Patients "are relying on me to give them a natural look," Erik said. "We get so used to doing it we don't see the whole effect until we're done. "The most difficult part is the emotional impact." Some patients definitely don't want to be there, some have no hope this effort will be any different from others, and some are very hopeful, he said.

But, they are almost always shocked when they are handed the mirror and see the difference a well-fitting and realistic-looking prosthesis makes. Erik remembers Campbell's reaction. "She lifted that mirror with so much apprehension, I was nervous," he said. "Then she just started crying so hard, I started crying, too."

Kirstin remembers a child with a blind eye, whose parents wanted to fit him with an eye before he went into kindergarten. "The mother and child were ecstatic, and within a half-hour after they left, I received a call from the dad," Kirstin said. "He couldn't stop crying, couldn't stop thanking me. For a man, a dad, to do that -- really got me." ... And made it `All worthwhile.'

Custom-made eyes cost from $1,800 to $2,500, and most of the cost is covered by insurance. The Kolberg’s can have 15 to 20 artificial eyes in process at any time. An eye can last up to five years or more is the average before it needs to be replaced or refitted.

Erik handles most fittings now. Gordon Kolberg plans to continue sharing methods and techniques on a worldwide level. His speaking circuit and international clientele involve countries such as Korea, Norway, Thailand, Taiwan, Sweden and England.

Making annual pilgrimages to Norway, where their family is from, is important to the elder Kolberg. The family spends a month there, to teach its methods, and makes artificial eyes for their clients.

Within five years, Kolberg wants a medical device division for the company. And he hopes to develop a dilating pupil for artificial eyes. Already he's developed a titanium peg -- which is smaller, stronger and more tissue-compatible -- to replace the plastic one.

He hopes a new Web site -- -- will help take the mystery and fear out of artificial eyes. "I want to reach as many people as I can," Kolberg said. The site provides information about the family's services, gives the latest technological advances, and lists additional resources, among other topics.

Already a grandfather, Kolberg hopes the family tradition will persevere. Right now, he sees Erik as the future for Kolberg Ocular Products Inc. "In 10 years, I'll be right here," said Erik. "I want to run this office with the standards my father and grandfather set.

It's a huge responsibility, but when you get patients like Christine Campbell, it makes it all worthwhile."




Copyright Union-Tribune Publishing Co. 1998