Cowichan eye-surgery patient Canada’s first recipient of new lens implant technology

“I went from vision to no vision in a matter of weeks.”

Tracy Parow gets emotional when she remembers what it was like to rapidly lose sight in her left eye in late 2019. Parow is the executive director of Providence Farm in Duncan and relies on her vision to carry out her duties.

She describes losing her vision as a  two step experience: First a ‘smeariness’ that soon became an invasion of darkness – darkness that moved from the left side across to the right side of her eye, like an eclipse of the sun.

“It created a real disability for me,” she says. “I do a lot of reading and was forced to use a magnifying glass to read because I don’t have close up vision in my right eye. Trying to decode what I was seeing was becoming a nauseating process.”

Parow’s story is quite unique. For the second time in her life, she had developed a cataract that resulted in rapid deterioration of her sight. Previously, she’d had a lens implanted in her right eye that allowed her to see only middle and long distances.

“Tracy was an exceptional case in that she’d already had surgery in her other eye so we wanted to balance things out,” explains Duncan ophthalmologist, Dr. Cory Ramstead. “She needed to not just get rid of the cataract, but also restore her vision to allow her to work on a computer and read without glasses.”

In order to restore Parow’s vision to what would make her the most comfortable for the rest of her life, Dr. Ramstead realized that she wasn’t a suitable candidate for a lens that was available here in Canada. Rather, the technology that Parow needed was available in the United States.

Parow was going to have to submit a special application to Health Canada and also Island Health to be able to access the lens. However, as someone who lives with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, she didn’t feel like she would be able to advocate on her own behalf.

“I looked at Dr. Ramstead in desperation and said ‘I really need a hero. I need someone to do this for me.’ And he said, ‘Leave it with me,’ says Parow. “I walked out of his office feeling hopeful that there was a technology out there to assist me.”

Dr. Ramstread conferred with another doctor and the two worked together on the Health Canada approval process. Once the lens was approved, Dr. Ramstead approached Island Health for permission to implant the lens into Parow’s eye at Cowichan District Hospital (CDH). On May 19, 2020, Parow became the first person in Canada to receive the new lens.

“Mine was one of the first surgeries being done during the COVID-19 pandemic surgical re-start and everything was perfectly timed. I was very impressed by how CDH staff pulled everything together so efficiently,” says Parow.

“With each patient I want to make sure that we are trying to give them the best vision possible,” says Dr. Ramstread. “We provide state of the art, cutting edge care at CDH and our wonderful staff there allow us to provide that care on a regular basis.”

Today, Tracy Parow has her life back and finds simple pleasures in things that most people take for granted, such as marvelling over the vibrant colours in Providence Farm’s expansive gardens.

“I am so happy to have had this surgery and want to say thank you to Dr. Ramstead and the team at Cowichan District Hospital,” Parow says. “I’m grateful to all the people who came together to help me get to this place of visual recovery.”

Cowichan’s Dr. Cory Ramstead is also at the forefront of another technological innovation. This past summer he was one of approximately 20 surgeons in Canada selected to use a new intraocular lens technology that stretches and shifts light as it enters the eye, reducing or even eliminating the reliance on wearing glasses.

About Island Health:
Island Health provides health care and support services to more than 800,000 people on Vancouver Island, the islands in the Salish Sea and the Johnstone Strait, and mainland communities north of Powell River. With more than 22,000 staff and over 2,000 physician partners, 6,000 volunteers, and the dedicated support of foundations and auxiliaries, Island Health delivers a broad range of health services, including: Public health services, primary health care, home and community care, mental health and addictions services, acute care in hospitals, and much more across a huge, geographically diverse region.

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Dominic Abassi