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Moe Ross, Retina Patient

“I can’t speak more highly of my care at the Illinois Eye & Ear Infirmary”


Moe Ross and Dr. Jennifer Lim

Moe Ross’ relationship with the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary began when both of her retinas started to detach in September 2003. During reattachment surgery that evening, she was one of the rare few who hemorrhage. However, due to Dr. Norman Blair’s great skill, he was able to reattach her retina through the bleeding. She suffered a temporary loss of vision in both eyes, but regained sight in her right eye. Later, she relied on the Infirmary to repair her epiretinal membrane (ERM), or macular pucker, in her right eye, as well. With the vision in her right eye back up to 20/25, she says she now has “her life back.”

When Ross, a 60-year-old university instructor, therapist, communications trainer, creative writer and artist, was rushed from the northern Chicago suburbs to the Infirmary because her retinas were detaching, the hour and a half drive to Chicago was tense enough. But Dr. Blair’s assessment that she would have to have surgery immediately or lose her vision was an even greater shock to Ross. Dr. Blair referred Ross to Dr. Jennifer Lim, professor of Ophthalmology and Director of the Retina Service.

After Ross recovered from her retinal detachment surgery, she later developed an epiretinal membrane (ERM), or macular pucker, in her right eye. This condition is characterized by the growth of a membrane across the macula, or central retina of the eye, thus interfering with central vision as it (typically) contracts. The growth causes distortion of the central retina, thus producing severe or blurred distortion of vision.

ERMs are very common, says Dr. Lim. “Her ERM was related to prior retinal detachment and surgery,” she says. “Some patients have ERM without any retinal detachment or surgery, such as when they develop with aging.” Only 25-percent generally need surgical intervention.

Due to her ERM, Ross’ visual acuity was limited to “counts fingers level” for some time, says Lim. Visual symptoms can certainly become disabling, as in her case. Dr. Lim performed pars plana vitrectomy and peeling—or removal—of the macular pucker. The ERM peeling procedure begins with a vitrectomy. Then the vitreo-retinal surgeon uses an extremely fine forceps, under high magnification, to grasp and gently peel away the membrane from the retina. Diamond-dusted instruments may be used to assist in the removal of the membrane. A few tiny sutures are then usually required to close the incisions in the eye. These generally will not require removal at a later date. “This procedure may very well be the most delicate operation ever performed on the eye,” says Lim.

The ERM surgery improved the vision in her right eye to 20/25, an excellent outcome according to Dr. Lim. Generally, 70 percent of patients have some improvement after the surgery to correct the ERM, says Lim.

From the beginning, Ross says her Infirmary doctors provided great advice, told her to call them anytime, responded to her (sometimes monthly) e-mails, and never made her feel “babied.” “From my initial visit to additional surgeries, I can’t speak more highly of my care at the Infirmary,” she says. “I have not had one incident where there was a glitch.”

Ross now has a personal assistant to help her deal with her partial blindness. She notes that her vision problems have been more life-altering for her family than for herself. “Anytime a person can’t see, her life changes, but I’ve been blessed with being able to see for a long time and with excellent care for my vision loss,” she says.

by Megan Pelligrini

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