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Pat Spear, Cornea Patient

Writer and artist Pat Spear: “I got my life back”


Cornea patient Pat Spears with Dr. Traish
Pat Spear is a writer and artist who divides her time between Wild Rose, Wisconsin, Logan Square in Chicago, and annual travels abroad. She worked as a healthcare advertising copywriter, which influenced her positive impression of teaching hospitals. So, when she finally decided to do something about her vision loss, she took a friend’s advice and checked out the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary.

“I was diagnosed with diabetes in the summer of 2011, which made me very concerned about my eyes,” Ms. Spear said. “I had cataracts, which doesn’t sound that serious, but I was very worried about having eye surgery and complications,” she continued. Ms. Spear, who is now 67 years old, has been severely near-sighted and astigmatic her entire life and has worn glasses since third grade and contact lenses since she was in high school. As an adult she worked with an ophthalmologist to adjust to multifocal contacts, but since he retired, Ms. Spear said she was unable to get the right prescription as her vision worsened.

For a year, her vision went from bad to worse. “I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t read, I couldn’t even see the TV,” she said. “I was an artist, and I couldn’t make art. I was a writer who couldn’t work on my book. I couldn’t do my freelance on the computer – it was just too hard on my eyes,” she added.

“I couldn’t do any of the things that made me who I was,” Ms. Spear said, admitting that she got more and more depressed.

Ms. Spear sought care at a clinic in the suburbs but just didn’t feel confident. “I was really concerned about care for the whole spectrum of my conditions,” she explained. That’s when a friend told her about the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary. “She said they have the best doctors,” Ms. Spear said. “I went online and saw that you had all these clinics and all these doctors who were the best in Chicago.”

Pat Spear's ArtworkMs. Spear called the Comprehensive Ophthalmology Faculty Practice and was scheduled to see Dr. Aisha Traish. Dr. Traish is an attending surgeon who sees adult patients in the Comprehensive and Cornea Services and treats children with corneal diseases in the Pediatric Ophthalmology Service.

Dr. Traish, who also serves as Associate Residency Director, and Chief Resident Joann Kang, MD, who was rotating with Dr. Traish in the Comprehensive clinic, discussed with Ms. Spear what her cataract surgery would involve, including the risks and benefits and her expectations for vision after surgery. Ms. Spear was interested in multifocal intraocular lenses (IOLs), which can reduce the need for glasses both at near and distance, because she had adjusted very successfully to multifocal contact lenses in the past.

According to Dr. Traish, cataract surgery often comes with the added benefit of reducing the person’s reliance on glasses, although glasses often are still needed for certain activities. The benefit of multifocal intraocular lenses (IOLs) is that the post-surgical need for glasses is further reduced and, in some cases, eliminated.

Multifocal IOLs function similarly to multifocal contact lenses or eyeglasses with progressive lenses and enable the wearer to see both near and far. However, they require a certain amount of brain adaptation for the person to achieve the most successful visual outcome. “It is difficult to know in advance which people will succeed with multifocal IOLs,” Dr. Traish explained. “That is why we work so closely with each individual to make sure they understand what is involved.”

Multifocal IOLs can also reduce contrast sensitivity, which makes people who have macular degeneration or corneal diseases that already adversely impact contrast sensitivity poor candidates for the lenses. Dr. Kang and Dr. Traish discussed the nuances of the advanced technology lenses with Ms. Spear, and concluded that she was a good candidate, given her positive experience with multifocal contact lenses and realistic expectations of what her visual outcome would be.

“Ms. Spear had a good understanding what to expect from multifocal IOLs,” Dr. Traish noted.

“Dr. Traish really listened to me,” Ms. Spear said. “I knew right away that I made the right choice,” she added.

Dr. Traish wanted to make sure Ms. Spear did not have any retinal disease that might need treatment prior to her cataract surgery, given her extreme myopia, and sent her to Dr. Yannek Leiderman, a member of the Eye Infirmary Retina Service, for an evaluation.

“Fortunately, Ms. Spear did not require any retinal treatment,” Dr. Leiderman reported. “Diabetes is the greatest threat to vision in working-age Americans and can affect the outcome of cataract surgery,” he continued. “It's always gratifying to work as part of a team to help a patient achieve the best possible vision, and to assist surgeons like Dr. Traish in delivering cutting-edge care.”

Once Ms. Spear was cleared by Dr. Leiderman, Dr. Traish and Dr. Kang proceeded with sequential cataract surgery using a multifocal IOL.

“I was nervous about the surgery, but my eyes were so bad, I knew it was the right thing to do,” Ms. Spear said. “And Dr. Kang and Dr. Traish were so good with me. They were available to talk with me whenever I had questions. Somehow they managed to let me know that it was going to be okay.”

Ms. Spear had surgery on her left eye on October 3rd, 2012. When she woke up the following morning, she could see clearly from that eye without glasses or a contact lens for the first time since third grade.

“Even through the shield on my eye, I could see better than I had in years,” Ms. Spear said. Her vision tested 20/20 in the left eye, and Dr. Traish scheduled Spear for surgery on the right eye on October 17. That surgery also was a success, with her right eye testing 20/20. She could also see at near without glasses.

Spear describes the results as “no less than a miracle.”

“I never expected to see the world in so much detail,” Spear said. “I don’t even need readers.”

“Advanced technology lenses, including multifocal or toric (astigmatism correcting) lenses are a great technological advancement in cataract surgery, even though they are not for every person,” Dr. Traish said. “It is fantastic when a person like Ms. Spear is able to enjoy her full visual potential.”

Ms. Spear is grateful for the care she received at the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary. “You think about your eyes and surgery, and you feel so vulnerable,” she said. “Dr. Traish is just so careful and delicate. I think the world of her and the whole team down there,” she added.

“I feel like I’ve been given my life back.”


by Julie Ann Daraska

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