My sister's cataract surgery and subsequent suicide

by Karen Mataychuck
(Sterling Heights, Michigan)

My 56 yr. old beloved sister had a cataract removed and was unable to see in the operative eye immediately after surgery r/t high ocular pressure. The doctor saw her every day for 4 days and then referred her to a retinal specialist. The operating MD was negligent in that he did not reassure her that this was most likely temporary with several options to resolve the problem. She thought that she was going to be blind in one eye. She was observed crossing herself frequently after what was most likely a prayer that her eye would improve. On the morning of her appt. with the retinal specialist she shot herself in the head after taking 80 Flexeril tablets.

What MDs fail to realize is that their patients are human beings with lives that may include stress already and that the addition of what he feels is "no big deal" can be the "straw that breaks the camels back." In my sisters' case, she was already living with the loss of a job that she had been at for 17 yrs due to the company moving to Mexico, which meant the loss of a paycheck, benefits, a great deal of her identity, and her social support, as all her friends worked there. She had cried a lot and said that she could never get another job at her age and that she was too old to go back to school. The fear of losing her sight coupled with this problem was too much to handle. The irony of this is that she was an out-going vivacious girl who made everyone she knew laugh. 500 people attended her funeral, the parking lot was overflowing and an extra room had to be opened up; and this without an obituary being placed in the paper.

This is my story. I guess the point that I am trying to make is to the physicians. Please remember that the patient is a person, important to many people. What problems appear to you as "common or inconsequential" may not seem so to your patient. That problem may seem monumental and insurmountable to them and could be the catalyst to a tragedy. How sad that possibly a simple explanation, an imparting of a little of your vast knowledge, and a little humaneness and support, could maybe have made the difference between life and death for my sister.

Thank you for reading this.

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Mar 08, 2013
Friends NEW
by: June

Dear Karen,
I got an ipad for Xmas so I am not that good at it. I wrote to you but I don't know what happened it disapered.

If you got it you now I really want to talk to you, I miss talking to my best friend. I don't know why you won't call but please do we have been friends for over 40 years lets talk about it.

Hope you are ok and what you wrote about Chris was very nice, I know how much you miss her.

Your friend,

Feb 02, 2013
I can relate
by: Anonymous

I myself am 52 years. I had surgery on my right eye. After 10 weeks of bad vision, I was seeing better; that lasted one week. I went to bed on a Thursday and woke up on Friday with total loss of vision. My doctor informed me that i had a virus. I went to see a retina specialist who told me that my lens had shifted and now I am looking at another surgery and lots of testing. This surgery has taken a toll on me. Driving is very hard and just normal tasks are difficult

Jan 15, 2013
Always ask questions
by: Karen

Dear Kavita,

I'm sorry that this is so long after your letter. I haven't been back to this site till now. I truly hope that all went well with your dad's surgery and that his problem has been resolved.
If there is any advice that I can give to anyone, it is ALWAYS ask questions if there is something that you don't understand. And, if the physician seems to have an aversion to answering them or doesn't have the time to give you to answer them or to allay your fears, RUN, don't walk, out, and find another one. If a doctor isn't human enough to feel his patients' fear and confusion, he isn't "doctor enough" to operate on them!
Take care, both of you, Karen

Oct 23, 2012
Need for information
by: Kavita

It is really unfortunate that a precious life was lost due to the no information providing attitude of the doctors. It is absolutely necessary to provide the relevant information to the patient including the things that can go wrong and how that can be resolved.

I am on this site because my father was operated on yesterday and is not able to see after 24 hrs following cataract surgery. He was concerned about his situation, and so I decided to search the internet to try to clarify his apprehensions. Now I am in a better situation to explain his doubts.

Aug 04, 2012
Thank You
by: Karen Mataychuck

Dear Brian,

Your reply is so appreciated. You summed up the point that I was trying to make much better than I did. It is obvious that you are a caring and compassionate doctor. If only ALL doctors had your spirit, so much anguish could be avoided.

My most sincere thanks,

May 05, 2012
by: Brian Ang

Dear Karen

I am so sorry to hear of your loss. And also for being late in my reply. When I read your story, it truly saddened me. It still does.

This is an important lesson for all doctors, not just for ophthalmologists. Patients value clear explanations about what has happened and how the problem can be managed. It is important for patients to know that their concerns are being listened to, acknowledged and addressed professionally. It is after all, part of our jobs as doctors.

My deepest condolences to you and your family.


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