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Pamela Burke Story

Pamela Burke

Pamela Burke is back to living her best life after nearly losing her sight

Pamela Burke, dog lover and breeder of Irish Wolfhounds, moved from Dallas to Fredericksburg, Texas in 2015. She bought a house that she completely renovated, and in no time at all she was calling Fredericksburg home. Still in the works, however, was the decision to replace her specialists in Dallas with Fredericksburg physicians.

Pamela did not have a local ophthalmologist. Yet, on the night of March 31, 2017, she received remarkable life-changing emergency care that saved her eyesight.

Surprising pain

“I woke crying in the middle of the night with a pounding pain in my eye. It was so intense that I felt it travel from the top of my head to my spine,” said Pamela. “It was worse than any labor or delivery I’d ever experienced with my three children. I called my neighbor, and she drove me to Hill Country Memorial’s Emergency Department where I was seen immediately by Dr. David Cantu.”

While examining Pamela, Dr. Cantu could not see any color in the retina of her eye. “He was concerned that I was having an eye emergency—and that’s when he called a local ophthalmologist.”

When Dr. Charles Cohn got the call, he listened intently as Dr. Cantu described Pamela’s symptoms. The ophthalmologist had concerns about the diagnosis, and if he was right, quick action and treatment had to be taken to save Pamela’s eyesight.

A recent trip to Dallas

In February of 2017, Pamela needed glaucoma surgery, and she thought nothing of driving back to Dallas to see her ophthalmologist who had taken care of her for years. The surgery went as expected, and six weeks later she was back in Dallas for a follow-up visit. While at the clinic, the doctor determined the pressure in her eye was too low, so another minor procedure was performed in clinic. Pamela returned to Fredericksburg the next day.

Dr. Cohn Recalls

“I knew from Dr. Cantu’s detailed description of Pamela’s previous glaucoma surgery, her severe pain, and her poor eyesight, that she was experiencing a true ophthalmic emergency.

I met her at my office some minutes later and examined her eye. She could not see the big “E” on the chart, and the inside of her eye showed severe inflammation. This clearly indicated an infection. I would need a culture medium and antibiotics as quickly as I could get them. So I paged Hill Country Memorial’s pharmacist on call and spoke to someone in the microbiology lab.”

Unique medication request

Pharmacist Chad Batey recalls Dr. Cohn’s request early that morning for a unique medication for an ER patient and he said it was time-sensitive. “After a short patient history and plan from Dr. Cohn, I had a grasp on what was expected of me and got the medications ready. The doctor was at the pharmacy window within several minutes to pick up the medicine.”

Returning to the clinic, Dr. Cohn numbed Pamela’s eye. He then took a culture swab, and injected her eye with the strong antibiotics.

An answer in the culture

“I was in Dr. Cohn’s office twice a day afterward, and he was just fantastic. Getting a needle inserted into your eye is not something you look forward to, but Dr. Cohn was gentle, kind, thoughtful and compassionate. I can’t give enough kudos to Hill Country Memorial and their pharmacist who was ready to immediately help when Dr. Cohn needed him to compound my medicine. My vision is now 20/25,” said Pamela.

It would take several weeks before her vision would clear up. “Still, she was very fortunate,” said Dr. Cohn, “because her culture eventually grew Streptococcus pneumoniae, which is one of the worst kinds of bacteria to get in your eye. Most patients with this type of infection are left legally blind, even after treatment. About 25% of them will actually have their eye removed for severe, intractable pain without vision.”

Best outcome with rural access to care

“In the end,” adds Dr. Cohn, “It was a combination of several factors that led to Pamela’s great outcome. First, she was intelligent enough to realize she had a serious problem immediately—and she didn’t wait until the next morning to seek care. She was attended by an excellent ER physician, Dr. David Cantu, who recognized that she was having a serious eye problem and needed emergency treatment. Though it was after hours, Pamela was able to see a local ophthalmologist. And finally, Hill Country Memorial’s pharmacy staff supplied the crucial antibiotics and culture media needed to immediately treat our patient.”

I will always be grateful that Hill Country Memorial was nearby

“I met the right people at the right place, at the right time,” said Pamela. “I don’t know if I could have received the same fast, accurate and exceptional care in Dallas.”

Today, Pamela continues to knit and needlepoint. She travels with her beloved grandchildren and she is breeding Irish Wolfhounds. “The women in my family live to be over 100 years old,” said Pamela. “So at age 73, I look forward to a long and productive life. Losing my sight would have changed all that.”