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Jim Mulvaney, Retina Patient

A dogged professionalism.


Jim Mulvaney, Retina PatientFor any patient with a retinal detachment, there is concern over how the treatment and surgery will play out. But for Jim Mulvaney, there were increased complications due to his longstanding orbital lymphangioma tumor, a mass which can push an eye out of its socket, causing double vision and requiring patients to turn their head when watching television or reading. His normal surgical options for a retinal attachment were limited because orbital lymphangioma raises the risk for significant bleeding. But Dr. Jennifer Lim refused to give up on him.

Retinal detachments often develop in eyes with retinas weakened by a hole or tear. This condition allows fluid to seep underneath, weakening the attachment so that the retina separates, “rather like wallpaper peeling off a damp wall,” says Lim, professor of ophthalmology and director of Retina Services, at the University of Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary. When detached, the retina cannot compose a clear picture from the incoming rays of light and vision becomes blurred and dim. Without repair, one will usually go blind.

“The Infirmary brings dogged professionalism to the table,” says Mulvaney, a 48 year-old producer of radio commercials for WBBM Newsradio 780, Chicago’s CBS News channel. “Dr. Lim and her staff are determined to help you with your problem and won’t give up. They will try a treatment, go on to another, and will keep thinking ahead.”

At one point, Mulvaney became discouraged and suggested the doctors give up on reattaching his retina. However, Dr. Lim said to him, “No, we never give up.”

Because common orbital procedures such as scleral buckling would be too risky for Mulvaney’s surgery, his retinal detachment required using pars plana vitrectomy.

Silicone oil was first used to reattach the retina. To perform this procedure, the eye surgeon removes the vitreous gel and replaces it with silicone oil. Vision is extremely poor when the oil is inside the eye. After the retina has resealed itself against the back of the eye, a second procedure is often performed to remove the oil. When Mulvaney’s silicone oil was removed, his visual acuity was restored to where it was prior to the detachment.

Mulvaney notes that the daily mechanics of having a silicone bubble keeping the retina in place—such as constantly looking down—were tougher than enduring the surgery, but “it was what it was.”

“I feel very confident that UIC did the best it could, and probably saved my vision in that eye,” he says.

Dr. Lim notes that no patients are ever the same. And frequently, the patients with the most complicated conditions get referred to the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary.

“This man had an unusual condition with required special care not to cause orbital manipulation that could have led to catastrophic bleeding,” she says. “Sometimes, the simple approach is not possible because of the patient’s other condition.”

by Megan Pellegrini

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