This past Wednesday I received a call around 7 a.m. from my father. I was just arriving at Visual Health getting ready for another busy day of patient care. When I saw the number on my caller ID, I was a bit concerned, as we normally talk every Friday morning. My dad was calling to say “I can’t see out of my right eye.” My parents are in their late 70’s and they live on a small farm in Southern Georgia. They have both enjoyed excellent vision for the last several years without glasses thanks to custom refractive cataract surgery with multifocal intraocular lenses by Dr. Tommy Coffman of Visual Health. I immediately asked my dad if he had seen any flashing lights or floaters in that eye. He replied “yes two to three weeks before, I saw flashing lights for three to four days, but I have always seen floaters in my right eye” (His permanent floaters are caused by a benign condition known as asteroid hyalosis, which are small calcified spheres suspended in the Vitreous humor-the jelly like substance that fills the back chamber of the eye that resemble an asteroid field in the night sky). A bit miffed at this point, I wanted to say “why didn’t you call me right away two weeks ago.” I also had realized that I had spoken to him at least three times in that three-week period, but ….. My Dad is very stubborn and was in denial. Like father, like son, I guess the apple does not fall too far from the tree, as I am very stubborn as well. Rather than getting upset, I immediately countered “you’ve to go see an eye doctor right away this morning.” I went back to work and waited. Shortly after 11 a.m. a phone call comes to my cellphone. I recognized the (239) area code as being southern Georgia. The caller said, “Hi, my name is Dr. John Doe from the Thomasville Eye Associates. Your father has a retinal detachment”, that confirmed my fears. I asked the doctor if it was superior or inferior in location, was the macula on or off. That is medical lingo to determine the severity of the detachment. He said in the southern draw “I can’t be sure, I can hardly see through the asteroid hyalosis, which blocks part of my view, but I think it is inferior.” That was not the news that I wanted to hear. He calmly said, “But I have made arrangements for him to see the retina specialist in Tallahassee two hours away and they will see him as soon as he can get there.” Great, now all I can do is sit and wait again. As it neared 6 p.m., I get another call from an (850) area code, the area code for Tallahassee and it was the retina specialist, Dr. Brooks, confirming my dad had a superior retinal detachment, but he was not able to find the hole or tear, which he suspected within the 1 to 2 o’clock position superiorly because he could not see through the asteroid hyalosis. His plan was to do a vitrectomy, a procedure to remove the jelly in the back of the eye and replace it with an inert fluid. Once the vitrectomy was performed he would be able to see the hole or tear. Using the Endolaser, (which is a laser to use inside the eye) he would seal around the hole and then put a gas bubble in to hold the retina in place. He informed me he could do this first thing on Friday morning. The next day, Thursday, I received a call from my father stating that he could now see out of his right eye at least well enough to drive a car. I said praise the Lord that means the macula is still attached and this improved his chances of having good vision after surgery. Friday morning at my normal Friday men’s Bible study breakfast, we prayed for my dad, as well as the surgeon and his team. Friday night I heard the news that I wanted to hear from the retinal surgeon, “the surgery went well, I found a small hole at 11 o’clock in location and was able to seal it with the Endolaser, and I then placed the air bubble in the eye and sent your dad home.” Now it was my dad’s part, he was instructed to keep his head down 45 minutes out of each hour for the next week. According to the laws of gravity the air bubble will move up and hold the retina in place. Thanks to modern medicine, and a caring medical team chances are very good that my Dad will regain his vision in his right eye.
You are likely pondering, what is the moral of this story and why am I writing this in our blog. Well, it is very simple. If you notice anything unusual with your vision like flashing lights and floaters, call us immediately. At Visual Health, we are always available to see your emergency problems and always have a doctor on-call.
All of this may have been preventable, had this been caught early, the possibility existed that my dad would have only needed laser treatment that could have been performed in the office. The additional 2-3 week delay after his symptoms occurred likely allowed time for fluid to get behind the retina and cause the detachment.
December 27, 2011- “Now for the rest of the story…” My dad’s surgery and recovery went great thanks to retinal specialist Dr. Emily Ashton. The retina was completely attached; however the intraocular lens had become de-centered by the gas bubble. Dr. Ashton sent my dad back to Visual Health for a lens repositioning surgery. Prior to my dad’s arrival in South Florida, he was playing with his dog “BOZO” when the dog hit him hard in the face. All of a sudden my dad could see, Bozo had knocked the lens back in position. Subsequent examination at Visual Health confirmed near perfect positioning of the lens. It’s a miracle! We thank God for the great doctors and for Bozo. It looks like 2012 will indeed be a good year.
Richard Scott Hearing, O.D., F.A.A.O