Patient sees the benefits of new eye institute

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Lindsay has glaucoma. He’s been a patient at UNMC for years. A grateful patient. “I was told at one time that you either take care of your eyes at this point in time, or you won’t be driving at age 60.” He just turned 60. He sees the open road before him.

Lindsay Michalski sees his wife all dressed up for the day.

She wears pale yellow and black.

(“It may sound cheesy,” he says later, “but when Donna gets all dressed up, I just really enjoy seeing her well.”)

He sees Patches, their rat terrier, acting all excited. The dog senses that something’s up as Lindsay drives him four blocks across Battle Creek to the home of Donna’s dad and step-mom. They leave Patches there for the day.

Lindsay sees the sign on the Battle Creek bank that tells the time and temperature. He always checks that out as he drives out of town. In his job, he drives all over Nebraska and western Iowa. He’s a salesman for Diebold, which makes security equipment for banks. He’s been with the company 38 years. He loves it.

He sees his town in the rearview mirror as he drives to Omaha this day with Donna to attend the grand opening of the Truhlsen Eye Institute at UNMC.

Fifteen years ago, Lindsay was diagnosed with glaucoma.

He’s been a patient at UNMC since then. A grateful patient. He’s been treated by some of the best eye experts in the country, who’ve successfully limited his vision loss.

That’s why he’s driving to the grand opening – to see UNMC join the ranks of leading ophthalmology centers and to help celebrate the opening of the eye institute. The Truhlsen Eye Institute will combine state-of-the-art diagnostic medicine with the latest advances in clinical research to bring hope to patients like him who are dealing with serious eye diseases.

He sees the heavy gray clouds, hiding the morning sun.

He sees the drizzle on the windshield. The wipers.

He sees the mud ducks on the ponds, the moisture in the fields.

He sees the open road.

“I was told at one time that you either take care of your eyes at this point in time, or you won’t be driving at age 60.”

He just turned 60.

He tells his story with tears in his eyes as he sits in a room on the second floor of the Truhlsen Eye Institute.

“It’s going to be great,” he says of the new building. “There’s much more room, much more flow.”

It will be good for patients like him, he says, but also for the people who work there every day.

“When they see the investment that people are willing to put into the university – and that the foundation is able to put into what the university’s needs are – it makes those employees feel so much better about what they do.”

He had looked at other places around the region when he was first diagnosed. But people told him that UNMC was top-notch. He sees that every time he drives to Omaha for an appointment with his eye doctor, Sushma Rai.

Lindsay has glaucoma in both eyes. It’s worse in the left. He sees well, though the left eye is a little blurry from his third surgery, which was just 30 days before.

Dr. Rai phoned them at home after the surgery, like she always does, just to make sure everything was OK.

He sees smiling faces on people touring the new building. Some are administrative staff and technicians he’s known for years from the old eye clinic, just two blocks to the north.

He sees the new check-in lobby. “Magnificent.”

He sees the new equipment, all of it state-of-the-art.

“It’s the people that make everything,” Lindsay says. “Now they have a great building. They have a great facility. But the people still make the big difference.”

He sees a big white tent outside, and when it’s about time for the ceremony he and Donna find some seats beneath it.

He sees the governor and others stand at the podium and praise the new institute and the donors who made it happen. He hears people say how the new institute will revolutionize eye care in the region and become a center of excellence for eye care and research.

He and his wife slip out early because he has a business meeting elsewhere in Omaha. Later that day, they return to UNMC to see Dr. Rai for an appointment.

Then Lindsay Michalski drives his pretty wife back home.

The Truhlsen Eye Institute is named after legendary Omaha ophthalmologist Stanley M. Truhlsen, M.D., who has been affiliated with UNMC for more than 40 years and made the lead gift on the facility. If you also would like to help UNMC help people with eye diseases like Lindsay Michalski, please consider giving online or contact the foundation at 800-432-3216.

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