Surgery chacnges 93-year-old’s life |

Surgery chacnges 93-year-old’s life

by Linda Hiller Staff Writer

Elsie Cresswell has no qualms about fighting for good medical care. At 93, she is certainly older than all of her doctors by a decade or four, and she knows firsthand that to find a prince of a doctor you may have to kiss a few toads.

Three weeks ago today, Cresswell had cataract surgery that changed her life.

“It was just wonderful. While I was in recovery, I could already see a big change,” she said. “I looked at my friend and said, ‘Lee, I can see you!'”

Lena Prara, known as “Lee” to her friends, had volunteered to take Cresswell to the doctor the day of the surgery.

“She had talked about having the operation done and said she was unable to see at night,” Prara said. “I can’t give enough credit to the nurses and Dr. Burton. They were so wonderful with Elsie.”

Paul Burton, the ophthalmologist who did the surgery, said operating on patients with only one good eye can be thought-provoking.

“Whenever I operate on a patient with only one good eye, it does make me pause and think,” he said. “In her case, I felt sure we would have a good outcome. In North Dakota, I did the surgery on a woman who was 103, so Elsie wasn’t the oldest one I’ve done.”

Cresswell lost the vision in her left eye 70 years ago in an accident. To risk losing the vision in her good eye was a gamble that frightened her.

“Was I nervous!” she exclaimed. “Most people have another eye to fall back on, but I didn’t.”

When the vision began to fade in her good eye years ago, Cresswell consulted doctors, but surgery was never performed.

“Now I know I probably should have had the surgery 10 years ago, but it didn’t happen,” she said.

Consulting with Burton last month, Cresswell was surprised to hear him suggest she could have the cataract surgery.

“When I met Dr. Burton, I told him, ‘There are doctors and there are doctors,’ something he seemed to understand,” she said.

Some two years before, Cresswell sought help from a doctor for a small ulceration on her ankle, but due to what she said was improper medical care, the infection was allowed to travel up her leg, eventually deteriorating her tendon.

To add to the equation, during the time period her leg was being treated, Cresswell suffered a heart attack and spent some time recovering at a local nursing home. While there, she met a foot doctor who seemed to recognize the urgency of her foot problem for the first time and steered her in the right direction toward treatment. The doctor did eventually recommend amputation, however.

She found another doctor and he treated her after she told him, “I want you to cure this.” His eventual recommendation was to amputate, and again she resisted.

“Even though I went through tortures of hell with that foot, I couldn’t give up,” she said. “I came into this world whole and I plan to go out the same way.”

Now, nearly three years later, she has continued to resist amputation and current treatments seem to be working.

When she went to see Burton about her eye, she brought a feisty attitude born of battle and in the end it paid off.

“In talking to Dr. Burton about my cataract, he said to me, ‘When do you want to do the surgery?’ and I said ‘What do you mean?’ and he said, ‘We do surgery on Wednesdays,’ so I told him ‘Let’s do it Wednesday.'”

She didn’t want to put it off any longer – realizing that she should have had the operation done 10 years ago, when she was 83. Afterwards, she marveled at what she could see.

“It was just the best experience,” she said. “I think the Lord was with me all the way through. I could even see dust! I looked at my friend and said.

Cataracts are formed when the natural lens of the eye – responsible for focusing light and producing sharp images – becomes cloudy and hardens. As a result, night vision and depth perception are impaired and color distortion increases. The condition takes time to develop and is generally painless.

Cataracts are usually a natural part of the aging process, but can occur as a result of injury, illness, heredity or medications. Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in adults aged 55 and older. An estimated 60 percent of people over the age of 60 have reduced vision capacity due to the condition.

Continual improvements in ocular surgery have made cataract removal available to more patients. Surgery is usually done on an outpatient basis, with physical removal or ultrasound dissolution done in a matter of minutes. Success rates are around 95 percent, Burton said.

Although it ultimately takes time for the eye to heal completely following surgery, most patients see immediate results.

“My surgery only took from 18 to 20 minutes,” she said. “It’s amazing what they did in that time.”

Cresswell was born March 28, 1904 and Sunday is her 94th birthday. Prara and friends plan to take her to the Carson Valley Inn to celebrate and gamble, something Cresswell said she is very much looking forward to.

Perhaps the only downside about having the surgery was seeing how time has passed in regard to looking in the mirror, she said.

“The first time I saw my face, I was sure it couldn’t be me,” she said. “There were too many wrinkles for it to be my face.”

The Record-Courier E-mail:

Visitors Guide | News | Diversions | Marketplace | Weather | Community

Copyright, Materials contained within this site may

not be used without permission.