Freedom From Blindness

Glaucoma Patient Harry Svoboda - USC Roski Eye InstituteLast spring, Harry Svoboda, 84, of Bakersfield, CA, felt something in her right eye. The sensation was a nagging annoyance. Was it a speck of grit, or maybe an eyelash?

A visit to her family doctor did not help — he found nothing. A local ophthalmologist thought it might be glaucoma — the second leading cause of blindness in the United States — and sent her to another ophthalmologist for confirmation. But none of the doctors specialized in glaucoma, in which pressure builds inside the eye, damaging the optic nerve is damaged and resulting in vision loss.

Frustrated at the lack of quality care options in her local community, Svoboda remembered the excellent health care a family member received at USC. Looking for true expertise to save her eyesight, she decided to travel to the USC Eye Institute in Los Angeles.

A Doctor She Could Trust

Arriving at the USC Eye Institute after a two-hour drive from home, Svoboda immediately felt that she was in very good hands when she met glaucoma specialist Alena Reznik, MD, assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

“From the minute I walked in, I bonded with her,” says Svoboda. “She’s very friendly but also all business, telling me exactly what she wanted to do, and allowing me to ask questions.”

After examination, Reznik found that Svoboda did have glaucoma, which had gone undetected for years. It is very common for people with glaucoma to experience no early symptoms or pain from the increased intraocular pressure. Svoboda’s glaucoma is unusual because it is only present in one eye.

At first, Reznik prescribed a course of eye drops. When the drops failed to reduce the high eye pressure, Reznik recommended a trabeculectomy, surgery in which a small piece of eye tissue is removed to create a new channel for eye fluid to drain from the eye and lower pressure. USC Eye Institute physicians are experts in this type of treatment, and were the first in Los Angeles to use an anti-scarring agent in a way that significantly reduces potential side effects.

A Sunny Outlook

Since undergoing the procedure at Keck Hospital of USC this summer, Svoboda is back to her normal routine — enjoying movies, reading, visiting with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and cooking.

“Her glaucoma is under control and she will return to USC for frequent follow-up visits to make sure it stays that way,” says Reznik.

Svoboda is thankful for the level of care she has received. “I can’t say enough about Dr. Reznik,” she emphasizes. “I don’t feel like I’m going to an eye doctor. I feel like I’m going to an old friend. I’ve never had a doctor whom I’ve trusted so much.”

The affection Svoboda feels for her doctor is reciprocated. “Svoboda means freedom in Russion,” says Reznik, who grew up in the former Soviet Union. “I am so glad we can preserve vision for Harry so she can be free to enjoy life to its fullest.”

– Robin Heftier

Visit the USC Eye Institute glaucoma service for more information about our glaucoma services.