Blessing for the Eyes

Astigmatic patient is glasses-free following cataract surgery.

Influenced by her teachers at school, Dolores Wehle was only 7 years old when she discovered what she wanted to do with her life.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Dolores sees colors more vividly following cataract surgery.

“I knew I wanted to be a nun,” Dolores shares. “The sisters who taught me at school made an impression on me. I felt something calling me to be just like them, and as I grew, the call grew.”

A Tampa native, Dolores was still a teen when she answered that calling, joining a convent out of high school. She went on to serve chiefly as a primary school teacher in Florida. Now retired at age 79, she will soon celebrate her 60th anniversary with the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.

Though satisfying, her calling also presented some challenges.

“When I entered the novitiate, it was the first time I left Florida and the first time I was far away from my family,” remembers Dolores, who lives with five fellow sisters at a senior living community. “It was challenging, but God gave me the grace to do what I needed to do, and I persevered.

“My first mission in Florida was in Opa-Locka near Miami. From there, I went to Key West and was a teacher and principal for many years. I also taught in St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park, Tampa and Port Charlotte. I served for a while in leadership positions within my community in Albany, New York, and in Canada, so it’s been a very interesting 60 years.”

When Dolores was 30, she realized she needed eyeglasses to see clearly at a distance. She was dependent on those glasses for years, and as she grew older, her eye doctor warned her of another issue with her eyes.

“Over the years, whenever I went for eye exams, my doctor would say, You have cataracts growing,” Dolores relates. “My main problem was that the lights at night made it difficult to drive, so I didn’t drive a whole lot at night.

“I hated the thought of cataracts growing in my eyes because I heard that you have to be awake and keep your eyes open during cataract surgery.”

After Dolores moved to the senior living community, an eye doctor was invited to talk to the residents, and she went to hear him. Afterward, she asked questions about cataracts, then made an appointment to visit him.

That speaker was Craig E. Berger, MD, a board-certified, fellowship-trained ophthalmic surgeon at Bay Area Eye Institute in Tampa. In addition to his practice, Dr. Berger was an adjunct assistant professor of ophthalmology at University of South Florida Eye Institute for 15 years. With these two positions, he developed extensive expertise in cataracts and cataract surgery.

Protein Problem

“Cataracts result from protein buildup in the lens of the eye, which prevents light from passing through and makes the vision look cloudy,” Dr. Berger describes. “Symptoms include cloudy or foggy vision, glare, difficulty seeing at night, loss of color intensity and double vision.”

A common problem, cataracts typically are related to aging. Other factors, such as diabetes, sun exposure, smoking and family history, can cause the condition to develop at a younger age.

“Typically, cataracts become a problem later in life, but they actually start around the age of 40 and progress at different rates in different people,” Dr. Berger informs. “For this reason, they can occur in younger people as well.”

Toric lenses correct astigmatism and help patients become independent of glasses following cataract surgery.

Surgery to remove cataracts is generally done on an outpatient basis and involves the surgical removal of the affected lens and its replacement with a synthetic intraocular lens, or IOL.

Before he recommended a replacement IOL for Dolores, Dr. Berger met with her and described the advantages and disadvantages of different lens options. The doctor also reviewed Dolores’ lifestyle and activities to find the best lens match.

“I always consider the patient’s activities, hobbies, the type of work they do and their visual requirements before I recommend a specific lens,” Dr. Berger acknowledges. “Then I do a complete eye exam. I look at the patient’s tear film, the retina, the cornea and the optic nerve. I also look for astigmatism, which is an imperfection in the curvature of the cornea that affects how light reflects onto the retina.

“I recommend implants based on all of that information, and I encourage patients to take the time to gain a clear understanding of the benefits of each of the different intraocular lenses before making a choice. It is important to note that no one lens is ideal for everyone. Lenses come in many sizes, with a variety of features and benefits.”

In addition to cataracts, Dolores also had significant astigmatism in both eyes, the doctor says. For that reason, he recommended toric IOLs. Toric lenses correct astigmatism and help patients become independent of glasses following cataract surgery.

“Wonderful Work”

Dr. Berger performed cataract surgery on Dolores’ left eye in November and on her right eye in mid-January. In each case, he replaced Dolores’ natural clouded lenses with toric IOLs. Dolores now needs glasses only for reading.

“Prior to the first surgery, I was nervous, but Dr. Berger and his staff were very encouraging,” Dolores says. “There was even somebody by my side to hold my hand during surgery, so it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I was really surprised.

“In December, Dr. Berger said, Are you ready to do the other eye? Once again, Dr. Berger and his staff were excellent. They were understanding and compassionate, and very professional as well.”

Just a few days after her second surgery, Dolores took a tumble while walking across the parking lot to her apartment. She fell on her face and was concerned that she injured her eyes in the fall.

“I could tell that my face was hurt, so I was worried,” Dolores confirms. “I went to the emergency room, and it turned out that I broke a bone under my left eye. The ER staff thought the eye was okay but wanted me to see a particular doctor. I said, I’m going to Dr. Berger.

“The next day, I called Dr. Berger, and he got me in that day. He performed a thorough check of my eyes and determined that they were fine. He said the broken bone would heal on its own.

“Today, the bone under my left eye is okay. I can see well and I don’t have any problems with that eye. Thankfully, I didn’t mess up Dr. Berger’s wonderful work. I’m so grateful to him for seeing me right away. He’s so compassionate and kind.”

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    • Bay Area Eye Institute

      Bay Area Eye Institute understands that there are many ophthalmologists and optometrists in the Tampa bay area to choose from. Dr. Berger’s practice focuses on patient satisfaction. His philosophy is to put the patient first, provide phys... Read More

    • Craig E. Berger, MD

      Craig E. Berger, MD, is a board-certified, fellowship-trained ophthalmic surgeon. After receiving his undergraduate degree in chemistry from the University of Florida, he received his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of South Fl... Read More