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LASIK Surgery

Wang Vision 3D Cataract and LASIK Center, Nashville, Tennessee

LASIK eye exam leads to brain tumor diagnosis
By Craig Boerner

The City Paper in Nashville, Tennessee

Debra Cole initially just wanted to have her eyesight fixed by local doctor Ming Wang. He is a specialist in the new LASIK eye surgery she had been hearing so much about.

She didn't know it was a life or death situation.

This holiday season she is looking back to the events of the past year with disbelief, and she credits Wang with saving not only her vision but also her life.

She met the internationally known LASIK surgeon for the first time in July 2001.

Wang founded Vanderbilt's Laser Sight Center, a nationally renowned refractive surgery center, and is now director of his own Wang Vision 3D Cataract and LASIK Center.

"I wanted to have the LASIK surgery, I was blind," Cole said. "I had really researched who to go to, and it had nothing to do with money, I wanted the very best person."

Wang was at Vanderbilt at the time and gave free examinations for patients to know if they qualified for the LASIK surgery.

"There was extensive testing, much more than I thought they would do, especially for free," Cole said. "It was long and tedious. I had put on my initial chart that I had a pre-existing condition."

Cole had been told two years prior to her visit with Dr. Wang that she had a pituitary tumor.

"[A doctor] had said that half of the population walks around with them and never knows it," she said. "It only affects you if it is active."

"I went to my doctor for headaches and had an MRI, and he said don't worry about it, it is no big deal, get over it because there is nothing you need to worry about," Cole said.

She said she didn't get a second opinion on the tumor because she had already been told what she wanted to hear.

Wang's office did a long series of tests for the potential LASIK surgery, then asked her to come back for more tests, then asked her to come back again.

She said Wang told her on the third visit that he was feeling uncomfortable about the tumor and had decided not to do the LASIK surgery.

He sent her to a neuro-ophthamologist for a second opinion on the tumor, but that doctor told her once again that it was nothing to worry about.

"He said, 'I think you're wasting your money, I wouldn't have the MRI done, there's nothing wrong with you,'" she said.

But something kept telling Cole that, because Wang felt so strong about it, she should still have an MRI.

She decided to go ahead with the MRI anyway and doctors found something "very bad," according to Cole. The tumor had been misdiagnosed twice.

She was sent to neurosurgeon Dr. Vaughn Allen to remove the meningnoma but was still under the impression that the tumor was no big deal.

"[Allen] said 'I don't know if you realize how bad this is; you'll be blind in November in your right eye, and you'll be dead in March,'" Cole said. "I was just so shocked."

Two weeks later, Allen surgically removed Cole's meningnoma at St. Thomas Hospital.

It was a brain tumor that had grown over and into her optic nerve, which would have caused blindness.

"I am a graphic designer, and all I do is see," Cole said. "My work is visual, it is my livelihood. Everything I do I am looking at color and perception," she said.

She had continuous nausea from the surgery and spent a lot of time lying on a pallet on her office floor, struggling to keep her clients and her life together.

After a six-month recovery period, Cole returned to Wang in November to have the LASIK eye surgery she originally approached him about.

"Ultimately it really does go back to Dr. Wang and Dr. Allen," Cole said. "I have thought of this so many times. If it had been one of those little run-in clinics, I would be dead. I might have had my vision corrected, but it would have been short-lived."

"[Dr. Wang] is a real humble man. I don't honestly know that he really realizes he saved my life, because I'm sure this doesn't happen to him very often," she said.

"You can say that it was purely coincidental, but I don't live like that. I believe things happen for a reason . my life has so changed for the better. I stop and appreciate people, and friends and family, and the life we have been given."

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