Patient Feels Cared For Even During Complicated Treatment at Jones Eye

By Spencer Watson

When he found driving impossible, he turned to the experts at the UAMS Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute.

“My sight has been challenged more than once,” said Buchanan, who had already had four eye surgeries, including two to treat issues resulting from damage cause by diabetes.

At Jones Eye, Buchanan met with ophthalmologist Romona Davis, M.D., who determined a cataract was obstructing his vision. But it was a particularly dense cataract, likely made worse as a result of his past surgeries, which also in turn increased the risk of complications in trying to remove the cataract.

Davis explained to Buchanan that the tiny ligaments holding the lens (cataract) of his eye in place, much as the springs on a trampoline, may have been damaged during prior surgeries.  This was one potential problem. Another problem was not being able to predict how much improved vision he could expect.  Even with the possibility for complications, the loss of quality of life made a compelling case for going ahead with surgery.

Being a former surgery technician in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, Buchanan was better equipped than most to understand exactly what he was getting into. He’d seen eye surgeries before, along with open hearts, mended bones and much more. Still, he appreciated the care that was taken in making him comfortable prior to his surgery in November 2019.

“Dr. Davis was a breath of fresh air. She was just exuberant, and you don’t always come across that in the health care field. And not just her, but everyone around her: the supporting staff, the anesthesiologists, the nurses, everyone in the clinic,” said Buchanan. “I felt supported, and for someone like me, if I hadn’t felt supported, don’t you think I’d take my care somewhere else?”

As it turned out, the surgery was not without complication.

Buchanan chats in the patient drop off area outside the Jones Eye Institute.

Buchanan chats in the patient drop off area outside the Jones Eye Institute.Spencer Watson

“Once I began surgery, it became clear his cataract was not being held securely,” said Davis, who had to take corrective action immediately. That involved creating a larger-than-planned incision in the eye, moving the corrective implant in front of the iris, and placing stitches, which are not needed in the vast majority of cataract eye surgeries.

It was all work that had been planned for and talked about with the entire care team beforehand, though.

“We were prepared to convert to nonstandard surgery,” said Davis. “We had equipment ready and medications in the room, all the tools we would need. Even though it was not what we hoped for, it was not without expectation.”

The result required a slightly longer recovery time and several follow-up appointments, during which he relied on his wife for many things, including transportation, but the outcome proved tremendously positive. Buchanan’s vision was restored to 20/30 without glasses and by February 2020 he had a new prescription that brought him to 20/20 vision.

Despite the complications, and with results so clearly positive, Buchanan said he never felt intimidated by his condition or the process of having it treated. He was unafraid to ask questions and knew what to expect, including the potential for complications. From nurses to technicians to staff who helped him get through the door when he arrived, he always felt he and his family were being treated with the utmost care.

“I was cared for, and you can tell when people care and talk to you out of a concern for you. That’s the way they did for me,” he said. “Once you’ve been truly cared for like that, there’s nothing else that can compare.”

Hearing that is gratifying for the caregivers, particularly from someone who knows what good care should look like.

“When I hear that, I think we’ve done something right and it makes my heart happy, because his experience is what we’re trying to deliver,” said Davis. “I try to treat everybody as if we are treating their only eye and as the most important person in the world. I just try to deliver good care.”

Buchanan is grateful for that, grateful for his wife and family and grateful he hasn’t had to give up the precious gift of reading, especially his Bible. He is also taking courses to study and learn the Hebrew alphabet.

“As much as I can read and as much as I can gain and learn at this point in my life, I will.”