There’s the old saying, when one door shuts, another one opens. For a retired guy and avid golfer, the door that shut was sight in his left eye. The door that opened: a big clue into a big-time cardiovascular problem.
Ken Calderwood, retired aircraft parts supervisor in Lawndale, Calif., is a pretty tall guy. At 6’2”, he usually feels bigger than most things around him. But that day on the golf course, he probably felt pretty helpless – and disoriented. Just as he was about to putt, the nine-handicap golfer suddenly couldn’t see out of his left eye.
He remembers, “Everything went dark in that eye – like a window shade had been pulled over it.”
Naturally, he was scared. Ken dropped his putter right there on the green. He squinted. He blinked. He tried to reassure himself as anxiety took hold. The “blindness” lasted only about two minutes, but it seemed like forever. Shaken, he resumed his game.
But later, he did a smart thing – he told his wife Laura about the mysterious episode. And then, Laura did a smart thing too. She insisted her husband make a beeline to their friend and eye doctor, Sandra Horwitz, O.D.
Come morning, Ken was sitting in the exam chair. But, he wasn’t there long. Instead, at the urgent insistence of Dr. Horwitz, he was on his way to his medical doctor. That’s because Ken’s eye doctor knew immediately how serious the sudden and brief vision loss could be.
Dr. Horwitz recalls, “As soon as I heard Ken’s story and examined his eyes, I suspected that his temporary loss of vision might be a symptom of a blockage in a blood vessel – probably in one of the carotid arteries that run down both sides of the neck and supply blood to the brain.”
At his medical doctor’s office, Ken shared once again the details of the strange event. A quick ultrasound was all it took to reveal the real story: both of Ken’s carotid arteries were 90% blocked. The classic build-up of fatty tissues had given its first clue through Ken’s eyes.
Fast forward a few hours, and Ken found himself getting prepped for emergency surgery. A few weeks later, a second operation finished the clean-up job.
“My surgery took place back in February of 2001,” says Ken today, “and I haven’t had any problems with my vision since. I’m 67 now, and my golf game is strong as ever – thanks to Dr. Horwitz, who’s a terrific eye doctor and a great friend.
“I’m a big guy, and Sandy’s barely five feet tall. Whenever I tell people how that exam uncovered my health problem, I call her ‘the little eye doctor who saved my life!’”
For Dr. Horwitz, Ken’s ordeal is just another reason why eye exams are important – to your eyes, and your life.