Article Date: 12/1/2004

reflections THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY
More Than You Know
Our services may seem routine to us, but they can make an enormous difference to our patients.
BY TED KASSALOW, O.D., NEW YORK, N.Y.

As optometrists, we're not always aware of the impact we make on people's lives. Routinely prescribing glasses and contact lenses often blurs this fact and we take it for granted that we're just doing our job.

As a specialty contact lens office since 1958, I often heard from mothers how their young teenagers' personalities and yes, their lives, were transformed when they switched from glasses to contact lenses. Those were the days that the higher prescriptions were quite thick and fashion had not yet invaded the eyeglass business. Recently, however, I've learned that I've made an even larger impact.

Discovering that I'm a hero

When I announced to a patient that I was going to retire in a few months, she seemed upset (she'd been my patient since 1970 and had been comfortably wearing contact lenses for many years). I explained that our office, and my son in particular, would carry on and that she would be happy staying with the practice.

A few weeks later, I received an invitation from her and her husband for me and my wife to join them for dinner at their country club. Knowing her so well, I felt comfortable accepting the invitation. Soon after we arrived, she looked at me and said, "You saved my life." I was taken aback as she then, with tears in her eyes, recounted events that took place in 1997.

That year, she'd called my practice to say that she had suffered a brain hemorrhage (at age 40) with marked diplopia and would contact me in the near future. When she visited later that year, she was terribly upset with the diplopia. Just one year into law school, the visual burden was overwhelming for her. She wouldn't wear a patch and seemed desperate. An avid hiker, climber and bike rider, she no longer felt safe participating in these sports. Furthermore, driving was out of the question. She had been to a number of doctors who didn't seem to have any remedy. Her acuity in each eye was close to 20/20, but exhibiting vertical and horizontal imbalance.

A simple, effective remedy

At that point I did something that seemed obvious: I prescribed a ­7.50 OD (20/20-) contact lens and a +8.00 for the OS, effectively rendering her monocular. Her eyes filled with tears instantly upon application of the lenses, as she realized that she was no longer seeing double. My approach wasn't remarkable, but as far as she was concerned, it was fantastic. She'd been to several eyecare professionals before returning to me and I was amazed that no one had attempted this remedy.

A year later, further surgery corrected the imbalances and she was able to function in a routine manner, achieving good visual acuity in each eye with no diplopia at all.

We make a difference

Hearing this story was moving to me and made me feel that, as I end my 46-year career, I'd had a profound and positive effect on patients whose stories I do not know. And I'm sure that we've all had similar success -- we're just not always lucky enough to be made aware of them.

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. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.

 


Optometric Management, Issue: December 2004