Sight-saving care by Elmhurst Memorial’s ER, Lombard ophthalmologist
Vision is something sighted people often take for granted.
When you have one good eye, you tend to treasure your sight even more. This is the case for Bob Barrick, 80, of Elmhurst, who views the world with just his left eye. He was born with amblyopia, or a lazy eye, which blurred the vision in his right eye so severely that even corrective glasses couldn’t sharpen it.
His left eye functioned well until earlier this spring, when its vision began to blur. Excruciating pain followed. Barrick would have been blinded if not for the quick action of an ophthalmologist at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital.
“Dr. Balaji Gupta saved my eye,” said Barrick, who’s been a volunteer at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital for 19 years. “They should probably make him a saint.”
When the blurring first began, Barrick didn’t rush to the doctor’s office. He got a check-up after someone suggested it might be a problem with his carotid artery. An exam found that wasn’t the case, Barrick said. The blurred vision returned sporadically over the course of several weeks, but he didn’t see another doctor until headaches began and his vision worsened one Sunday during a trip to the mall.
“It felt like somebody stuck an ice pick in my eye,” Barrick said. “I have never, ever felt pain like that in my life.”
Barrick called his son, Ken Barrick, an emergency room doctor, who told him to head directly to the Emergency Department at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital. Doctors there called in Balaji Gupta, MD, an ophthalmologist with DuPage Ophthalmology.
According to Dr. Gupta, Barrick was experiencing an attack of Angle Closure Glaucoma, a dangerous and sight-threatening condition that develops quickly, unlike typical old-age glaucoma, which has an open angle and gradually sets in over a period of years. The drainage area in Barrick’s eye that allows fluid to circulate was blocked, causing the pressure to build. The condition was an emergency, Dr. Gupta said, and he treated it accordingly.
“He could have been blind within a day. It was really dangerous,” Dr. Gupta said. “If you’re blinded suddenly when elderly, life changes dramatically. At Elmhurst Memorial they picked up on it right away.”
When Barrick arrived at the hospital’s Emergency Department, staff there measured the pressure in his eye. Normal pressure is about 20 – the pressure in Barrick’s left eye was 70.
“Bob is a pretty tough guy,” Dr. Gupta said. “A lot of people are in terrible pain. They’re vomiting. They had given him morphine in the ER. It’s a horrible event.”
Barrick was discharged from the ER and instructed to go immediately to Dr. Gupta’s office where Dr. Gupta performed laser surgery, creating a hole so the fluid could drain and relieve the pressure in Barrick’s eye.
“He did the procedure and right away the pain was gone,” Barrick said. “He checked the pressure after he lasered it and it was down to about 25. It dropped that fast once he released the pressure.”
Barrick said he was grateful that Dr. Gupta saved his vision – and that he did the procedure on a Sunday night when his office was closed.
“He did not go home and watch golf; he opened up his office. It’s got to be a wonderful feeling to know he prevented someone from going blind,” Barrick said.
For more information about Elmhurst Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department, visit www.emhc.org/services/emergency-department.