Eye Surgery Gives Festus Woman a New Worldview | Local News



Kayla Patek can see where she is going now.

“It’s amazing,” said the 26-year-old, who recently had eye surgery that dramatically improved her vision. “My doctor says I can do anything except drive. “

Before her surgeries, Kayla’s vision, even corrected, was bad enough to be declared legally blind.

“It was like 20/400 in both eyes, even with my glasses on,” she said. “Now my right eye is 20/100 and my left eye is 20/70 without glasses. I am now considered in the category of ‘low vision’ and not blind.

Suffering from multiple vision problems since birth, Patek had seen the world through glasses as thick as a bottle of Coke, never being able to see more than a short distance in front of her.

“We were never given any hope that it could be any different,” said her mother, Kerry Patek.

Then, when she left her pediatric ophthalmologist at age 18, Kayla began seeing Dr. Sean Edelstein, assistant professor of ophthalmology at St. Louis University Hospital, who helped her weigh the risks of the disease. surgery versus potential benefits.

“His level of functioning was deteriorating and they just couldn’t improve his vision with glasses,” said Edelstein.

Since having cataract surgery on her left eye in May and on her right eye in June, she can now see the scenery outside the car windows, see television on the other hand. side of the room, reading the fine print and checking phone messages at arm’s length rather than with the screen held almost by touching his nose.

“It’s not just being able to see more,” Edelstein said. “His whole vision, his whole perception of the world has changed.”

Kayla is still trying to get used to the new world in front of her.

“For 26 years I saw through a cloudy window, and now everything is so clear. It takes a long time for my brain to adjust, ”she said.

Kayla, the daughter of Jeff and Kerry Patek from the Festus area, was a first class at Jefferson High School in 2013 and attended Jefferson College before completing her bachelor’s degree at Southeast Missouri State University last year, during the pandemic.

“I would like to get into the defense of people with disabilities, but it is difficult to find a job in this field,” she said on August 13.

Three days later, however, she was in orientation for her new position as cashier for the Goodwill Industries store in Festus.

A little fighter

Kayla was born three months earlier, weighing just under 2 pounds, and spent the first months of her life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Mercy Hospital St. Louis in Creve Coeur.

“They gave us almost no hope that she would be successful, let alone nothing more,” her mother said. “It was hour to hour, then day to day, then week to week. But she just kept on surviving.

Like many infants born too early, Kayla suffered from retinopathy of prematurity, a disease associated with abnormal growth of retinal blood vessels in the back of the eye.

But she also had a long list of other complications, each compounding the rest.

“She had congenital cataracts, as well as a condition called pathological myopia,” Edelstein said. “They’re using cryotherapy to treat retinopathy of prematurity, and she has maculopathy with scars related to it. She also has nystagmus (involuntary eye movement). All of these things put him at a relatively higher risk of retinal complications.

Kayla also suffered a brain hemorrhage for the first few days.

“Micro-premature babies are prone to hemorrhaging,” Kerry said. “Doctors put them on a scale, and she was grade 4, the most severe. His first CT scan, they didn’t really see his brain, there was so much blood.

Temporary shunts were implanted to help drain excess fluid from her brain, and she received therapy to counter the effects of mild cerebral palsy.

“Her hands were kind of erect, almost like claws,” Kerry said. “She had these tiny little hand splints that she had to wear 24/7.”

Temporary shunts were replaced a few years later with permanents, which Kayla still owns. Around the age of 10, he was diagnosed with epilepsy.

“(The seizures) come from damage to the brain and scar tissue,” Kerry said. “They told us they were amazed she did it 10 years before she had one. It started slowly and got worse, but the drugs are controlling it. “

Once Kayla started school, she was able to keep up with her sighted peers, with a few modifications.

“The large print books were hilarious,” Kerry said with a laugh. “She was that tiny little thing, and the books were bigger than her. We ordered one set for the home and one for the school because she couldn’t carry them back and forth.

Kayla had adaptive devices such as magnifying glasses, but was often reluctant to use them.

“She never wanted to be treated any differently from other children. She didn’t want to be different, ”Kerry said. “She couldn’t do contact sports, because of her shunts, but she really didn’t have any other restrictions.”

After arriving in high school and college, Kayla said she learned to welcome those same adaptive devices she once avoided.

She said the SEMO disability office was “awesome”.

“I had preferred the seating in the classes – in the first row, in the middle of the eight places,” she said. “I had textbooks in electronic format so I could read them on my computer, and I had large print documents. “

Staff and teachers went the extra mile to help.

“My favorite teacher did her 18 point police semester,” Kayla said. “I was super excited when I saw that, because it took away the stress I had in other classes of trying to read the fine print.”

All the surgeries, treatments, years of therapy were worth it, Kerry said, to get Kayla to where she is today.

“She’s got a little difference in her gait, and she’s probably a little weaker than most people,” Kerry said. “But that doesn’t stop him from doing anything.”

Dramatic difference

As she grew older, Kayla’s vision gradually deteriorated until, even with thick glasses, she couldn’t see much beyond the end of her arm.

“She’s never known anything different,” Kerry said. “She just ran around it.”

In our early twenties, however, we started talking about cataract surgery as something that might be possible.

“I started seeing Dr Edelstein in 2018, and we just watched him,” Kayla said. “Then on a date he said, ‘Well, I think it’s time to do it.’ I was super nervous.

His parents were equally worried. “I was so scared at first,” Kerry recalls. “I was like, ‘Please don’t make it worse.’ I was literally physically ill because of it; I was so nervous.

Edelstein did the operation under general anesthesia.

“About 95% of these surgeries are done under local anesthesia,” he said. “Because of his age and his level of anxiety, we went with the general. Recovery is very fast; the next day she was already seeing better.

The results were immediate and spectacular.

“Coming home from her first surgery, we were on the freeway,” Kerry said. “Kayla looked out the window and said, ‘Mom! I can read this billboard! ‘ And I almost cried. It was a first for her to be able to see something so far away.

“The images will be much larger, brighter than before,” said Edelstein. “She will have some adjustment; she will have to get used to reading glasses. She may ultimately prefer to get glasses with a small prescription to use all the time. “

Being able to see opened up a world of possibilities for Kayla.

“I would definitely recommend the surgery to someone who thinks about it,” she said. “I think the benefits outweigh the risks. Don’t let anything stop you from achieving your goals.

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