben, would pick up his homework at the middle school and help him study while he lay down. His family even placed a mirror on the floor next to a special massage-like table he had to lay on so he could watch TV and see who was coming into his room.

The Austin family: Noah, Isaiah, Ben, Lisa and Narrah.
The Austin family: Noah, Isaiah, Ben, Lisa and Narrah.Courtesy of Lisa Green

It was Austin’s close-knit family, who had recently moved to Texas, who helped him get through the ordeal—even though there were many tough, teary-eyed nights. But they prayed a lot together, with the positive-minded Green always reaffirming to her son, “The belief part is easy; the trusting is where the journey begins.”

Austin’s brother Noah, who’s now 15 and a standout track runner, and his sister, Narrah, who’s 11 and a talented artist, entertained their oldest sibling by making him laugh and smile. For Mother’s Day that year, Narrah decorated a colorful shoebox for Austin to express her love for him. Noah would call Austin “his superhero,” and they played video games together. “They were always by my side,” Austin said. “My little brother and sister would come in my room and just spend hours of the day just to be with me.” The biggest motivator was Austin himself. “He just toughed it up,” Green said. The light at the end of the tunnel was basketball.

“It’s just like any other person: They’ll do anything for something that they love,” Austin said. “I loved the game of basketball and I didn’t feel like giving up on it, so I just wanted to continue to play. … And my two best friends, who are twins, Elliot and Elijah Dickrell, were like, ‘Man, you’re the best basketball player we know. You can’t give up or quit on us.'”

Following his final operation, which repaired his vision, Austin was the weakest he had ever been, but he had the rest of the summer to regain some of his strength and conditioning. By November 2008, at Mansfield Legacy High School, he returned to the court and was the only freshman to make the varsity team. A big plus was that he was 6’11”. That season, Austin had his coming-out party when he finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds in a win over top-ranked Duncanville High School.

Life Changed, Forever

Austin’s right eye remained stable until September 2009, when he was a sophomore at Grace Prep Academy. At that point, scar tissue was pulling the retina back off again. That’s when Austin’s real moment of truth arrived: He could go through another surgery — maybe more than one—with no guarantees, or cope with the reality that the vision in his eye would eventually be lost with nothing done. “That’s when he said, ‘Enough’s enough,'” Dr. Kozielec recalls. “He had already been through hell. He had reached his level of acceptance.He reached a level of I can’t do anything more for this eye, which requires more face-down, more time away from sports. He felt like ‘I know who I’m going to be—I’m going to be great at what I do and I need to move on.’ “It was a tough decision to say, ‘I’ll see you in six months [for a checkup],’ rather than, ‘I’ll see you next week [for surgery].'”

Austin, especially, couldn’t imagine laying down for long stretches again. In fact, he avoids sleeping like that today. “I never lay on my stomach anymore, like ever,” he said.

Isaiah Austin credits his high school coach, Ray Forsett, with inspiring him to play despite the loss of vision in his right eye.
Isaiah Austin credits his high school coach, Ray Forsett, with inspiring him to play despite the loss of vision in his right eye. Jared Zwerling

Windows to the Soul

By BILL MARVEL Staff Writer
Published April 3, 2005
Dallas Morning News

Randy Trawnik bends closer, closer, closer, until he is almost nose to nose with Narin Haji. He stares intently, and the 12-year-old girl stares back. Neither seems particularly embarrassed by this very close encounter, which continues for several seconds.


Ronahi Abdullah watches as Mr. Trawnik takes a close look at the prosthetic eye he has made for her 12-year-old daughter Narin Haji.

Then Mr. Trawnik jumps up and walks out of the room. Moments later he is back holding a small object in his hand. He sits and once again bends closer, closer. The object is Narin’s eye – or soon will be. He gently slides it into the empty socket, then hands the girl a mirror. She looks, and a shy smile begins to spread across her face.

Narin, whose family came to Dallas from Iraq during the first Gulf War, injured her left eye when she was 2, in an encounter with a glass coffee table. For years the family lived with a dilemma: To try to save the eye, which no longer functioned? Or to have it removed? And then what?

The answer was removal, around Christmas, and now replacement with an artificial eye, created by Randy Trawnik, who is one of only a handful of certified ocularists in Texas. That means he can fashion an artificial eye, an “eye prosthesis,” from scratch. (Please don’t call it a glass eye; they make them out of acrylic plastics these days.)

Bankers and beauty queens come to Mr. Trawnik. He has been eye-to-eye with the chief of police of Oman, a Saudi princess and a national television news personality whose name he will not divulge. And with lots of infants and toddlers. You’d be amazed how many humans are born into the world without an eye.

He has leatherette albums filled with photographs – graduation photos, wedding photos, class portraits, snapshots with thank-you notes. But it is the before-and-after photos that amaze. One would not guess the absence or presence of an eye would make so much difference. But it does.

“People without eyes are treated differently,” he says. And he should know.

An accident


Ocularist Randy Trawnik removes the artificial eye of 6-year-old patient Brianna Thompson.

He aimed to be a soldier. Enrolled in high school ROTC, full of hopes for an appointment to West Point, he was attending a military exercise May 31, 1968 – “I’ll never forget that date” – when somebody’s rifle went off. It was only a blank, and Trawnik was just turning his head, but the charge caught the side of his face, splitting his nose and taking out his left eye and a chunk of his ear.

