One of my favorite holiday movies is “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring James Stewart and Donna Reed. I find it hard to believe that the film was released in 1946! I love the way in which the movie underscores the countless ways that our lives interconnect and how a seemingly insignificant encounter can profoundly affect someone’s life.
As an eye doctor I have the unique privilege of connecting with thousands of people each year. Most of the time I don’t think a lot about how these interactions sometimes affect people.
I have always tried to treat people as I want to be treated; with kindness and respect. I try to take that extra minute to listen a bit more closely. Sometimes people share more about their personal life, sometimes they talk about a health concern that may seem unrelated to their eyes. Occassionally, that takes me far afield of eye care.
In just the past few weeks I have been reminded in several unique ways how my work can affect people in unexpected ways.
A patient was in for his annual eye examination. He is a former SEC football player, a triathlete and a father to three small children. Last year his visual symptoms of dark spots and “tunnel vision” after exercise prompted me to refer him to a cardiologist for an evaluation. As a result of he ended up undergoing open-heart surgery to repair a severely damaged mitral valve. It was indeed wonderful to know that by listening carefully to his concern and asking some extra questions I was able to point this gentleman toward something that may have ultimately saved his life and helped ensure that his daughters would grow up with their dad.
Part of our comprehensive care philosophy involves checking blood pressure and blood sugar. At least 1 or 2 times per month we discover someone with undiagnosed diabetes or hypertension. We then educate the patient so they can get treatment that might extend their life.
Sometimes we see patients who know all about their systemic disease, but they don’t adequately control it. Our blood glucose monitor reads “HI” when the blood sugar is above 500 mg/dL (normal is around 125 mg/dL). Until last week, I had never seen a “HI”. This patient knew that they had been slipping in their diabetes control and they were having vision problems. It was only when I showed the patient the pictures of all the damaged blood vessels in his eyes that I think it finally hit home how this disease was affecting him and would lead to blindness or even death without major changes. Although it is too soon to know the outcome, my hope is that this patient makes choices that will extend his life and save his vision.
Finally I think of the gentleman whom I saw several months ago with a vague complaint of impaired peripheral vision and headaches. With careful questioning and additional testing we were able to determine that he had a highly treatable type of brain tumor called a pituitary adenoma. He was referred to a specialist who is now treating the condition.
During this holiday season, I have been thinking of those people, their spouses and their children. I have been thinking of how thankful I am that they walked into my office and gave me a chance to care for them.
It really is a wonderful life!
Happy New Year!
Dr. John Henahan is a board certified, fellowship trained doctor of optometry with a passion for disease prevention living with his wife and two children right here in Peachtree City. You may call his office at 770-487-0667 or visit SpecEye.com to learn more.