"I could barely see," says Betsy Franklin.
Betsy Franklin was legally blind in one eye when first went to visit Dr. Yichieh Shiuey.
56-year-old Franklin was legally blind in one eye due to cataracts. And, because of a large amount of astigmatism, she also had to wear thick, uncomfortable glasses.
A few days before the Christmas holiday, Franklin went to see Yichieh Shiuey, M.D., her PAMF specialist in cataract, Lasik and cornea surgery, for a post-operative visit.
Two years previously, Dr. Shiuey had performed a successful corneal transplant on Franklin. But now a worsening cataract threatened to steal Franklin's sight. "I recommended a new astigmatism-correcting lens that would permanently fix her vision as well as her cataracts," says Dr. Shiuey.
Unfortunately, the special corrective lenses are not covered under medical insurance. When Franklin learned the cost, she told her doctor that she would have to do without. Determined to provide his patient with the best option possible, Dr. Shiuey waived his operating fee and convinced Alcon, the lens manufacturer, to do the same.
"I was shocked," says Franklin.
Lens implants are regularly used in cataract surgery to restore the focusing power of the eye. Generally a 15-20 minute procedure per eye, the cloudy lens is replaced with a clear, artificial lens. But now, if the person also has an astigmatism, nearsightedness or farsightedness, using new intraocular lens implants, their vision can be corrected at the same time. These lenses are usually made of acrylic (a type of soft plastic) which is readily accepted by the body and last a lifetime.
Tiny incisions, about 2.5 millimeters long, ensure a quick recovery and most people return to their normal activities within several days. "Our success rate is really high," says Dr. Shiuey. "Over 95 percent of our patients who get these types of lenses end up with vision that is 20/40 or better, which means they can legally drive without glasses."
"My surgery took less than an hour, I was awake the whole time and there was no pain at all," says Franklin. "I can't believe the difference!" she says. "It was as if God had come and given me sight."
"Betsy cried and gave me a huge hug," Dr. Shiuey recalls. "Seeing her so happy with her new vision was my best Christmas present of all."