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Erica Levinson, 28

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

Social media handles: @ericawithonei (Instagram and TikTok)

Where are you from and currently live? West Palm Beach, FL

What’s your eye story?

I was diagnosed with retinoblastoma when I was 2 years old. My family saw that I had an eye turn and noticed I was bumping into things. They initially brought me to a pediatrician who stated I had a lazy eye, and I would likely grow out of it. Signs progressed and I was brought to an optometrist who sent me to an ophthalmologist right away. Dr. Abramson, an ophthalmologist specializing in oncology, scheduled me to have my eye removed less than a week after my initial appointment with him. After enucleation, I was cancer free. I continue to see an ophthalmologist in Miami, Dr. Tim Murray, to ensure my good eye remains healthy.

Me in clinic! Ophthalmologist, eye doctor, eye clinic, ocularist, one eye, one eye gang
Me in clinic!

Tell us a little about yourself:

Growing up with a prosthetic eye always made me feel different. Kids are extremely observant and often asked me questions about why I looked the way I did and what was wrong with my eye. When I would go to see my ophthalmologist, there would always be a lot of kids in the waiting room who also had prosthetic eyes. I realized it was a place I felt comfortable surrounded by people like me, and I became very interested in an eye-related career. While I was an undergrad, I decided to spend a summer interning at my ophthalmologist's office to see if I could picture myself pursuing a career in ophthalmology. On my first day shadowing him in the operating room, the first case was an 8-month-old baby who was there for an exam under anesthesia. I don't know if it was the appearance of the speculum in the child's eye or if it was the smell of the anesthesia, but I fainted and hit my head on a doorknob on my way down! When I woke up on the OR floor, Dr. Murray told me it was normal for people to experience syncope the first time they are in the OR. I stayed and watched the remainder of his procedures and I shadowed him in the operating room and in his clinic for the rest of the summer. While in the clinic, I was exposed to numerous other staff, one being Dr. Aaron Gold, the optometrist at the practice. At the end of my internship, it was clear to me I did not want to pursue ophthalmology. I was not interested in doing surgery and I didn't like the speedy day-to-day clinic schedule. I became interested in the role of his optometrist and once college started back up, I began shadowing the optometrist, Dr. Jessica Cameron, at Shands in Gainesville, FL. My next stop was optometry school at Nova Southeastern University in Ft Lauderdale, Florida. I graduated in May of 2021 and completed a residency at a Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina, where I was able to gain experience with ocular pathology as well as specialty contact lenses and low vision services. I recently moved back to my hometown of West Palm Beach, FL and I will be starting a job at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Palm Beach Gardens this December.

What has been the most challenging mentally?

On my path to becoming an optometrist, some people told me I would not be able to excel due to my monocular status. Some doctors rely heavily on their depth and binocularity when they examine patients and cannot imagine a life any other way. There were times I doubted myself, but with the help of my professors and mentors, I have learned how to use the vision I have to examine and diagnose patients to an ability equal to that of any other doctor.

What has been the most challenging physically?

Learning to drive and park! It took me quite a bit longer than my friends to feel comfortable behind the wheel. I kept thinking I was centered in the lane, and my passenger would tell me I wasn’t. I kept feeling like I parked perfectly, and then I would get out of the car to find it super crooked. Even though I lack binocular depth, I was able to develop learned depth and use monocular cues, and am a very confident driver today.

Where are you now in your recovery?

I was very lucky to have my left eye enucleated when I did, as it saved my life, and I have remained in remission since.

What advice would you give to someone going through their eye impairment journey?

Today's society has grown so much since I was a child and has become lightyears more accepting of people who are different. If you are going through an eye impairment journey, reach out to others who have had similar experiences. Being able to go on social media platforms and find people who have things in common with you is something that was not available to me when I was growing up. Seeing how others have used their unique eye experience to brand themselves will help you gain confidence and feel inspired.

Who is your eye surgeon and ocularist?

Dr. David Abramson in NYC performed the enucleation. I am now followed by Dr. Tim Murray in Miami, FL. I just moved back to south Florida and have not become established with an ocularist here yet.

How did you find EYEHESIVE?

I follow a few pages where people share their stories about their unique eye conditions, and I came across Eyehesive tagged in one of those pages on Instagram!

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