Embittered, he switched career goals and eventually enrolled in the University of Texas at Arlington intending to become an advertising artist. “One day,” he recalls, “one of my neighbor’s granddaughters lost her eye to a BB gun. BB guns are the bane of my existence.

The neighbor called his mother, and she suggested the child talk to Randy.

“At spring break, I came home from college with a sack of dirty laundry and a bad attitude,” he says. His mother asked him to talk to the girl who had lost an eye. “I said, ‘I won’t do it.’ She said, ‘Then I won’t do your laundry.'”

The neighbor’s granddaughter was 10 years old and in tears. “Hey, it’s not so bad,” Mr. Trawnik told her. “How do you know?” she demanded. So he took out his eye and showed her.

“I still had all those demons from my own loss,” he says. “But afterward I thought, ‘Hey, this felt pretty good.'”

The same weekend, Mr. Trawnik got a phone call from the ocularist who had fashioned his own eye. John H. O’Donnell was looking for an assistant, a sort of apprentice whom he could train. Would Mr. Trawnik be interested? It was, he recalls, as though a door had suddenly opened.

Decades later, he still paints pictures occasionally. A watercolor, an original Trawnik, hangs on the wall of the busy reception room in his fourth-floor office in a Preston Center office tower. But he’s more likely to be mixing pigments from a rainbow array of jars and stroking them onto a tiny foil disk. Working with a No. 00 sable brush, one of the finest Winsor & Newton makes, he alternates layers of pigment and transparent plastic, striving for the luminous effect of the living iris.

Forget what the song lyrics and the driver’s licenses say: Nobody has eyes that are blue or brown or green. Every human eye is a unique blend of colors, Mr. Trawnik says, and that blend will subtly shift over a lifetime, from the vivid colors of a toddler’s eyes to the fading hues of the elderly.

“I train ocularists, and the one thing I tell my students is: Being an artist means learning how to see. You have to dissect form, color, depth, space, because a prosthesis is all those things.”

It’s important to get it right because we human beings read one another through the eyes.

Eye power


Inez Evans of Longview, Texas, smiles after taking her first look at the prosthetic eye that Mr. Trawnik has just fitted for her.

Inez Evans knows that well. She is seated in the chair now, next to Mr. Trawnik’s desk, and once again he is leaning closer … closer.

Mrs. Evans drove in from Longview with her husband this morning. She lost her right eye as the result of a series of strokes. Before lunch, Mr. Trawnik studied her remaining eye, then took a wax impression of her eye socket and cast the plaster mold from which the ultimate acrylic prosthesis was made. He painted the iris, a pale sea-green with flecks of brown and yellow. As a last step, he touched up the white part – he uses a length of thread to paint in the delicate veins. In the meantime, Mrs. Evans went off to a nearby sandwich shop for lunch.

Now she is back to be fitted with her new eye.

After a few minor trims and adjustments, the ocularist slips in the new eye. He asks her to glance left, then right. The new eye tracks perfectly.

Then he hands her the mirror and she appraises the result. “It sure looks better,” she says.

A funny thing happened during lunch, she says. When she went to the sandwich shop, she forgot to wear her dark glasses. Without an eye, she was no longer just another human being having lunch, but a curiosity, a spectacle.

“People just look and look,” she says. “I kept thinking, what are they looking at me for?

“And then – oh, oh – I remembered.”

Now she can go anywhere and not one in a hundred will guess her secret.

“We’re in the business of the ultimate camouflage,” says Mr. Trawnik. “I want to make sure that after I do my work, no one knows I was there.”

Story covering our services at
Deatherage Certified Opticians in Wichita Falls, Texas

The Eye Guy

Randy Trawnik brings new meaning to the phrase trompe l’oeil
by Stacey Yervasi – D Magazine June 2004

Randy Trawnik sits in his Preston Center office, beaming like a proud father as he leafs through albums containing before-and-after photos of his patients, many of whom are children. But Trawnik is not a doctor; he’s an artist. He makes fake eyes—or, more properly, ocular prostheses. And if the images in the albums aren’t vivid enough, Trawnik can pop out his own left eye for closer inspection.

When he was 17, Trawnik was shot in the face with a blank during an ROTC training exercise. The injury required the removal of his eye, and it ended his military career. But it also introduced Trawnik to the little-known field of ocularistry. After receiving a degree in art, he began a five-year apprenticeship under John O’Donnell, the pioneering Dallas ocularist who had treated him.

Trawnik is now considered one of the best ocularists in the country. His creations, custom-made to match the patient’s remaining eye, have even fooled ophthalmologists. Each prosthetic piece begins as a plain acrylic orb cast from a wax model designed to fit perfectly in the patient’s eye socket. Layers of translucent paint give the iris a 3-D look. Trawnik uses red thread to produce the wispy blood vessels. “I consider myself the ultimate stealth artist,” he says, alluding to the realism of his prosthetics, allowing his patients to wear them in anonymity. The only easily discernable difference: the pupils can’t dilate.

Trawnik’s reputation attracts people from around the world, from Saudi Arabian princes to American beauty queens. “I am a big fish in a small pond,” he says. His skill and an empathy capable only of a wounded healer are their reward. As if to highlight the bond he shares with his patients, Trawnik introduces me to one, an older gentleman in for a follow-up appointment. The man proudly rolls and crosses his eyes, then asks if I can tell which is artificial. I assure him that I cannot. He and Trawnik exchange knowing winks, content to leave me in ignorance.

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