Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Another Reason Why it’s Great to be an Optometrist

I’m going to start this entry by freely admitting that I was never a model student when I was going through my low vision rotations with Dr. Feinbloom many years ago. I actually remember getting yelled at by him several times during my rotation for not totally getting it! Guess this is why I gravitated to primary care! Well, with that said, I’ve come to realize the importance of low vision work over the years, and the great benefit it brings to millions of patients. 

Thus, my story:

I was honored to be introduced to a 91-year-old World War II Navy veteran who is the father of one of my graduate school instructors.  Knowing my history in the Navy, my instructor asked if I would take the time to talk to his dad about the Navy and share some stories. Well, his dad and I quickly struck up a friendship over the phone where he shared some of the experiences he had on a Navy destroyer during the war in the Pacific. His stories were an amazing documentary of bravery, adventure, and modesty. During the course of our discussions (and I’m not really sure how we got to this) he mentioned that he had age-related macular degeneration and had not read a newspaper in a couple of years; watching television was becoming increasingly more difficult. I asked if he was being seen by anyone and he told me that he was seeing an ophthalmologist and optometrist, both of whom had told him that there was nothing more that could be done to help. At that point I thought, “how can that be?”, with all the great low vision aids and interventions that are out there today. He didn’t have any advanced optical aids nor was he aware that they existed. So, with the help of our staff at the Feinbloom Center at The Eye Institute, I was able to connect him with a Salus graduate who happened to be a low vision specialist working in the VA center near his home. 
At last week's Harvard Program

Let me fast forward a few weeks to when I was recently attending my graduate program at Harvard. When I ran into my instructor, instead of greeting me with just a traditional hello, he grabbed my hand and almost hugged me saying that we had changed his dad’s life! Because of the interventions he received from our former student, his dad, a huge NY Times fan, was able to read the newspaper for the first time in two years! It turns out that our former student evaluated him at the VA and he arranged for him to receive a CRT and other associated low vision aids. Additionally, my instructor told me that the doctor told him to replace his dad’s outdated 27-inch TV with a modern LCD flat screen. It turns out he was quite a sports fan and couldn’t enjoy the games on TV. Now that has also changed.

These are relatively simple fixes that significantly improved the quality of life of a person who, without our intervention, would not have realized these improvements. So, once again, it’s great to be an optometrist – even if I didn’t exactly excel in low vision when I was a student! Positively affecting the lives of those we care for is the centerpiece of what we all do as clinicians. I’m glad this worked out so well.