2020 Member Stories

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We did it! The Colorado optometric community has made it through 2020. It was a hard year and we want to acknowledge the strength that each of us have brought to the table. The pandemic shuddered practices and changed our lives more than once.

Throughout the year, we faced our own unique challenges at work and at home.Yet we still we did our best to show up for primary eye care in Colorado.

When a challenge presents itself, there is often a story of resilience not far behind. Earlier this month, we asked members for their own stories of hope and we are pleased to share these with you. Maybe you will discover your own story as others share.

A big thank you to everyone who sent in a story!

Goodbye 2020!

I'll be honest, this has been a hard year. Optometry is not my hobby. It is a business and that part has suffered in 2020. It is also my passion, my calling. One patient shines and reminds me why we do this.

Bill had a brainstem stroke as the country was being shut down. We started our visual rehabilitation on Zoom which was really frustrating but someone had to help this man! Constant diplopia, nystagmus, field loss, balance and coordination issues trapped this intelligent and gifted man in a body that wouldn't do what he was used to doing...which was a lot.We figured out a way to work on line, adapted assessments that his wife could do while I watched, and as we opened the office he has become a regular in the visual training room, working with our gifted visual training therapists. Now he can read, keep up with email, operate his own chair, he has designed a new house that is being built as I write this... he has made this year worthwhile from my patient care perspective.As with visual training, this year reminds me why we do this; small incremental changes over time matter. We work through obstacles rather than being stopped by them. When the world seems to call for closing things down we can focus on where is our real value - helping patients use the resources they have to be better able to function in the world.I am grateful that we have meaningful work to see us through hard times.

Marisa Atria Kruger, O.D., FCOVD, CHom.

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Papillledema diagnosis led to brain surgery:A teenage girl came to me complaining of severe headaches and visual disturbances--tunnel vision with "TV static" in her peripheral vision. I dilated her eyes and found bilateral papilledema (swollen optic nerves). An MRI revealed a cyst in her brain that was causing pressure to be put on the optic nerves. She had an operation to remove it and she made a full recovery.


Carotid artery blockage discovered during eye exam:
I ran into a patient at Safeway one day and she told me that I saved her life. During a recent eye exam with me, she was describing some strange visual disturbances and other symptoms that sounded to me like she had had a small stroke. I did a comprehensive dilated eye exam with visual field and did not discover any ocular pathology that would have caused her symptoms. I referred her to her primary care doctor, who did some tests and discovered that her carotid artery had significant blockage and needed to be operated on. She was all smiles when I ran into her, and although she had scars on her neck from the operation, she was very grateful to be alive.


Branch Retinal Artery Occlusion diagnosis led to surgery for right carotid artery stenosis:
During a comprehensive dilated eye exam, a patient told me that part of his vision was blacked out in his right eye. I discovered a branch retinal artery occlusion near his macula. I explained that the blood flow to that area of his retina was blocked and as a result that section of retina had essentially lost function forever. I then expressed to him the need to go to a stroke center at a hospital the next day to assess what kind of stroke risk was present. His visit revealed right carotid artery stenosis and an operation was scheduled. He was very grateful that he was referred so quickly so that he could avoid having a full blown stroke, or even worse--death. 

Jordan Ballantyne O.D.
Owner, Ark Valley Vision Care

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When I was asked to share my experiences as a health care worker during the COVID-19 pandemic, I would like to say that the first thing that came to my mind was the amazing teamwork and sacrifices I have witnessed here at CU Ophthalmology throughout this COVID-19 pandemic. For example... Doctors taking the initiative to call their own patients and providing reassurance about their condition as their appointments are pushed back during the lockdown; Doctors making arrangements to personally see "COVID Positive" patients in the clinic; Eye care technicians being reassigned to help with COVID screenings in the ER. Or eye care faculty and nurses volunteering to assist with nasal swabs and/or administering vaccines. Administrators taking food, drinks and "treats" to staff working the front lines.


Yes, I would like to say that these acts of selfless behavior and teamwork were what popped into my mind first. Instead, it was teamwork and selfless acts from healthcare providers that I witnessed from a far that will always be at the forefront of my thoughts when I think about COVID-19. 

You see on April 27, I received the call from Homewood Farms nursing home that my mom had been diagnosed with COVID-19. The first thought that popped into my mind, even before the nurse updated me on her status, was that I have to cancel patients and hop a plane to Maryland to be with her. And then it hit me, even if I flew out there today, they would not allow me in to see her. Everything was on lockdown. I refocused long enough to hear the nurse tell me that she was running a temp of 101 and that she has a persistent cough. She was awake, alert, and breathing on her own, and they are waiting for the physician to examine her. The nurse reassured me that she would have around the clock care and that if I wanted, we could arrange for facetime visits with her. She also said they would call me daily to update me on her situation. I asked if I could speak with her and she said "sure", but when she had brought the phone to her, she was sleeping. 

I had arranged for our first facetime visit, through one of the nursing home practice administrators, to take place two days later. Tomorrow, the plan was to talk to her on the phone. In that moment, I remember thinking that my mom was going to beat this disease for two reasons: 1) She was a pretty healthy 78 yo woman. And while she did have alzheimer's disease and hypertension, the HTN was well controlled. 2) She was a sweet, but STUBBORN woman. 

The next day, her nurse called me to tell me that her physician had seen her and has ordered some medication to help her breathe easier as she has some congestion in her lungs. Her temp was the same and that she again was currently sleeping, partly due to the medication she was on. "I hope she is awake for our scheduled "facetime" tomorrow", I thought. My wife and kids had all adjusted their schedules to join me. 

When we were ready to facetime with her that next day, her nurse let us know that she had become unresponsive overnight and had to be intubated. I remember that terrible feeling that came over me...of not getting to talk to her before she became unresponsive. Words cannot describe how sad I was. The nurse who had been caring for my mom, did not hesitate, and began positioning the laptop next to her, starting a conversation as if she were wide awake and engaged. While my wife and kids were saying loving, caring words to her, I sat in awe watching the nurse caress my mom's hair and rubbing her hand, just as if I were there doing it myself. This healthcare worker, in full PPE gear, went above and beyond in showing love and compassion during a time when COVID-19 was still a relative unknown with respect to exposure risk. 

Every day I am inspired by the team of healthcare providers I get to work with. This was long before COVID was even an idea. But during this pandemic, my appreciation for healthcare providers (even though I am one) has grown immensely. While we all don't work in emergency medicine, sometimes it's the little things we do that impact our patients lives (and their families lives) the most. An act of kindness in a time of chaos can still change the world. Please don't ever forget that. 

My mom succumbed to COVID-19 about 5 days later, a week before mother's day. I realized that even though my mom was stubborn and easily could have beaten COVID if she wanted to, I think she just wanted to be with my father, who passed away nine months earlier. We couldn't bury my father as scheduled at Arlington National Cemetery due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When an official from ANC called to let me know that we were finally able to schedule my dad's service, I explained that it will now need to be for two.

Thomas and Carol Mangan being laid to rest, together, on August 26, 2020 at Arlington National Cemetery.

Dr. Richard Mangan

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Read more stories that were published in Viewpoints!