Board Blog

This blog is written by various COS board members for the members of the society.  

God must be playing tricks on me!!  This is exactly how I felt in the beginning when I woke up in April 2014 with double vision, dizziness and numbness.   A healthy ophthalmologist with an acute onset of double vision?   You’ve got to be kidding, God!

And worse was the sinking feeling of some unfavorable diagnosis given the differential diagnosis that I formed for someone in his mid 40’s who had been very fit and healthy, living a balanced and active lifestyle.  The thoughts of cancer, aneurysm, stroke, and neurodegenerative disorder were on the top of my list!  Or did I have some unknown virus from my recent medical mission to Swaziland? 

After packing overnight clothing for my visit to the ER, every test under the sun was performed by my ER colleague.  Despite negative tests, my diplopia worsened steadily to the point of complete ophthalmoloplegia on day 4.  Soon after came the difficulty breathing and then weakness and tingling in my upper extremities which progressed despite the high dose steroids to involve my lower extremities.


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My husband Jim and I are greatly enjoying two weeks serving God here in Lebamba Gabon, at Bongolo Hospital Christian outreach here alongside US trained full time missionaries Wendy and Eric Hofman.  Wendy and Eric have served here since 2009, and serve extensively at the hospital alongside raising their 3 small children and homeschooling them as well.

   Wendy has undertaken a mammoth project here of building a 1 million dollar eye hospital here at Bongolo Hospital complex, and Gods provision has provided all but $300,000 of the necessary funding, through US Aid grant support. This facility should be completed by January 2018. In addition, God has sent a wonderful dutch Christian project manager to oversee construction. This has immensely relieved Wendy from this burden. Please consider contributing and fundraising for this Godly endeavor, and continue praying over Arjo and his team as he leads this work.  (the above picture is a special picture of Wendy and I after sharpening our MSICS blades for the next day!)

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We have all seen them. The patient that could be diagnosed from across the office. Intensely red swollen eyes, profuse tearing, light sensitivity, obviously uncomfortable, ratty tissue or washcloth in their hand constantly dabbing the eyes. They look miserable, and you do not want what they have. Last month we had a number of these patients in our office and despite our usual precautions I became the patient. It started with an irritation and a little redness, but within a few days I felt like those patients looked. I had epidemic keratoconjunctivitis with poor vision, intense chemosis, injection and bilateral limbus-to-limbus corneal infiltrates. Severe. Painful. When my colleagues saw me the exam was met with a uniform “Whoa!”. I had to cancel surgery and clinic and isolate myself from the ones I loved.

I began to experience what it was like to be a patient. One that was incapacitated, helpless, humiliated, and humbled. It was difficult to relinquish control to others who were now giving me advice rather than others seeking mine. I had to set aside my own position and be comfortable in my new one as a patient. Trust. Obey. Pray.

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I've been fortunate to have modeled to me over the years by numerous COS members the practice of praying with patients.  I recall talking with COS member Glen Brindley about this matter one year at an annual meeting.  He said in his early career that it was a rather foreign concept at the time until he heard the founder of COS, J. Lawton Smith, speaking about it at a conference.  Excitedly the next meeting, he reported to J. Lawton that after hearing him speak, he went home and prayed for his patients.  For J. Lawton that answer was not good enough, "You must pray with your patients, not for," he exclaimed.

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COS Member, Dr. Lowell Gess is a 95 year old ophthalmologist who has served in Sierre Leone for his career at the Kissy Eye Hospital.  We recently have had the privilege of hearing him speak in person to the society at the 2016 AAO prayer breakfast.  Dr. Gess is an inspiration to me in so many ways.  In particular, it has been impressive to see how he has recently traveled multiple times back to Sierre Leone during the ebola crisis in order to support the clinic and staff that he worked with despite the dangers.  In terms of thinking through the real dangers present traveling to Sierre Leone during this dangerous time, he related that he wasn't concerned about these dangers.  He was much more concerned about how he could support those working there in being present and in praying with them.

Here is a picture of Dr. Gess praying for and with his colleagues in Sierre Leone.

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Please enjoy this wonderful video created by Renaud Duval about one of his recent trips to visit Sierre Leone.

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