A Lasting Impressionc
A Lasting Impression
A little dark room brought a family and a community a great deal of light.
Pequot Lakes, MINN.
An optometrist would probably like to think that their life mattered, that 40 hours a week in a little, dark exam room sitting behind a phoropter would count for something and maybe even something special. For my optometrist husband and our family, it did count for something special.
After almost 20 years of practicing solo in a small town, my husband, John Kloster, O.D., was diagnosed with terminal brain tumors and died at age 47 in August after a two-year battle with them.
John genuinely cared for his patients, taking an interest in their lives in addition to their eye health. He and his staff made note of birthdays and deaths in the family, and he celebrated when, for instance, a patient made a big play at a high school game while wearing the contact lenses he prescribed. My husband just loved to do and see. And once the day ended, he would lock the door, and do and see for himself. In fact, this outgoing part of his personality took him on several mission trips to Ecuador to provide vision care.
Dr. John Kloster (right) worked with Dr. Todd Wiedell (left) as long as his brain tumors permitted and then turned his practice and patients over to Dr. Wiedell, who then purchased the solo practice.
John also spent a great deal of time talking and listening to his patients. He said he enjoyed hearing about their fishing trips, vacations, achievements and dreams. Patients opened their hearts and lives to him in that little dark room because they sensed he cared, and he really did. In fact, even though my husband would keep other patients waiting, no one ever seemed upset by it, probably because they knew they too would receive the same kind of care and attention. He relished how the four walls of his practice were made bigger by the stories his patients would tell him. John’s attentiveness and interest in his patients built a sense of community, a place where people would stop by just to say hello. It also built his practice.
My husband used to say he would build a “spin & grin” practice and, therefore, “really move patients through the door,” but that never happened. That just wasn’t him. In looking back on his years in optometry, John told me that he realized he’d come to consider his patients as “family.”
I began to see for myself that John’s patients had come to consider him a part of their families as well. After he made his diagnosis public, one of my husband’s young patients began crying at his mother’s side. The reason: The boy didn’t know what he was going to do without Dr. Kloster, the only optometrist he’d ever known.
It surprised me how much optometry came up during John’s funeral service. More than 500 people gathered to remember him, and many of them primarily knew him in the context of that little dark room.
The outpouring of love and kind words from my husband’s patients confirmed for our three children and me that optometry had become a part of a life well lived, that it was far more than a little dark room and phoropter.
Every optometrist has something special to bring to optometry. And I see that, as John’s patients grieve with us and begin to see the new aspects and positive attributes of their new optometrist. OM
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Optometric Management, Volume: 47 , Issue: March 2012, page(s): 88