My Most Memorable Patient Encounter
I’m assigned four 45-minute vision therapy sessions with four different patients every Wednesday night. The best part about this shift is that unless a patient wishes to discontinue therapy, I pretty much get to see the same people every week. It’s an opportunity to get to know them, bond with them, encourage them and learn from them.
I think the most unique experience I’ve had throughout my entire career at ICO happened with my 23-year-old vision therapy patient who needed some new glasses (getting the right prescription is the first step to therapy). She was my last appointment on that first Wednesday evening. Her day starts at 4 a.m., so she was tired, practically falling asleep during the exam. Her main issue was that she saw double of everything due to an eye turn, and her vision was blurry.
In a nutshell, I refracted her the best I could, and got her to see 20/20 from both eyes, but she was still seeing double of everything in the room. My attending, Dr. Smolyansky, then instructed me to put some prism into the temporary trial-glasses we put on her.
That’s when the magic happened.
Patient: “Oh my gosh, I can see!” Dr. Smolyansky: “Do you still see double?” Patient: “Not even a little bit.”
She then turned her head from side to side and up and down and looked around at the 10-foot room with wide-eyed amazement. It was in that moment that I realized how much of a difference I can make in someone’s life with this magical thing we call “prism.” There was no doubt in my mind she’d be happy with the new glasses we were going to prescribe her. Unfortunately, it took some time to order her frame, so I we had another appointment before she came in with new glasses.
It’s almost been four weeks since I first saw her. At her appointment last Wednesday, I couldn’t recognize her. This time, when I greeted her in the waiting area, she didn’t seem tired at all. She had just picked up her glasses a few minutes before, and was really excited she could finally see.
Me: “So how do you feel? I could barely recognize you, I love your new glasses!” Patient: “I feel great! I used to walk around and talk to people with my head down because I couldn’t see. Now, I can hold my head up and I feel confident. I can finally see!”
I don’t think she knows how happy it made me feel to have the honor of helping to make that difference in her life. As students, most of the time we don’t get to see the end result of what we prescribe to our patients. Today was the first time I got to experience it. I got the special opportunity to watch as my patient continued to look around the room as though she could see for the first time in 23 years.
Sometimes throughout the last three years, after all the hard work and pulling all-nighters for exams, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Why did you put yourself through this?” If I had to choose one experience to answer that question, this would be it. My patients make me believe in what I do, and give me hope for tomorrow. I can only describe it as a wonderfully rewarding feeling of helping someone improve their quality of life.