Thank you to COVD for this piece.
Last spring I developed a friendship with the mother of one of my daughter’s best friends. At the time, she was organizing a book club and I was just brazen enough to invite myself to the next club meeting. It didn’t take long before I learned that my new friend was an optometrist, as was her husband. Both Faith and her husband studied optometry at the Illinois College of Optometry. They were not practicing vision therapy doctors, but often referred to VT ODs in the area.
I believe it was during our third book club meeting that Faith mentioned she was signing up to take belly dancing lessons during the fall. Once again, I chimed in “I have always wanted to take belly dancing lessons”. The next thing I knew, I was driving 30 miles out of my way every Wednesday in order to learn this ancient and beautiful (and often humbling) art. I surprised myself, but stuck with the program and was almost ready for our recital when it arrived last weekend.
A large theater was reserved for our performance as well as the 100-150 youngsters who were to dance in what is normally reserved as a childhood rite of passage. On our way to the dressing room, Faith and I ran into a patient whose daughter was also a patient of hers. The mother smiled and touched Faith by the arm. “Dr. H.” she said. “Have you seen Chelsea? She is here and I have to tell you how thankful we are that you referred her to vision therapy. Faith and I stood in the hall way as she continued to share her story. “Chelsea used to get the worst headaches after only ten minutes of reading, now she is headache free and is on the honor roll at school. Even her dance teacher noticed a difference after about 6 weeks of therapy.” Faith was nearly brought to tears by the woman’s story. “Thank you, thank you”, she said. I know how powerful vision therapy can be for my patients, but I so seldom get to hear actual feedback.” Chelsea’s mom continued, “She is performing tonight in the second act and you won’t believe it, but she actually got a scholarship to Central (Michigan) for dance!”
Faith turned to me, “I want you to meet Ruth,” she said. “She is a vision therapist and helps change lives every day.” I immediately felt the emotional enormity of the situation, despite the fact that I was dressed in a bright silver leotard accented with purple jingle- wrap skirt and hot pink scarves. “You must love your job,” she said. “I do,” I replied. “There is nothing else I would rather do.”
Eventually, we were forced to leave Chelsea’s mom and rejoin the rest of the middle-aged belly dancers that were about to follow up a group of 2nd grade tap dancers performing a dance to the classic hit “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”.
Two days later I was seated at our weekly staff meeting and I mentioned our encounter to my doctor and fellow therapists. In the past we had discussed the professional importance of following up with those who recommend our services to their patients and clients, but we had never fully realized the empathetic reasons for reaching out to them. Those who refer to us are not only sharing their faith in our services professionally, they are also emotionally invested in the well-being of their patients. At that moment, we developed a plan that would seek to improve upon our efforts in reporting back to those who refer to us. Not only would we show the pre and post data that objectively demonstrates improvements in the patient’s ocular-motor efficiency, but we would also (with permission) include copies of the success letters our patients and their caregivers have written. It is this subjective narrative that we hope in the future will touch the hearts and minds of those who put their trust in our hands.