New World View
Photo courtesy of Lee Stillwell.

Lee Stillwell

Revolutionary implant can be adjusted for perfect vision after cataract surgery.

From journalist to press secretary to lobbyist for the American Medical Association, Lee Stillwell experienced first-hand the world of national politics from just about every possible angle during his long and distinguished career.

“I started out as a journalist in the Air Force, and after I got out, I slowly worked my way up to the national staff covering politics for the Scripps Howard News Service,’’ Lee says. “I then went over to the dark side and got into politics myself as a press secretary.

“I worked both sides of the House, first for Abe Ribicoff, a Democratic senator from Connecticut, and later for Bill Armstrong, a Republican from Colorado. From there, I got recruited by the American Medical Association.

“I was the AMA’s senior vice president for advocacy and had staff in Washington, DC and Chicago and spent a lot of time traveling back and forth between the two. As my wife put it, I was an influence peddler for doctors and patients.”

Now retired and living on the beach in Clearwater, Lee and his wife spend as much time as they can traveling. Lee says “the entire world” is on their bucket list, and they plan to scratch the Seychelles and South Africa off that list in 2020.

“There’s always something new to see,’’ says Lee, who will be seeing those new destinations better than he’s seen any before, thanks to the expert work recently performed by Robert J. Weinstock, MD, at The Eye Institute of West Florida.

Lee sought out Dr. Weinstock last summer after he noticed a discernible change in his vision. Thinking the decreased sharpness was the result of cataracts, Lee first visited an optometrist who confirmed his suspicion.

“He said the cataracts had to come out, and because I wanted to get this done before our next big excursion, I immediately started looking for a specialist to do the surgery,’’ Lee says. “That’s how I found Dr. Weinstock.

“While reading about Dr. Weinstock, I learned that he does a lot of research and is tied with the FDA; that is important to me. After reading about him, it was just a matter of meeting him and deciding what kind of replacement lens I was going to get.

“I’m a guy who likes to get the latest and the best, and when I mentioned that to Dr. Weinstock, he suggested that I might want to go with this new thing called LALs that he and his technicians were all talking about.

“So, I went back and read up on these LALs, looked at all the data and studies and realized the FDA had just approved them and that The Eye Institute of West Florida was going to be the first in the Southeast to use them. I liked what I read and decided that’s what I wanted to do.”

Groundbreaking Lens Option

Photo courtesy of Lee Stillwell.

“I see everything perfectly,” Lee enthuses

LAL stands for light-adjustable lens. It is a revolutionary lens replacement option for people having cataract surgery that is implanted just like any other intraocular lens, except that it can be adjusted for better vision following surgery.

Those adjustments are made about a month after the surgery during a relatively routine vision exam during which the lens power can be customized and locked into place by shining an ultraviolet light onto the exterior of the lens.

“This lens has been in development for almost ten years, and it’s allowing us to do a better job of reaching the goal of modern-day cataract surgery, which is to get the patient completely out of glasses,’’ Dr. Weinstock educates.

“Typically, when picking a replacement lens for a patient and later implanting that lens, there are some inherent inaccuracies and healing factors that we can’t control. These factors can result in the patient’s post-op vision being close but not quite perfect.

“It’s never far off, but sometimes, we have to go back and either give the patient glasses, which we hate to do if we’re trying to get them out of glasses, or do another procedure afterward that is not super invasive but still, it’s another procedure with healing.

“With this light-adjustable lens, you take the best numbers and measurements before and during surgery. Then, you put the lens in the eye. You let the eye heal and review the results at the patient’s follow-up appointment.”

Lock in Perfect Sight

“If the patient’s vision is not perfect, you can adjust the lens inside the eye. To do that, all you need to do is dilate the patient’s eyes, they look at this blue light and the new prescription is programmed into a laser, which makes the adjustment. When the vision is where the patient wants it, the final lens power is locked in.

“The adjustment is made in about thirty seconds to a minute, and you can do it up to two or three times over the course of the first couple months after surgery. It’s a much more customizable approach than we’ve ever been able to do before.”

Dr. Weinstock says the only drawback to being fit with light-adjustable lenses is that, prior to receiving the final adjustment, the patient must wear special glasses that protect their eyes from ultraviolet light.

“That’s done to keep the lenses in the stage where it is still adjustable,’’ Dr. Weinstock notes. “So you’re wearing those glasses for a month or two, but do you want to wear glasses for a month or forever? Most people will say they’ll wear them for a month.”

Dr. Weinstock warns that the light-adjustable lens is not a good fit for every cataract patient. He says it’s best for those who prefer a correction called monovision, where one eye is corrected for distance vision while the other is corrected for nearer vision.

“This is the best lens I’ve seen for monovision patients,” Dr. Weinstock enthuses. “It’s also an amazing lens for people who have had LASIK, PRK or radial keratotomy surgery, because those throw another curveball into measuring the eye and picking the right lens.

“In Lee’s case, he wanted his distance vision to be 20/20 or 20/15, so what we did was make one eye outrageously sharp in the distance. The other, we set for intermediate use, such as looking at a computer.

“Now, when he’s using both eyes, he has almost a full range of vision. That’s because we set the second eye in such a way that he would be able to read most anything without glasses, so he is pretty much glasses free.”

Lee, who had his cataract surgery done in early October and had the adjustments made about a month later, confirms that he is indeed glasses free. He says the freedom the new lenses have given him is nothing short of fantastic.

“I can sit at the breakfast table in my home and read texts on my iPhone® and read my iPad®, which is right in front of me, and also look out at the TV in the other room and see it all clearly, without glasses,’’ Lee exudes.

“I see everything perfectly. I can even read menus in restaurants without glasses. This is perfect for my lifestyle, and I thank Dr. Weinstock for recommending it and for guiding me through it.

“As you might suspect, I’ve been around a lot of doctors, and his background really impressed me. Then I got around him, and I found him to be very personable. He’s a very engaging guy, and he stays on top of things.

“I’ve already recommended him to others because his recommendations have sure worked out for me. I am more than satisfied and happy, and I can’t wait to see all those wild animals up close in Africa.”

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