MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – An 83-year-old woman walks into a pediatric ophthalmologist’s office. It’s not the start of a bad joke but part of a remarkable story of one doctor’s care for a whole family from Jane Lew, W.Va.
Geoff Bradford, M.D., a pediatric ophthalmologist at the WVU Eye Institute, was called to the WVU Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in February 2010 for a consult about newborn Kenadie Barclay’s eyes. Dr. Bradford discovered that, in addition to her other health concerns, Kenadie had congenital cataracts, which he removed surgically. He also discovered that Kenadie had an intensely loving and committed family.
“Here was this tiny little baby in the NICU with a family that was probably very overwhelmed with all of the news that they were getting from the doctors, at a point in a parent’s life when the joy of bringing a baby into the world is clouded with all of these medical issues, and yet still this family was completely committed to this baby,” Bradford said. “You could tell they were going to love this baby, and they were going to get this baby through all these medical concerns.”
In the course of Kenadie’s early care, Bradford noticed that Kenadie’s mother, Amanda Barclay, had a lazy eye. Lazy eyes often run in families, Bradford said.
“It had bothered me over the years, but I had been told by a doctor previously that it wouldn’t help my vision much to get it fixed; it would be more of a cosmetic surgery. So I hadn’t really looked into it,” Barclay said.
Bradford explained that corrective surgery could align her eyes, keep her vision clear and avoid double vision.
The full title of Bradford’s specialty is pediatric ophthalmology and adult strabismus. Strabismus is the term for any eye misalignment. Because most eye misalignment issues arise in children, pediatric ophthalmologists are highly trained in eye muscle surgery, so they treat both pediatric and adult cases. Bradford estimates that 10 percent of his patients are adults.
In May 2013, when Kenadie’s care was more settled, Barclay went under Bradford’s knife to correct her lazy eye.
“I can never remember being able to pull my right eye in to where I could see out of both eyes at once. I could see out of both eyes, but I focused with one eye or the other at a time. Since the surgery, I’m able to look out of both eyes at once like a typical person can,” Barclay said.
Barclay encouraged her grandmother, Roberta Lough, also from Jane Lew, to see Dr. Bradford as well. After Lough’s cataract surgery a few years ago, one eye began to drift, causing double vision and poor sight.
Lough remembered being in the car while her husband was driving. “I said, ‘Watch out, he’s coming right at us!’ I thought sure we were going to get hit, and we weren’t at all.”
Barclay’s surgery had been so successful that it was easy for Lough to decide at 83 years old to have her eye corrected.
“I was so thankful that she mentioned Dr. Bradford to me,” Lough said. “I can see better now out of the eye he fixed than I can with the other one.”
Eye misalignments often run in families, so it’s not uncommon for Bradford to treat multiple siblings from the same family. To treat family members from three separate generations, though, is quite unusual.
“That’s totally rewarding,” Bradford said. “To take care of one family member and have the trust of the family is one thing, but to have that trust to extend care to three members of the family — I see their name on the schedule, and I just want to get out of bed early and greet them when they come in.”