Ms. Anilya Hosein
Email: anilya_19 @yahoo.com
I do not take my vision for granted because I know how easily and quickly it can be stolen away by a chronic illness such as glaucoma. My experience with glaucoma has been a scary and emotive one, that has awakened me to the extreme vulnerability that patients endure at the mercy of their physicians, and the need for a thorough understanding of their medical conditions from the day of diagnosis.
Glaucoma has robbed my father of vision in his left eye and some of it in his right. He was diagnosed with glaucoma when I was quite young, and started instilling drops in his eyes on a daily basis. Being a teacher, he was a responsible, rational, and intelligent gentleman. Throughout my life, I had neither accompanied him to his ophthalmologist’s appointments nor attempted to know about glaucoma, since he seemed to comfortably manage the condition on his own. At 83 years old, he was driving and doing his business all alone, until a few years back.
In 2016, he had to travel to Florida awaiting the birth of his grandson, and before his travel, he checked his eyes, since it has already been a couple of years since his last visit to an ophthalmologist. He was told that the eye pressure was high and he should get it checked while he is abroad. He did follow the advice, and I distinctly remember my relative abroad telling me that his eye pressure was still high, his cataract surgery was poorly done and he needed to see a glaucoma specialist.
Upon his return to Trinidad, I noticed that my father was unable to see the cursor on the computer-screen amongst other things. This was the impetus for me to become involved in my father’s glaucoma care. He had seen the same ophthalmologist since I was a child, and naturally I sought help there. I quickly learnt that his eye pressures were constantly over 30 and high intraocular pressures permanently damaged his optic nerve. For several months, his eye pressures were checked weekly, the dosage of the eye drops were adjusted to reduce the pressure, but there was no improvement. I did search online about glaucoma and came to know about possible surgery for the condition; however, my questions were quickly dismissed. It was at this point I knew I needed to look elsewhere for help. My father had the obsessive habit of reading for hours, always had a newspaper in hand, and read countless novels. I could not sit quietly and allow him to lose more vision.
The search for a glaucoma specialist proved to be a challenge. However, I did find one, who did an impressive and meticulous testing. I was informed that he was left with only 11% vision in his left eye and the visual loss was permanent. Surgery was recommended to control the elevated high eye pressures. However, prior to surgery, he was put on a medication to lower the intraocular pressure, which was causing low blood pressures and weakness. When I raised this concern, I was told emphatically that he can choose blindness or low blood pressures, and unless he was fainting or falling – he must take the medication. Before I could respond and inform the doctor that my father felt very weak and indeed fell of his chair, the provider walked out of the room. My search continued to find a doctor who not only has surgical skills but also softer skills such as listening to patients and relatives and do not treat them with hostility.
Fortunately, the next ophthalmologist I saw, through his calm, patient, gentle and professional persona, finally provided some comfort during those scary times. My father promptly received a glaucoma surgery where a mesh was placed in his eye and today, three years later, I am very glad to report that his pressures are always within the normal limit. He has a visit every three months to monitor his eye pressures, and I am very thankful that he still has some vision and is able to at least read the headlines of the newspapers daily.
My father had no idea that he could lose his vision from the high eye pressures. Had he known this, I do believe that his approach to his disease management would have been different, even before I got involved. Medicine is like a foreign language to a lay-person, we rely on doctors to educate us with the critical information we need, to maintain our health and survive. I feel very often that the severity, progression of the disease, and the possibility of grave outcomes are not stressed enough by doctors to the patients.
Furthermore, I firmly believe that doctors need to be trained appropriately to function in the best interest of their patients and refer them early to more trained specialists to prevent worsening of chronic illnesses. This may be achieved by both training as well as regulatory means.