You Can’t Save Everyone…
Trying To Be A Superhero
Written by Guest Blogger: Jessica Zwilling COVT
You can’t save everyone. My boss tells that to me all the time. Being a natural optimist, I don’t want to believe it, and most of the time I don’t. Then, every once in a while, I come in contact with an individual who reminds me that I really can’t save everyone. Let it go. Let other human beings make their own choices. That is so hard to do.
Think about it; you can lecture to a smoker all day long about the damaging effects of tobacco. In the end, we all have a free will, and that person will make his own decision about his health, however wrong you make think it is.
I have heard at many a lecture that Vision Therapy is a labor of love. Most Behavioral Optometrists specialize in Vision Therapy because they love it, and their therapists stick with it because they love it. It is so rewarding to have so many success stories and experiences with people in which VT becomes a life altering event. We believe in what we do. We know it works. Such circumstances make it that much harder when we encounter the people who need VT and either never start or don’t follow through.
It doesn’t happen all the time, but often enough to get me all worked up. As the doctor, you examine a patient that came to you for help, clearly needs VT to resolve a list of visual dysfunctions, and they never start the program. When you follow up with said patient / parent, they say they went to an ophthalmologist for a second opinion and they are told that VT won’t help in this particular situation. It’s maddening! But you have to let it go, because when Johnny starts seeing double in another year or two, maybe, just maybe, they will come back. Or, maybe they won’t. Regardless, you can’t save everyone.
There are students in my music class that I know are receiving all kinds of services because of poor academic performance. They are labeled with a learning disability, and they work with a reading specialist or an occupational therapist with an emphasis on vision. I can look at some of these kids in my class, (red, tired eyes, eye rubbers and squinters, can’t keep their place on a song word sheet – ever, can’t tell if the music note is on the line or in the space), and I know that VT would help these kids. Some parents and teachers will come to me with questions and asking for information. I go over and above to supply more than enough material to convince the parent to take their child for a vision evaluation from a recommended list of doctors that I created. A lot of the time there is no follow through. I hear things like, “The school OT is working on tracking with him. So, that should help.” “Now that the teacher reads all of the tests to him, he is doing much better.” What do I know? I’m just the music teacher.
Friends and family are the most difficult to handle. A friend cries on your shoulder about all the struggles that their child is having at school, academically and behaviorally. When you suggest that it might be visual, they become highly offended. “Well, I just had his eyes checked, and the doctor said he had perfect vision!” Someone close to you asks your advice about a suspected vision problem. You go out of your way to provide information for them, perhaps even do a free vision evaluation for them on your day off. Then, they tell you they are going to try something else that seems more promising. My own grandmother had a stroke several years back, and immediately I provided information for the best VT doc near her that had extensive experience in treating patients with traumatic and acquired brain injury. I re-sent the same info several times, and instead, she was taken to their regular eye care professional and given a clean bill of health. Not too long ago, my grandma lost most of her hearing and she was telling me how hard it was now that she couldn’t hear the TV anymore or listen to music. I suggested that she pick up something that she would like to read. Her reply, “Oh, I don’t read anymore.” I asked why. She said, “Oh, I just don’t enjoy it anymore. It’s too hard to see.” It hurts more when it hits so close to home. But I can only push so much before someone gets offended.
Certainly, there are extenuating circumstances that prevent patients from treatment. Cost, illness, travel time, and choosing between other beneficial therapies are just a few common obstacles. Of course, in our office (and I’m sure, most other VT offices) we always work with the patient to the best of our ability when these kinds of issues arise. Also, in defense for parents today, it is a very confusing world out there when it comes to services for their child. Each educator and healthcare practitioner is telling them to try something different. It’s hard to decide what’s right for their child when they’re presented with so many options. As long as it’s not the child’s extracurricular activity, or the parents’ social life that is preventing treatment, then I can empathize.
I know that many of us have been in these awkward situations. However, if you can look back and say that you provided the best information for their particular needs, you were clear about the specific benefits of treatment, and they still didn’t take your advice, then don’t take it personally. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Deep down, they probably didn’t really want you to solve anything anyway. Instead, focus all of your energy and knowledge on the people who really want your help and will make the sacrifice to get it. Remember that it’s those great success stories that make it all worth it in the end. The 4th grader who hated to read and is now deep into the third Harry Potter book; the autistic child who now makes eye contact with his mom and says “I love you” to her for the first time; the professional adult who is now back to work because their double vision is gone; the 2 year old victim of a stroke, told by doctors that she would never be functional again, who now walks, talks, and gets into normal toddler mischief.
The ones we do “save” are the reason we do what we do.