By Randy Whitman, President
Some of the names of the physicians and medical institutions in this article have been changed to protect their privacy.
The point of this blog is not to scare people, or convince anyone NOT to have Cataract surgery or any other potentially helpful surgical procedure. That’s not my intent. My intent is to share with you a personal experience.
When I was younger, I suffered permanent damage in my eye as a result of a freak accident at my grandfather’s farm. A tree limb snapped and clawed my eye, momentarily blurring my vision and scratching my cornea. Over the course of my life, my vision has gradually deteriorated, and it became inevitable that in order to continue my life’s work of running a company and participating in the laboratory, I needed to repair the damage. Several months ago, in the spring, I elected to have Cataract surgery on my right eye. I opted to have the surgery to emulsify the eye and remove the natural lens in favor of an artificial lens.
Cataract surgery is a fairly common surgery these days, and according to various doctors I spoke with, as well as other sources, the procedure has a 96% success rate. The surgery involves (supposedly) very little if any physical pain, and doesn’t require any post-surgery bandages or stitches. Laser vision surgeries reshape the cornea to properly focus the light traveling through the eye to the retina. Most patients who have success with the operation no longer have to wear eyeglasses or contacts, and the results are often instantly noticeable, as patients typically experience improved vision as soon as a day or so after their surgery. In short, I felt positive and hopeful, and wanted to believe that the process would be quick, painless, and worthwhile. I don’t know if I’ve ever been more wrong about anything in my entire life.
During my initial operation, Dr. F accidentally detached my retina. Dr. F referred me to a “specialist??? named Dr. G. Unfortunately, Dr. G ended up only making the problem worse. As my eye burned and blurred, he proceeded to cajole me into signing a number of legal documents and waivers in order to prevent me from filing a lawsuit. A few days after leaving G’s office, I had lost total vision.
Following my appointment with Dr. G, I decided to visit my regular eye doctor for his opinion and feedback on the situation. To my surprise, Dr. S turned out to be more attuned and helpful than both Dr. F and Dr. G combined. Dr. S communicated with honesty and transparency, spelling out my options, making a full recovery sound possible. His direction and confidence was rejuvenating. My frustration with the entire process, having been bounced around from doctor to “specialist???, began to fade. Finally, someone genuinely cared. I wanted to feel better. I wanted to beat this and go about my living my life as I had before.
The last doctor I met with on my journey to recovery was an ophthalmologist named Dr. Syed, who specialized in medical and surgical treatment of retinal disease. He is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Neuorscience from the University of Pittsburgh. He is now the mainstay physician at Maryland Retina in Sykesville, Maryland. While most other doctors I spoke to and consulted with felt that I required a band around my eye, Dr. Syed took a more unorthodox approach to my treatment, opting for a surgery known as Vitrectomy surgery for Retinal Detachment, injecting a gas bubble into my eye to push the retina against the wall of the eye, helping to pump fluid out from under the retina. Dr. Syed then used a laser beam to seal the tear in the retina. The bubble remained in my eye for several weeks after the corrective surgery to help flatten the torn retina as the eye gradually absorbs the bubble. Dr. Syed stated that my vision should eventually return close to 20/20 vision. As far as I’m concerned, he is a miracle worker. After having fully lost my vision, my depth perception, my awareness, I feel as though I’ve survived some sort of terrible nightmare. While one doctor took my vision away from me, another one gave it back. My first surgery with Dr. F took place during the first week of March. After spending months dodging the boiling, ultraviolet summer days, hiding behind aviators like an off-duty police officer, feeling my eye water, sting, and my vision go in and out like a dimming desk lamp, I can finally now say that my eyesight is almost back to normal. As far as I’m concerned, Dr. Syed and Dr. S were the unsung heroes in my recovery–they were modest professionals who were attentive, thorough, and above all, honest. I am forever thankful to both Dr. S and Dr. Syed for their efforts. Without them, I wouldn’t be sharing this story.
In retrospect, it feels confounding that the entire process of saving my vision turned out this way: with me paying one doctor to take my eyesight away, and then paying another one to restore it. It just goes to prove that nothing in life is ever as simple as we want it to be–there are always exceptions to the statistics, even when the success rate is as high as 96% (I guess that someone had to speak up for the other 4%). I’ve endured grueling months of physical discomfort, a loss of equilibrium, a state of exile from our company’s labs, waiting for time to pass and the wound to heal. My eye looks better, less cloudy and no longer red with irritation. I’ve come a long, long way since the operation in March. You wouldn’t think that at one point I had completely lost my vision as a result of the medical missteps I suffered through. Light and colors are all coming back to me at full clarity. The gas bubble has dissipated. My surroundings are clearer and more defined. You’d have to see it to believe it.