There are moments when I’m really into Vision Therapy, be it helping an adult recover from a Traumatic Brain Injury, or helping a third grader find her way through some accommodative exercise, or even finding some group to speak to in hopes of enticing them with the wonders our profession has to offer. Working with people, some days are clearly better than others, and some days could even be forgettable, but we always do our best to keep our head in the game. I have to admit, doing so tomorrow will be tough.
I was sad to learn of the passing of Dr. Irwin Suchoff last week. Although we had only personally spoken a handful of times, Dr. Suchoff holds a special place in my personal VT journey. When completing my certification at COVD’s Annual Meeting in Palm Springs in 2008, Dr. Suchoff was one of he doctors who conducted my oral examination, along with Dr. Leonard Press. During the 30 minute conversation, Dr. Suchoff was every bit as kind and welcoming as others have described him since his passing. His light-hearted nature and encouraging spirit helped to calm my frayed nerves, and he even found humor in my demeanor, which he would share with me later that week in passing. As the week concluded, Dr. Suchoff and I met randomly outside the banquet hall, he extended his hand for a handshake and with a smile said “you were good”. It was a moment I’ve never forgotten.
A few years back, I was honored to present my dear friend Robin Vreeland with an award at COVD’s Annual Meeting in St. Louis. As many of you know, Robin has essentially retired from Vision Therapy in Dr. Mark Dean’s office after being diagnosed with terminal colon cancer, which was her second bout with the disease. She has been fighting a strong battle ever since, which has included numerous monthly chemo sessions, quarterly trips to MD Anderson in Houston, Texas looking for new treatments and cures, and enduring the unspeakable challenges that horrible disease brings about. Robin is a fighter. After beating her first cancer diagnosis, some of Robin’s closest VT friends converged on her home town in Myrtle Beach, SC to celebrate. In the four or five intervening years, we have all become a family, enduring Robin’s news of her cancer returning, enduring the heartache of the word “terminal”, and enduring the pain our dear friend goes through seemingly on a weekly basis. A few days ago, Robin’s condition changed significantly and she was rushed to the ER, and eventually placed in the ICU. At last check with her sister, things remain touch and go. And one more note on my VT family, within six or seven minutes of the news of Robin’s downturn, we are ALL on a group text sharing information and coming together, as if we were seated in the same room. Pretty incredible.
I’m probably a bit unusual in that I enjoy my Monday mornings. I look forward to seeing my patients. I look forward to finding new roads with them. I look forward to the challenges each and every one of them present me when they enter our VT room. All of it really does give me great pleasure. Tomorrow will be different, though. Tomorrow will be a day spent working as hard to keep my mind focused on my work, and not on the condition of my sick friend. Tomorrow will be spent trying not to wonder what’s COVD’s Annual Meeting going to feel like without Dr. Suchoff in attendance. As she remains sedated, I can’t call Robin to say hello. Since my attending COVD’s Annual Meeting was not in the cards this year, I cannot feel the passion of those VT’ers I’ve come to appreciate greatly during this week’s meeting in Washington State. Instead, I’ll be in our office, working to help others with their visual challenges, and taking great pride in doing so.
In my little corner of the VT world, this will be a week spent with warm memories of Dr. Suchoff in my head, and a loving sense of support for my dear friend, Robin, in my heart.