LASIK SOS Is There a Doctor in the House ?

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A Worst-Case Outcome --

LASIK Surgery Performed by One of the Most Experienced Refractive Surgeons in the Industry - TLC Newport Beach LASIK/all-laser-LASIK surgeon Doctor Thomas Tooma.

What follows is an appeal made by me, Roger E. Bratt, after meeting a patient who had been severely injured by a highly experienced refractive surgeon.  It was like coming across a car accident at the side of the road, with all the cars whizzing by, and no one stopping.  Then taking the injured person to an emergency room, only to be told, "Oh ... we don't treat people like that here."

Posted on January 6, 2000 at the Online Forum of the Surgical Eyes Foundation. 

To all my fellow post-ops. and concerned doctors ... 
I am writing on behalf of a young woman named Julie.   During the week before her LASIK surgery, Julie received a President's Award for Outstanding Performance in customer service from her employer, a Fortune 1000 company.  She travelled a lot, roller-bladed often, and played in a volleyball league. 

That came to a crashing halt on Feb. 1, 1999. 
Following her surgery, Julie developed the following vision complications: 
* EXTREME photophobia.  Living in sunny Southern California, Julie is now constrained to exercise in the hour before sunset, when the light level fades and before the headlights come on.  At this time she wears a hat and sunglasses, and walks.  Julie plans to move to the Pacific Northwest, somewhere where it is cloudy much of the time, so as not to be a prisoner in her own house, in "sunny Southern California." 

* 15 minutes to 30 minutes a day of "eye-time."  Julie can see a Snellen eye-chart.  Unfortunately, the act of reading causes her extreme pain after more than a few minutes.  This pain takes hours and sometimes days to subside. 

* Persistent pain in both eyes, which is exacerbated by the use of the eyes.  That's 24 hours a day -- 11 months after the surgery. 

Some of the ideas I have heard about the conditions accompanying Julie's ocular condition are "Debris under the Flap" and "Nerve Damage." 

In the movie "the Sixth Sense", where Bruce Willis plays a child psychologist who tries to help a young boy who can see ghosts, there is a most compelling scene played by the young actor.  At a moment when Bruce Willis is equivocating about whether he can help the young boy, the young boy's eyes well up with tears, and he says ... "How can you help me if you don't believe me ??" 

Some doctors don't even believe Julie's symptoms are real.  A doctor for the insurance company which makes her disability payments suggested that it might be "in her head." 

Having known individuals who abused the workers' comp. system, I understand the concern that insurance companies have about funding the long-term vacations of California slackers.  It is most clear to me that Julie's current situation is the furthest thing from a vacation.  It is also very clear that Julie is no slacker, as evidenced by the plaque which now sits at her previous place of employment, a grim reminder for her former co-workers of the happy, vivacious woman who disappeared from their midst early in February, 1999. 

I am determined to see that happy, vivacious woman return.  If it is true that what doesn't kill you will make you stronger, then, in a few years, when Julie's future is more clear and -- HOPEFULLY -- the most appropriate medical solutions to her dilemma have been found and implemented, then Julie will be one very, very, VERY strong person. 

In Julie's case, her symptoms are very real.  Though un-named, they have transformed her life, in a very dark manner.  Though she has trouble seeing, Julie, like all of us, needs to be able to visualize her future, and to have moments of carefree, happy joy.  Right now Julie's future is hard to visualize, even for myself, as a friend who is functioning as her secretary to spare her the new torment of reading and writing. 

To have a LASIK surgery performed by an experienced refractive surgeon, and to then be introduced to the world of Braille, Optacons, community van services for the handicapped, talking books -- etcetera -- may accurately be characterized as a Descent into Living Hell. 

I have met Julie.  I have my own post-operative foreign-body sensation and new cross-eyed-ness to deal with.  Julie met me because the Los Angeles KCBS affiliate did a recent 2-part "special" on LASIK complications -- thanks to Ron !! -- and I was one of the interviewees.  As I sat there with my eye-patch, worn to achieve BCVA, (and to increase the humidity around my left cornea) and my empty tubes of 30 weeks worth of eyedrops, and my sombrero hat, worn to <edited>, Julie opened her eyes, and saw a familiar sight.  Julie has her own bag of eye-drops, her own eye-patch, her own hats. 
She told a friend about what she had seen, and went back to listening to books on tape. 
The friend, an acupuncturist, hounded the reporter, obtained my name and phone number and called me.  Soon I was talking to Julie ... and soon, I was crying like a baby.  I have participated on (the bulletin board at) Surgical Eyes at
for some time now, talked to and met many of the other participants and refractive surgery casualties, had the experience of taping my own left eye shut and realizing I could see better. 

But Julie's situation caught me a little off-guard.

In short, folks, I am looking for both doctors and motivated LASIK post-ops. who agree about one fundamental goal: WE HAVE TO HELP JULIE.


1.  In acting as the patient's occasional secretary and chaffeur, I thought it appropriate to protect the patient's privacy.  Therefore, although the patient is very real, "Julie" is an alias, named after one of my own friends, an employee at Kaiser who tried to help me get fitted with some prism eye-glasses, for the crossed eye and double vision which manifested after my own LASIK surgery.
2.  Again, to protect the patient's privacy, the date stated for their surgery is within a month of their actual surgery.

Roger E. Bratt 

 Copyright 2002, 2003 Roger E. Bratt