HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Hattiesburg Eye Clinic's Dr. David Richardson credits the clinic's new eye imaging camera with saving his life.
"The eye is truly the only organ that you can actually see how the blood vessels actually work in the body," Richardson said.
Richardson said ophthalmologists commonly diagnose high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease because the retina has an extensive network of blood vessels and nerve fibers. Richardson was the first person to test the new Optomap system at the clinic with a representative from the company when his practice picture revealed his blood vessels were not working properly.
"So he took my picture, and I looked at the picture and I said 'That's not my retina,'" Richardson said. "He said, 'yeah it is too.'"
The wide, detailed, digital image produced by the camera showed hemorrhages in Richardson's blood vessels, and he scheduled an appointment two days later, a Friday, with a cardiovascular surgeon.
"And when I saw that, it really frightened me," Richardson said. "So I immediately called my good friend Dr. Robbie Robbins, and we got some testing done. I found out that I had an occlusion of the left anterior descending artery of the heart, which is the 'widowmaker.'"
Heart attacks involving that artery are extremely dangerous and can be life threatening.
"We got the imaging done, and then he called me about 3 o'clock," Richardson said. "He said, 'what are you doing?' I said 'Nothing.' He said 'Good. Don't do anything. Sit in your chair and take an aspirin. We're going to do your surgery Tuesday morning, probably, after Memorial Day.' But I started having chest pains on Saturday about 11 o'clock."
Richardson said he went to the hospital, had a catheterization done and that is when both he and the doctors realized the blockage was more severe than they initially realized. He had surgery early Sunday morning.
"After that, I've done very well," he said. "I've been back at work. I was out about 28 days and recovered completely."
Looking back, Richardson said he had the symptoms of a heart problem, like fatigue and shortness of breath, but said he thought it was just part of the aging process.
"I feel 100 percent better than I did before," he said. "I'm sleeping better. I'm exercising, and just generally feeling better all over."
Richardson said Hattiesburg Eye Clinic is the first in the Pine Belt with the new Optos technology, and it is already being used on patients.