THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY
One Blind Goose
Sometimes you can help your patients in unexpected ways.
SERGE RICHARD, O.D.
One day at the office, I received a call from Mrs. A, whom I'd seen for the first time one year before for a regular eye examination. I recalled her as a pleasant lady in her late 60's or early 70's living in a rural area. Mrs. A was calling to inquire about an eye problem. Her eyes were just fine -- one of her geese, however, was blind. I must explain that Mrs. A raised wild geese of a particular breed from Europe. She lived alone and these geese were her friends. In fact, she'd put the goose in question in a holding pen because she feared the other geese would harm him in his handicapped condition.
At this point, I knew what direction the conversation would take. Mrs. A wanted me to examine the blind goose and give her an opinion on the nature of his problem!
My initial reaction was that I was educated in the human eye only -- not in the eyes of other animals. But Mrs. A replied that she had sought the advice of a few veterinarians and the nearby school of veterinary medicine without any success. After a few more minutes listening to her, I told her to call me in a few months if she still had no success in finding an answer and I would try to help.
PHOTO BY PAT SIMIONE
Holding me to my word
Sure enough, a few months later, I noticed that Mrs. A had an appointment scheduled. Perhaps remarkably, I didn't remember the reason for this appointment; I knew it was too early for her regular examination. Then I remembered her goose. The office receptionist confirmed my suspicion; I was now at the point of no return. I told the receptionist to schedule the goose during closed office hours.
Mrs. A brought her goose in a box. Hay and feathers literally flew out when she opened it. I thought about the reaction my human patients would have had if I hadn't rescheduled the goose at a more appropriate time. As she held his neck, I was able to perform indirect ophthalmoscopy, as geese have big, non-dilated pupils that don't significantly decrease in size with bright illumination. The view was good but I couldn't detect any abnormalities -- then again, I could only compare it to a normal human eye. She offered to pay me for the consultation but I refused.
A lead appears
At that time, I was also practicing part-time at a local laser vision correction clinic. One day, I overheard the ophthalmologist discussing his dog's cataract surgery. I learned that a veterinarian ophthalmologist a few hours' drive away held clinics every few months. I immediately called Mrs. A to share the information, but I heard nothing for several months.
Opportunities come in unexpected packages
Then one morning the receptionist asked me if I had seen Mrs. A on the local nightly news the previous evening. Apparently the program had featured a report on special clinics for animals and Mrs. A had been interviewed with her goose!
A few days later, I received an e-mail from Mrs. A thanking me for my help. Her goose had an optic nerve anomaly from birth, she wrote. I learned that sometimes we can help our patients not always only with our clinical skills, but sometimes in the most unusual ways.
DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH RENÉ LUTHE, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 643-8132 OR
Optometric Management, Issue: April 2003