Ophthalmology puts the ‘eye’ in readiness

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Suzanna Plotnikov
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs

Wearing glasses is often times a limiting factor in the activities someone can or can’t do, especially for Airmen deployed to a combat zone.

Since medicine and technology have evolved and improved over the years, many people can toss their spectacles - that have been slowly inching down their nose and falling off their faces to the wayside by getting refractive surgery.

The Ophthalmology Clinic team on Keesler Air Force Base strives not only to improve a patient’s day to day life, but also increase their safety by offering photo refractive keratectomy and Lasik surgeries­.

The clinic was made as part of a warfighter program, which is designed prepare active duty members for deployment without the liability of needing contact lenses or glasses.

“Technically they’re not supposed to wear contact lenses [while deployed] so if their glasses get lost or broken, they not only become a risk to themselves, but for other deployed members as well,” said Desiree Turner, 81st Surgical Operations Squadron Ophthalmology Clinic manager.

The clinic offers a few options for spectacled Airmen to ditch their glasses, but there are distinct differences between them.

With PRK, a patient can have the surgery as many times as the surgeon and the eye will allow, however with Lasik, they usually don’t perform the surgery more than once. Lasik has a recovery time of approximately 24 hours while PRK recovery time can range from two days to a couple of weeks.

 While the process is offered to military members, there are patients who do not qualify to get refractive surgery done.

Some of the disqualifying factors for refractive surgery are having too thin of corneas, not having retainability in the military and for older patients, the requirement of having cataract surgery in the near future.

“I hate telling people no because we want to help people the best we can,” said Maj. Arian Moses, 81st MSGS Ophthalmology Clinic flight commander. “Our patients that come here are really excited because they have colleagues, family members and friends that have had this surgery before and know how great the outcomes can be. To not be able to help people is the hardest part.”

For those who are qualified the surgery gives patients back something they haven’t had for possibly decades - perfect vision.

Although some patients are disqualified from the surgery, the Ophthalmology Clinic personnel enjoy watching the patients’ reactions afterward.

“The best thing about this job is when we’re doing the procedures and afterward they sit up, look at the clock and start beaming,” said Turner. “They’re very happy and sometimes they cry because a lot of these people had glasses since they were children. Seeing them finally being able to look at the clock on the wall without putting their glasses on is very rewarding for us.”