Coming full circle, Fargo optometrist carries out his vision in 2020 with opening of new practice
FARGO — Do you remember the answer you gave when someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up? Oftentimes, children will offer up ideas like princess, astronaut and doctor. As they get older, their career ideas shift a little — princesses turn into scientists, astronauts may want to be aeronautical engineers and doctors may decide they'd rather be teachers.
But for Fargo Optometrist Ryan Capouch, his answer to the age-old "what do you want to be when you grow up" hasn't changed since he was in middle school. It was almost as if his path was determined by the stars.
"I found out this is what I want to do in middle school, actually because I went blind," said Capouch. "I was allergic to a vaccine. It was one of those really rare things where both my parents had similar conditions, and when I was vaccinated for it, I reacted to the virus itself. It's not official that that's what it was, but there was a list of things they could do, and that was the most likely because I had just been vaccinated a month before that."
Capouch says he woke up one morning in 2004 and couldn't see. The optic nerves, which connect the eye to the brain, swelled up and shut off — rendering him blind in his right eye.
"My parents knew I was kind of a sensationalist," he said, chuckling. "Like that's a really nice way of saying that I lied and made stuff up all the time. So they called Dr. Rexine, and he met us at the clinic. He did a couple of diagnostic tests, even in Mayville he had some of the latest and greatest technology, so he was able to see the optic nerves swelling and figure out that was the issue. Then he immediately said 'you need to go to the emergency room.'"
Mike Rexine, owner of Rexine Family Eye Care, remembers that day. He says with being in a small town and knowing his patients and their families, things like this can be very tough.
"He came in with his parents, and he had lost vision," said Rexine. And that's always one of the hardest things, no matter what age. Any time you have a kid that loses vision, it's just an extremely emotional time. I sent him off to the right people and got him in the right hand. I had faith we could fix him, to be honest with you. I had a pretty good idea what was going on, I just needed to get him in the right hands and get him healed up."
Capouch's parents brought him to the emergency room at Altru in Grand Forks, N.D. A few tests and scans later, he still didn't know what was going to happen — the hospital sent them home, telling them that with swelling it was a "wait it out" type of thing.
Three days later, Capouch lost the vision in his other eye.
"My parents basically said we needed to go somewhere," said Capouch. "So I got admitted to the downtown, well it was Meritcare at the time, but Sanford Broadway is where I went. I was in the hospital for like a week."
He compared his vision to looking through frosted glass — not "lights out" blind, but he couldn't see shadows or shapes, only light and dark.
"Like it's freaky, but I was pretty cool with it," he said. "I was like 'Oh, I get to be fitted for a seeing eye dog, this is really cool! And they're going to teach me Braile, that's pretty sweet.' I was all excited about it."
After a week and a half of looking through frosted glass, along with an aggressive round of steroids to cut back the swelling, Capouch says his vision started coming back. He was able to make out shapes and shadows, and eventually things cleared up.
"I had to give the dog back, and I was really sad," Capouch said, remembering. "But it was a really life-changing experience for me. And a slap in the face, like, this is what you're supposed to do with your life. That was the moment (I knew)."
Starting his vision
Capouch began working for Rexine during his summer breaks from both high school and college. He learned the ins and outs of optometry through hands-on experience, and upon graduating from the University of Mary in Bismarck, he was accepted to the Arizona College of Optometry in Glendale, Arizona.
"When we went off to optometry school, I always joked with him," said Rexine. "I said 'you know, when you come back, I got to get you back in here' and this and that. A lot of kids leave and they don't come back to North Dakota, and he had met a very nice lady down south in Arizona, so I didn't anticipate he'd be back, to be honest."
But Capouch came back. He started working for his mentor at Eyes on Broadway in Fargo — helping hundreds of patients in his vision therapy program in his two years at Eyes on Broadway.
"When we brought Ryan in, I knew he wouldn't stay very long," said Rexine. "I figured maybe up to five years, if I was lucky. He's got a really, really good attitude and a plan that he wants to accomplish. That's what I love about that kid. He's very focused on what he does and is very driven."
While optometry has always been his path, his special focus in the pediatric side of the business is where his passion shines, and with limited space at Rexine's Broadway location, Capouch knew it was time to start his own practice.
Lumen Vision , 5120 Prosperity Way S., Suite 114, opened its doors July 1, 2020, and caters to patients from conception to natural death. While his practice treats patients of every age and size, his specialty really is in the vision therapy side of things.
"What vision therapy does is shows kids how to use their eyes the way we take for granted," Capouch said. "You know, think about what you do every day. We wake up in the morning, we can see things far away. We can look at things up close, we're using our focusing system to do that. When we get older, we need reading glasses or bifocals, or progressive because we can't do that anymore. But kids shouldn't have that problem, right? There are some kids whose focusing systems don't work like that. And they act like they're in their 50s or 60s. And when you're trying to take notes in school, that is a huge problem."
Using state-of-the-art technology, like virtual reality and eye-tracking, Capouch is able to help kiddos learn to use their eyes in the way they were meant to be used. He's worked with patients to correct lazy eyes, eye turns, coordination problems and even dyslexia.
Capouch's philosophy is taking care of patients, no matter the problem. Each of the brands of glasses frames Lumen Vision carries gives back in some way — whether that's through a one-for-one or through charitable giving.
"The best advice I've ever been given was from Dr. Rexine," he said. "He told me over and over again, practice like there's no competition, just take care of the person in front of you and that's all that's going to matter, and it'll all work out and everything will get taken care of."