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Pamela Burke Story

Pamela Burke

Meet Pamela Burke

On the night of March 31, 2017, Pamela Burke received remarkable life-changing emergency care that saved her eyesight.

A recent trip to Dallas

When Pamela Burke scheduled her glaucoma surgery in February, 2017, she thought nothing of driving back to Dallas to her longtime ophthalmologist. The surgery went as expected, and six weeks later she drove to Dallas for her follow-up visit. The doctor determined the pressure in her eye was too low, so another minor procedure was performed in the clinic.

Pamela returned home to Fredericksburg the next day. Late that evening a severe pain brought her to the HCM Emergency Department where she was seen immediately by Dr. David Cantu. Concerned that the ER patient was having an eye emergency, he called Dr. Charles Cohn, a local ophthalmologist, to provide intervening care. Cohn suspected the infection was caused by dangerous Streptococcus bacteria, but treatment couldn’t wait for confirmation. Burke’s eyesight was on the line.

Dr. Cohn recalls

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 strong antibiotics as quickly as I could get them. I paged Hill Country Memorial’s pharmacist on call to compound the antibiotics, the medicine was available within minutes. Returning to the clinic, Dr. Cohn numbed Pamela’s eye. He then took a culture swab, and injected her eye with the antibiotics.

“I was in Dr. Cohn’s office twice a day afterward, and he was just fantastic,” said Pamela. “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 assisted immediately.”

The culture confirms the worst kind of bacteria

It would take several weeks before Pamela’s 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.”

Pamela’s vision is now 20/25 and she gets to do all of her favorite things. She knits and needlepoints. Travels frequently with her beloved grandchildren, and finds time to breed Irish Wolfhound dogs.

Best outcome with rural access to quality care

Pamela Burke said, “I will always be grateful that Hill Country Memorial was nearby. I don’t know whether I could have received the same fast, accurate and exceptional care in Dallas.”

In the end, Dr Charles Cohn said it was a combination of factors, along with the efforts of the HCM team that led to his patient’s great outcome.

“Pamela understood that she had a serious problem, and didn’t wait until morning to seek care. At nearby Hill Country Memorial, she was examined by an excellent ER physician, Dr. David Cantu, who recognized her eye problem required immediate treatment. Although it was after hours, a local ophthalmologist was available to respond to Pamela’s eye emergency and determine the necessary treatment. HCM’s pharmacy staff supplied me with the crucial antibiotics and culture media that assisted in saving Pamela’s eyesight.”

Pamela adds, “The women in my family live to be over 100 years-old. So at age 73, I look forward to a long and productive life. Losing my sight would have changed all that.”