Article Date: 5/1/2003

reflections THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY
The O.D. Turned D.D.S.

This optometrist does an unlikely favor for a retired veteran.
STEVEN SINDT, O.D., F.A.A.O.

Mr. Robert W. was referred to the eye clinic at our Veterans' Administration Medical Center for a diabetic retinopathy evaluation. He and his wife had been retired for the past 10 years and had a limited income. They had waited several months to get an eye clinic appointment and traveled more than two hours to get to us, but were excited and happy to be there.

The exam findings were good. His ocular health was fine, his retinopathy was under control and he had great visual acuity with his current pair of glasses. Yet Robert's reaction was not quite what I'd expected. While he was pleased with the good report, he proceeded to express to me a chronic frustration -- not with his eyes, but with his teeth.


PHOTO BY LAURENCE DUTTON

Does this fall under my job description?

Robert had been wearing poorly fit dentures for quite a long time.

"I've been trying for more than 50 years to get new dentures through the VA. Is there anything you can do?"

I thought it was odd to ask an eye doctor about teeth, but reflected that it would only take a moment to check his paperwork. Unfortunately, it appeared that he was not eligible for dentures at our facility. However, if there's one thing I've learned through my years in the VA system, it's that as hard as I try, I'll never fully understand how a veteran's eligibility is determined or awarded. I decided it wouldn't hurt to try to help, so I wrote a consult request and sent it off to Dental.

Small favor, big impression

One year passed and I can honestly say I never gave Robert's situation or request another thought. Then he returned for his annual exam, accompanied again by his wife. I overheard him ask a nurse in the hallway if he was going to see me again or another doctor. I assumed he just wanted the continuity of care of seeing the same doctor again, and he did -- but I discovered there was more to his question -- it was equally important to him to thank me.

As he entered the examination room, he was grinning ear to ear displaying his shiny new, well aligned, and properly fitting dentures. He clicked them together a few times and proceeded to tell me the story of how he finally got his teeth.

It takes an optometrist

"I got my last teeth from the VA more than 50 years ago," he said. "I've asked so many people, departments and agencies to help over the years I didn't know where else to turn. I go see the eye doctor and with one piece of paperwork I had my new teeth a few weeks later. Unbelievable! I can't tell you how happy I am. I'm telling all my friends that if they have any problems to go see the VA eye doctors."

I've seen Robert annually now for the past four years and at every visit he reminds me how his eye doctor got him new teeth!

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 LUTHER@BOUCHER1.COM.

 


Optometric Management, Issue: May 2003