The long-awaited gift of clear, crisp sight

Monday, June 13, 2016

By: Femi Cole

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From the age of 6, Lu Beekman’s view of the world was pretty bleak. She couldn’t see her surroundings clearly.


“As a kid, my eyesight was abysmal,” she said during a recent telephone interview from her home in Marinette. “I could not see four inches in front of my face if my glasses fell off the night stand.”


Her vision deteriorated to the point that even glasses with thick “Coke bottle” lenses didn’t help.


Fortunately for Beekman, a mid-life visit to Dr. Dongmei Chen of BayCare Clinic Eye Specialists eventually changed all that.


By age 25, Beekman’s vision was in serious decline because of a condition called pars planitis. It’s an inflammatory eye disorder affecting the middle layer of the eye known as the uvea or uveal tract. Eye surgery arrested her deteriorating vision, but regularly-scheduled steroid injections in her eyes – part of the treatment for the disease -- further complicated matters. 


“The shots left cataracts in my eyes,” Beekman said. A cataract is a clouding of the eye lens, creating vision that’s much like looking through a frosty or fogged-up window.


Beekman had cataract surgery in the eye with the poorest vision. She wore a contact lens in the untouched eye. For almost 20 years, the initial cataract surgery procedure and contact lens served her well, but her eyesight was never truly satisfactory, especially in the untreated eye.


“Because of the disparity between the two eyes, with the treated eye being corrected to 20/30 and the untreated eye being 20/600, it wasn’t a good fit,” she said. With 20/600 vision, a person sees an object at 20 feet that someone with perfect eyesight notices at 600 feet. “Even my soft contact lens was thick and rigid.


“The eye disease diminished my peripheral vision and now my central eyesight was failing. I couldn’t live like that anymore.”


That’s when she sought Chen and her eye-care expertise.


“Lu didn’t have a routine age-related cataract,” Chen said. “Her cataract case was complicated. She had high myopia, which is a stretched eyeball, and astigmatism. She also had a warped cornea from long-term contact lens wear. It was a challenging case.”


But Beekman had faith in Chen’s abilities.


“She understood the reduced quality of life I was experiencing due to the deteriorated vision, the disparity of sight between both eyes,” Beekman said. “I had many concerns regarding the future of my eyes and sight. Dr. Chen and her staff worked with me to create a plan that addressed all of the challenges that had occurred regarding my eyes.”


The goal was simple – restore parity and health to Beekman’s eyes.


“Lu had five pre-operative measurements and underwent ORA-guided (customized) cataract extraction and toric intraocular lens implant,” Chen said. “One day after her surgery, Lu could see 20/20 out of the surgically-treated eye without any correction. She had a great outcome.”


Beekman was thrilled.


“I opted for the surgery with the toric lens and the results are nothing short of incredible,” she said. A toric lens is used to correct an astigmatism, an imperfection in the curvature of the cornea. “My vision is now corrected to 20/20. I now wear corrective glasses only for reading.  While nothing will restore the peripheral vision loss due to the pars planitis, everything I do see as a result of the cataract surgery is sharp, bright and clear.”


Chen’s medical and surgical expertise coupled with her friendly manner made for a positive patient experience, Beekman said.


“Dr. Chen’s medical and surgical expertise, coupled with her genuine concern for her patient, left an indelible impression on me,” she said. “I thank our good Lord every day that our paths were destined to cross. I told Dr. Chen I appreciated all of the studying late at night, cramming for tests in medical school and dedication to her profession, since it led to this successful outcome for me.


"I can now look forward to seeing what the rest of my life brings – no pun intended.”

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BayCare Clinic,, is the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. BayCare Clinic offers expertise in more than 20 specialties, with more than 100 physicians serving in 16 area communities. BayCare Clinic is a joint partner in Aurora BayCare Medical Center, a 167-bed, full-service hospital. Follow BayCare Clinic on Facebook and Twitter.