How Failing to Qualify for LASIK Saved One Patient's Eyesight
Natalee Schalk had worn glasses and contacts for years. Yet, every time she had a vision check-up at Grene Vision, she couldn’t help but notice the sign advertising free LASIK consultations at Grene Laser.
“I asked about it and my doctor said, "Yeah, you'd probably be a good candidate. It would be worth making an appointment to find out for sure."
With no history of eye disease and a light prescription, Natalee was so confident she’d qualify for LASIK that she scheduled her surgery along with her consultation.
Excited on the day of the consultation, she walked through the front doors of Grene Laser and checked in. Despite a successful walkthrough of the office's machinery and a few pictures of her eyes, her excited became concern after the exam.
Natalee’s results showed early signs of Fuchs dystrophy. A cell count of the back layer of her cornea showed a very small amount of corneal guttata; cell loss in the innermost layer of the cornea called the endothelial layer. This single sheet of cells maintains proper corneal hydration by pumping fluid out of the cornea back into the anterior chamber.
In Natalee’s case, LASIK would likely have a good visual result, but it would also put her at a greater risk of additional cell loss and corneal problems later in life. Remaining endothelial cells, eventually, may not be able to pump fluid out of the cornea fast enough, causing her cornea to swell. This painful swelling would make her cloud her cornea, reduce her vision, and make her light sensitive.
Natalee’s case was mild, but it was enough to disqualify her from the surgery. Her mom suggested a second opinion.
Still reeling from the news, Natalee agreed with her mom and scheduled an appointment with another local LASIK clinic. Upon seeing out of date LASIK equipment and ancient computers, her heart dropped. Giving the second clinic them the benefit of the doubt, Natalee followed through with the exam.
The clinic performed just two scans of her eyes.
“The doctor came in, looked at my eyes, and flipped the lens a couple of times. He then dilated my eyes and walked out. When he came back in, he looked at my eyes and said, ‘Okay, awesome, great, you’re a perfect candidate for surgery like this. The gals at the front desk can let you know what days we are available to do the surgery.’”
Natalee was skeptical and unimpressed with her visit. She felt they had not taken the time to investigate the health of her eyes or consider if LASIK was the best option for her.
“I walked out of that appointment and was overwhelmed with gratitude in how thorough Dr. Askew was [at the first appointment]. He cared enough about my future and my eyes to advise against a surgery that could make my vision worse ten years down the road. It was clear I wasn’t just another person to make money on.”
Following her second, hasty appointment, Natalee called Dr. Askew personally. Explaining how she could manage her condition, Dr. Askew calmed Natalee’s nerves by explaining what she could expect in years to come and what should could do about it now.
“I want people to know that Dr. Askew is all about providing his patients with true feedback. You won’t be just another customer or a money-grab. If I hadn't gone to him, there’s a chance I would have had the LASIK surgery and made the dystrophy worse. I'm very, very grateful that I had the opportunity to go see him.”
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