The other day was a busy research and telephone day. Researching specialist contact lens fitters for a patient in Louisville, KY, I found several optometrists’ websites that looked promising. I read as much about each as I could, and then, I took down numbers and called each of the three, knowing full well that I’d be talking not with the docs, but with their assistants.
I introduce myself and explain the purpose of my call. “I’m calling on behalf of Vision Surgery Rehab Network (VSRN), a non-profit organization that facilitates rehab options and provides information for post-corneal refractive surgery (RS) patients with complications.”
“How can we help you?” I explain that I’m currently researching expert lens fitters in the area for a patient who has reached out to us for help. Twenty years after having RK surgery, he is now hyperopic (far-sighted) in each eye to varying degrees, and experiencing muscle strain and headaches. This could generally indicate an imbalance of some sort, but without a thorough exam, it’s impossible to say. Would their practice be interested in working with this patient?
They each take my information and promise to give the docs a message to return my call. About a third of those to whom I reach out either email or call back, but usually, they ignore my inquiry, as it’s quite common not to want to take on another doctor’s
disaster patient. To my surprise, all three called me back, all of them interested in doing whatever they could to help this patient and any others. I listen for what have become the magic words: “we enjoy the challenge,” because we are a challenge, we patients with problems, and we take a lot of chair time with a relatively small financial return.
After answering their questions about VSRN, I ask them about their experience working with post-RS patients, whether RK, LASIK, PRK or otherwise. Mostly what I need to know is that they recognize the particular issues, have successfully seen and treated them often enough to be expert specialty lens fitters (a prosthetic contact lens is generally the only [non-invasive] “fix” that doesn’t cause further problems), and whether they are willing to go in and clean up a mess created by someone else. All three docs passed the vetting process with flying colors, and I was able to provide the patient with several options for care.
At the same time, a patient from the west coast called asking for help finding someone to fit her for specialty lenses. Because she is willing and able to travel anywhere as a flight attendant, I gave her several options for excellent fitters, emailed the doc she chose, and closed that case for the time being. And while this is going on, I have a very young, very unhappy Greek patient with floaters after LASIK. His resources are limited by his geography.
Floaters are common enough in the general public, but I also experienced a giant increase in them after I got toasted in 2001. Unfortunately, there are no safe, reliable treatments for zapping them or preventing them at this time, and the young man is very unhappy about it. He is frustrated that there is so little research devoted to his problem. I tried to explain to him that, at least in the US, research dollars are limited and are generally awarded to those seeking cures for life-threatening diseases, like cancer. In his immaturity, he compares the two and finds them equally troublesome, likely because he has, by his own admission, never watched a loved one suffer and die from cancer. He “knows a guy with cancer, but he’s doing better than I am.” I doubt that, but I didn’t respond. He wants me to donate to his cause and post it to our bulletin board. The facts of life: People are not jumping up and down waiting to get in line to donate to non-profits treating eye issues from elective surgery (although VSRN is desperately in need of operating funds, so anyone who’d like to donate to Vision Surgery Rehab Network is more than welcome to send me a message for information on what we do and how to donate, as we have a teeny-weeny, half-a-shoestring budget, and will soon be out of money…).
I am in no way minimizing any patient’s issues, but we have to accept reality. Yes, floaters are extremely distracting when you have the Rand McNally World Atlas of them in your eyes all the time, but they are not the end of the world, and there are a thousand things far worse. The image below is a representation I created after my LASIK to approximate the quality of my post-surgery vision when looking out a window on a sunny day.
Ugly, isn’t it? The blur is the result both of under-correction that left residual refractive error, and irregular corneal surfaces responsible for a long list of other aberrations, including the loss of night vision and dim light vision. I’ve learned to live with it.
VSRN tries to assist any patients who seek help, and are willing to do something to help themselves. It’s a twisted, rough path, but we try to navigate it with them. If you have had complications from RK, LASIK, PRK or other corneal refractive surgery, and you would like to see if we can help, please message me and we will do our best to seek out the appropriate resources. Visit our website and bulletin board for more information:
Disclaimer: VSRN does not dispense medical advice. We exist only to facilitate rehab options for patients with post-RS complications. Our executive director is a clinician, and any information or medical opinions provided are offered only as a basis for assessing and finding rehab options.