Toni’s Story: I Could Have Gone Blind

It was a gorgeous summer day three years ago. Toni had been looking forward to a drive up-Island with her husband to enjoy a weekend at a friend’s cabin. Instead, she found herself in an ophthalmologist’s office with life-changing news: her vision was at serious risk of permanent damage.

Toni, who moved to Victoria in 2007, has always had extreme nearsightedness, a condition that can affect the retinas.

“I always had an eye exam every two years, and I kept up with my eye health,” says Toni.

Three years ago, during a routine eye exam, her optometrist reported concerning news: there was a tear in her retina, as well as multiple areas in both eyes that were at risk of imminent additional tears.

“The optometrist, who was going on vacation, warned me to be really careful while she was away—no bending over or exerting myself in any way,” recalls Toni. “If I felt any change, I was to go to the ER. It was quite unnerving.”

The thought of waiting did not sit well with Toni. She called her family doctor, Dr. Muller, who confirmed the severity of her condition. Dr. Muller quickly arranged for a referral to an ophthalmologist, Dr. Orr.

“Dr. Orr was about to start his vacation that morning, but made a special trip to his office just to examine me. He confirmed there was a large tear in my retina,” says Toni. “He said, ‘You can’t wait—you need eye surgery right now.’ He told me not to move while he tried to reach the surgeon, Dr. Erasmus. I think I was shaking. When someone says emergency eye surgery—that’s scary.”

Toni saw Dr. Erasmus that same afternoon at his office. After examining her, he told Toni to meet him at Royal Jubilee Hospital in half an hour. Time was critical.

Dr. Erasmus used the hospital’s Retinal Laser to repair and reinforce the tear in her retinal lining in her left eye, one laser spot at a time, “sort of like a sewing machine,” says Toni. “The surgery wasn’t pleasant, but was absolutely necessary. Dr. Erasmus was so patient with me.”

Three weeks later, Toni was back at Royal Jubilee Hospital with Dr. Erasmus to repair and reinforce the weak areas of the retinal lining in her right eye.

Victoria’s current retinal laser is 15 years old, and there’s no back-up should it need repair. The Victoria Hospital Foundation’s Emerge Stronger campaign aims to fund a new, state-of-the-art Retinal Laser.

“This new Retinal Laser will save someone’s sight,” says Toni. “If the Retinal Laser hadn’t been available—I don’t even want to think about the devastating consequences that would’ve had for me, or anyone else.”

Last August, Toni needed another surgery using the Retinal Laser—and, as this story is being written, she is undergoing yet another to repair her vision. She will likely need more surgeries in the future.

The new Retinal Laser will not only improve efficiency, but patient comfort as well.

“Having gone through the discomfort of these surgeries, and to know that there could be a less painful option is fantastic,” Toni says.

Toni is thankful the vital equipment was available when she needed it most. And, that it was available right here, in Victoria.

“Each one of the doctors went out of their way to treat me so quickly. If I had gone much longer, the retina would have detached and I could have gone blind. They saved my vision,” she says.  “Please, please donate if you can.”