The doctor leaned in and immediately saw that May had a bluecolored prosthetic left eye. His right eye, his natural eye, was nearly opaque and all white, evidence of dense corneal scarring. No pupil or color could be seen at all. Some blind people wear dark glasses to conceal such an eye, but May had never felt the need to do so. His eyelid drooped a bit, leaving his eye mostly closed, so no one reacted badly to it.
Carson stepped away and sat on a stool.
"Mike," he said, "I wonder if you'd mind if my partner, Dr. Dan Goodman, takes a look at you. He's an ophthalmologist, one of the best in the country. I think he'd be interested."
May glanced toward Jennifer with just the slightest quizzical look. Jennifer was already wearing the same expression. "I guess it can't hurt," May said.
Carson left the room. For a moment neither May nor Jennifer said anything. Then each said to the other, "That's interesting." A moment later Carson returned with his partner. Dr. Goodman, age forty-two, introduced himself and asked May how he'd lost his vision.
"It was a chemical explosion when I was three," May replied. "Do you have an ophthalmologist?" Goodman asked. "He died about ten years ago. He'd been my doctor since the accident," said May.
"What did he tell you about your vision?" Goodman asked. "He tried three or four corneal transplants when I was a kid," May said. "They all failed. After that, he told me that I would never see, I'd be blind forever. He was supposed to be a great ophthalmologist. I knew he was right."
"Who was he?" Goodman asked. "Dr. Max Fine," May replied. Goodman's eyes lit up. "Dr. Fine was a legend," Goodman said. "He was my teacher. I sought him out when I was young and asked to do surgery with him on Wednesday nights. He was one of the great ophthalmologists in the world."
May and Goodman spent a minute reminiscing about Dr. Fine. Then Goodman asked, "Mind if I take a look?" "Not at all," May replied.
Goodman dimmed the lights, stepped forward, and, using the thumb and forefinger on one hand, opened the lid of May's right eye. The stillness of the touch startled May. Goodman's hand stayed motionless, absent the vaguest hint of tremor. May had felt that kind of touch only once before, from Dr. Fine, who had held his eye open in just the same way. Goodman peered into May's eye. He saw the massive corneal scarring that trademarks a chemical explosion. He shone a penlight into May's eye, which May could barely detect (most blind people have some vague light perception). But when Goodman waved his hand in front of the eye May could not perceive the movement. Goodman conducted a few more tests, then looked through the same biomicroscope Carson had used. It took only moments for him to see that May was totally blind.
The exam lasted perhaps five minutes. Goodman turned on the lights and pulled up his stool.
"Mike," Goodman said. "I think we can make you see." The words barely registered with May. "There is a very new and very rare stem cell transplant procedure," Goodman continued. "It's indicated for very few types of cases. But a chemical burn like yours is one of them."