Sub-hour surgery takes days to get done

We have the doctors here who can perform these operations.

To the editor:

On Saturday of the Labour Day weekend, I suddenly completely lost the sight in my left eye while sitting on our patio drinking coffee.

Needless to say, this is a very traumatic and frightening experience. We were able to contact an ophthalmologist who was kind enough to open his office on Sunday morning to examine my eye.

A further examination on Tuesday determined that I would have to go to Vancouver General Hospital for emergency eye surgery. The equipment necessary for the surgery is not available in Kelowna.

Further, because of altitude restrictions, we could not fly to Vancouver, nor could we drive via the Coquihalla or the Hope-Princeton Highways, we would have to travel via Kamloops and the Fraser Canyon Highway.

An appointment was made for the following Monday at the Eye Care Centre in Vancouver General Hospital for tests, the surgery scheduled for Tuesday at Mount St. Joseph’s Hospital and a follow-up visit with the eye surgeon on Wednesday in his office near VGH.

The surgeon indicated everything had gone well and wanted to see me again the following week.

When I asked if we could return to Kelowna in the meantime, he then realized that I had been referred from Kelowna and said he would arrange a follow-up appointment with my doctor in Kelowna. I asked about travel routes and he said the Hope-Princeton should be fine but not to travel the Coquihalla.

We started home via the Hope-Princeton and when we were about 50 kilometres out of Hope, the pain in my eye became so intense that I had to ask my husband to stop and go back. Our only choice to get back to Kelowna was via Kamloops which, because of the attempt to drive the Hope-Princeton, made an overnight stay in Kamloops necessary. We finally arrived home on Thursday. Four nights and five days away from home for a procedure that took less than one hour.

I understand there are several hundred cases a year in Kelowna and the Southern Interior similar to mine that now must be referred to Vancouver.

We have the doctors here who can perform these operations. I’m sure space can be found somewhere in the new Centennial Pavilion to set up the clinic.

Will it take one or more people to lose their sight because of a lack of a retinal surgery clinic in Kelowna before something is done? I hope not.

Amber Firkins,

Kelowna