Eye Care

Eye Center Patient Testimonials

Eye Care List Items

  • Audrey Baker – Retina patient

    'Eyesight is so precious'

    Audrey Baker believes in taking good care of her eyes. Diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in her 60s, she knows that regular eye exams and treatments can preserve her sight.

    When she suddenly lost the ability to read, she was concerned that the AMD was robbing her of her eyesight. After her ophthalmologist conducted a series of tests, he confirmed that there was, in fact, a problem.

    Using state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment, her doctor detected a tiny hole in Ms. Baker's macula, an area in the center of the retina, the eye's light-sensitive tissue. Damage to the macula can result in loss of central vision because it provides the sharp, central vision we need for reading, driving and seeing fine detail.

    Macular holes and AMD are two separate and distinct conditions, although the symptoms are similar.

    The good news is that macular holes often can be repaired with surgery. Ms. Baker had the surgery the very next week at the UTMB Health League City Campus Surgical Center.

    In follow-up exams, her doctor confirmed that the surgery was a success.

    Ms. Baker said, "Before surgery I could no longer read books and could only read the big E on the eye chart. Now I can read again. I also love birding. It's amazing how well I can see."

    "Eyesight is so precious. If everyone would just realize that and take care of their vision, stay out of the sun unless they wear sunglasses and have regular checkups."

    "I'm so glad I went for my regular checkups and hopefully my family will listen when I tell them that they need to do the same thing."

    While there is no cure and no way to prevent AMD, early diagnosis and regular treatment can prevent vision loss in most cases.

    Caucasians, age 60 and older, are at highest risk of developing AMD. Additional risk factors include a family history of the condition, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and smoking.

    Anyone in this group who is concerned may consider taking the genetic test for the wet form of AMD offered at the UTMB Health Eye Center. Identifying the level of risk can determine how often a patient should be checked by a retina specialist.

    Approximately 1 million Americans have wet AMD, with an average of 250,000 new cases every year.

    Click here to read more about AMD on this National Institutes of Health website.
  • Dr. Helen Hellmich – UTMB researcher and Eye Center patient

    'Experience was excellent'

    As a molecular biologist, Dr. Helen Hellmich has always relied on good eyesight to do her research and write grants and papers. Three years ago the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) researcher began losing sight in her left eye.

    "I lost my ability to look at things close up. I couldn't work at a microscope any longer. I lost my central vision in my left eye." Pointing to a paper in her desk, she said, "I would be reading and the middle of the word would disappear."

    When her eye doctor diagnosed her with a macular hole in her retina, her department chairman recommended she see the retina specialist at the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.

    When she saw her retina specialist, she learned that the condition resolves itself in only a fraction of patients. A macular hole is a small break in the macula, a small area in the center of the retina that provides detailed, central vision. When her vision worsened, a successful surgery repaired the hole.

    After a cataract resulted from the surgery, Dr. Hellmich entrusted her vision to another experienced UTMB ophthalmologist, Dr. Kevin Merkley. As a cataract, cornea and refractive surgeon for almost 20 years, he’s performed more than 20,000 ophthalmic procedures including corneal transplants, LASIK, PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) and astigmatic corrections.

    Dr. Merkley counseled Dr. Hellmich on what to expect from the surgery to remove the clouded cataract and replace it with a corrective lens.

    "After the surgeries, my world was crystal clear for the first time in two years. It was overwhelming to be able see so well. I've worn glasses or contacts for distance since I was a child. Being able to see clearly without contacts is unbelievable."

    Dr. Hellmich said that every aspect of her experience at the UTMB Health Eye Center was excellent, from the qualified doctors to the state-of-art diagnostic equipment to the professional and caring staff.

    "If anyone asked me to recommend an eye doctor, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the doctors at UTMB Health Eye Center."

  • Maureen Skielvig – Cataract patient


    Eyesight is everything to Maureen Skielvig, an auditor, spelunker and avid reader. That's why she trusts her sight to UTMB ophthalmologist Dr. Brian Wong.

    Diagnosed with glaucoma and cataracts, Maureen sees Dr. Wong to manage her glaucoma and to treat her cataracts.

    She knew it was time for cataract surgery when she began having problems with night vision.

    "Because I was diagnosed early I was able to qualify for the premium lenses, which might make it possible for me to not have to wear glasses at all."

    Having worn eyeglasses since grade school, that was appealing to Maureen, but she still was wary about eye surgery.

    "Turns out it was absolutely nothing. In fact, I wanted them to do the other eye right away."

    "It only takes a few minutes and when I sat up I could see perfectly out of that eye. It was an absolute miracle."


    The surgery made Maureen's wish come true. Now she is able to drive, watch TV and read - all without glasses.

    Shedding her glasses is especially beneficial when Maureen and her husband explore caves, their favorite hobby when they go on cruises.

    "It's a totally different world. There are stalactites and stalagmites and dripping water. It's also hot, especially in places like South America, so my glasses would steam up and I couldn't see. Now I don't have to worry about that. No glasses!"

  • Yvonne Smith – Trabectome patient


    Galveston native Yvonne Smith could write a book about all of the famous African Americans from the island. From heavyweight fighter Jack Johnson to boogie woogie pianist Camille Browning Howard and singers Barry White and Esther Phillips, Yvonne can tell you about them all. The 67-year-old retiree spends hours at her computer gathering research.

    A glaucoma diagnosis some eight years ago meant that some day she might not be able to enjoy her favorite pastime. She began using eye drops and had laser treatments to manage the pressure in her eyes, but it kept rising.

    When her glaucoma specialist, Dr. Gianmarco Vizzeri, suggested using Trabectome, a new minimally invasive device to relieve the pressure, she was apprehensive.

    "I was afraid to have surgery but I was afraid of going blind from glaucoma."

    Yvonne had the day surgery in February 2011 and could not be more pleased.

    "It didn't hurt at all and I was completely healed in just a few weeks. It was beautiful. I couldn't believe it! And best of all the pressure in my eyes is improving."

    Glaucoma patients can receive a complete eye evaluation to see if they qualify for treatment with the Trabectome at either the Galveston or Friendswood location of the UTMB Health Eye Center.

    To schedule an appointment with a glaucoma specialist, call 409-747-5800 (Galveston) or 281-996-7564 (Friendswood).

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