Musings of a patient
I’ve had severe myopia for decades and my vision had been deteriorating steadily, especially over the last few years, due to the development of cataracts. So, it came as no surprise that it was time for the cataracts to be removed.
I faced the prospect of surgery with some trepidation. Like many of our patients, I scared myself by looking at statistics (and gruesome pictures!) on the internet. The risks were supposedly to be as high as 10 in 100 surgeries with potential complications such as infection, swelling and fluid in the various layers of the eye, bleeding in the eye, retinal detachment, glaucoma and finally a small risk of visual loss.
The memory of my father’s experience with cataract surgery in the 1980s was no consolation. I remember helping him with frequent eye dressings over some weeks, after which he was given the choice of thick “Coke bottle” glasses or hard contact lenses to correct his vision. He was an active senior in his 70s who refused the glasses, but learning to handle contact lenses at that age proved to be a major difficulty.
Calmed by the obvious expertise and confidence of my surgeon, I plucked up enough courage to face the surgery…..And what a wonderful experience it was!
When I woke from the sedation, I opened my eyes and through the clear eye shield, I could see the time on the wall clock. What a miracle!
My eyes looked totally normal. The incisions were not visible and there was no bleeding. I was home a few hours later, armed with simple instruction sheets on eye cleaning, a careful regime of eye drops and the do’s and don’ts for the next month.
Throughout my time as a patient in the hospital, the entire team - the eye surgeon, anaesthetist, nurses, optometrist, administrators, security guards and others - was caring, compassionate and knowledgeable.
We often speak about “Patients. At the Heart of all we do.” But when a patient experiences this, it makes all the difference in turning an uncertain and difficult time into a positive experience.
They place their trust in us during the most difficult times of their lives. We should embrace this honour and push relentlessly for better care.
One of our colleagues wrote to me to share how her mother was hospitalised for a devastating diagnosis recently. I quote “Indeed, I have never seen my mum so positive (since her diagnosis), and my family and I feel that it can be largely attributed to the exceptional care, commitment, empathy and highest degree of professionalism that my mum experienced at every touch point during her surgery and recovery process.”
She added in a subsequent note, “I sincerely feel proud and privileged to be part of the SingHealth family.”
Our mission statement includes the phrase “Innovate to Advance”. To our patients, this could mean a vastly different experience and better outcomes because we dared to push boundaries and develop new paradigms of care. Compared to my father’s experience, mine was a walk in the park.
We proudly boast of our often lower risks and complication rates when benchmarked internationally. But no matter how low these are, can we not make ZERO the aim?
Putting ourselves in our patients’ shoes, even if it is a 1 in 1000 risk, for that unfortunate “1”, it is 100% to him/her. We should seek out solutions, even if they are ahead of others, to bring rates of adverse events and complications to zero, or as close to that as possible.
It’s almost two months since my surgery and this has been the most incredible experience in my life – Yes, it was that good! My vision has been restored to the days when I was 8 years old! No glasses, no contact lenses and I can see the leaves on trees! I give my deepest gratitude to the marvellous team who cared for me.
For all of us, what a privilege it is - To do work every day that changes the lives of our patients! They place their trust in us during the most difficult times of their lives. We should embrace this honour and push relentlessly for better care. Keep pressing on!
Warmest regards and with my new vision,