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Trina Goodrich has been optician for more than 30 years. She loves watching people get to see what they've been missing

Trina Goodrich

Trina Goodrich is an optician who takes joy in helping people to see, especially babies, who don't know they can't see until they are given glasses. "It's very heartfelt," she said. 

PITTSFIELD — Imagine having a baby that can't see clearly. Put a pair of glasses on a child of that age. Just imagine the reaction. 

These are the moments that Trina Goodrich says make her job worthwhile. Goodrich is an optician, someone who is qualified to make and supply eyeglasses and contact lenses that provide people with correct vision. She's been performing this task since 1989, and has spent the last 16 years at Berkshire Eye Center in Pittsfield. 

We spoke with Goodrich recently about how she became an optician, how she performs her job, and the pleasure she receives from doing it. 

Q: Why did you become an optician?

A: It's kind of a funny story. I was actually in the Air Force and I had a friend who was from this area and I came to visit her. I met my future husband, who is an optometrist. I ended up staying in this area and working as an apprentice.

Q:  What attracted you to this profession?

A: Just working with people. I thought it was very interesting.

Q: Why did you join the Air Force?

A: I grew up in Lake Placid, N.Y. and went to a community college (Rio Salado in Tempe, Ariz.). I was just kind of lost and didn't know what direction I wanted to go in. A friend of mine went into the Air Force so I joined. You take a test to see what you're really good at. Purchasing agent was one of the ones that came up. I thought that was very a very interesting job and very competitive. I always wanted to do well in my job. I was airman of the year when I was in Arizona and just really enjoyed it. I grew up there. I met a lot of wonderful people. I didn't want to make it a career. But it was a great direction for me.

Q: What does a purchasing agent do?

A: Buy supplies for the base. after that you go into a service direction. You monitor the service contract for the Air Force. Mine was the dining room and golf course contract. So anything that had to be done with that is what I did. It was very interesting.

Q: How do you work with someone who has impaired vision? 

A: Say it's someone with double vision. Sometimes [double vision] happens with people after they've had a stroke. There are these things called prisms that we can put on their glasses. We just adhere this little plastic prism to the glasses and test it out in the office to see if they're having any double vision. Sometimes it goes away instantly. Sometimes they have it for awhile. Then after they see the doctor we grind that prism into the glasess so they don't have to have full glasses.

With babies a lot of times a pediatrician sees their vision isn't very good. So the doctor looks at the baby. There's  a device where they can look into the eye to see if they need corrections. We make these little glasses. They're kind of like rubber and they have a headband attached to them. When you put those glasses on a baby for the first time the smile they have, it's wonderful.

Q: What's it like to see a baby smile?

A: They kind of look at you, they'll look at their mom and they just smile. They didn't realize what they were missing. They just smile and you know that you've made made a difference. It's really heartfelt.

Q: What's the hardest eye disorder to deal with?

A: Macular degeneration. Sometimes the doctors will prescribe a real strong reading glass, but sometimes I think it's a false hope that they'll be able to see.  Macular degeneration is worse than cancer because it just takes their eyes way.

Trina Goodrich

Trina Goodrich has been an optician since 1989. "Sometimes when patients come in you can see by their prescription that they haven't worn glasses before and they probably should have," she said. "A long time ago."

Q: How to you measure someone for glasses? 

A: Usually, they come out of the eye examination and we ask them if they're interested in getting glasses. We have them sit down with an optician. We ask them the kind of work they do and tell them what the best options are for them. With COVID, it's been kind of interesting.

Q: Why?

A:  We actually ask (people) if they want to pick up the frames that would be best for them or sit at the table or walk around with us because we try and limit the number of frames we have them try on. We do have a device that cleans them all. I also find it rewarding because you get to know these people. If they're looking for something different they're like "I would have never picked this." I think that is very interesting, this personal shopper information. 

Q: What's the framing process like?

A: You always want to look at their prescription first to see what frame would be best for them. Make sure the eyelashes aren't touching the lens. We have options. We can take a picture of them if they can't see without the glasses so they can compare four frames at a time. That's always a nice thing. We tell them about different types of lenses and what they're made of. Basically, our job is to inform them about the lenses and help them decide what they want.

Q: How do you take the measurements?

A: In the old days we used to use a [device] which measured the difference between the pupils with a ruler and a marker. Now we have a device that's hooked up to the iPad. You hook it up to the eyeglasses and it gives you a picture with 10 different measuring points. It's very custom to the patient so the optics will be a lot clearer. That's new within the last probably five years. ... We do that to all of the glasses. We've come a long way. 

Q: What do you like better. The old way of measuring or the new way?

A: Oh, definitely the new way. There's more of a wow factor when they come in and put their glasses on. They're so clear. 

Q: What seems to give you the most satisfaction in this profession is the reaction that people have when they try on their glasses. Why is that? 

A: Sometimes when patients come in you can see by their prescription that they haven't worn glasses before and they probably should have. A long time ago. When they get the glasses they just didn't realize that there are leaves in the trees. 

Q: Why does that make you so happy?

A: I guess it's knowing what we did for them. We're making a difference,  In all the years I've been working there is also the relationship that I have with my patients. That's another thing that really means something to me because they're repeat customers and you get to know them.

Q: Glasses have a lot more applications that they used to. What are the most popular types of lenses?

A: The most popular is what we call the progressive lens. One pair that does everything. 

Q: Is it harder to measure progressive lenses that have multiple applications? 

A:  Not really because of the device that we have with the iPad. You just have to learn how to line it up correctly. It gives you all the options. Some old school opticians, even myself, will sometimes do it both ways just to see if your measuring with a ruler is the same as with the iPad. Most of the time it is. It's just evolved with more devices and coordinates. 

Q: How do you become a licensed optician?

A: You have to have so many hours of on the job training. Then there are these practical tests that you need to take. After three years you're eligible to take the state tests. After you pass that you have to take a practical exam which is more hands on. Once you pass that you pay the fees and you're a licensed optician. You have to take a test for each state you practice in. 

Q: What's the best part of your job?

A: The people I work with are wonderful. When you spend so much time in your job you want to like what you do and I definitely like what I do.

Q: What's the hardest part of you job?

A: I don't really know how to answer that.

Q: Most people don't say that. I guess you really, really enjoy your job.

A: I do.

Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6224.

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