Complications & Negative Outcomes

“Nowadays I don’t want a perfect face and body – I want to wear the life I’ve lived.” Pat Benatar

 

TASK AT HAND: This week I’m thinking about scars. We normally think of scars as negative manifestations of past trauma. Sequels of serious harm. Instances where circumstances went beyond our ability to repair and restore our normal constitution. Whether they be physical, psychological or spiritual, scars are commonly unwanted tattoos of dramatic life events.

But this view is nearsighted.

As the insightful Pat Benatar quote echoes above – you, your body, your face and your smile – are reflections of the life you live. The scars you collect speak volumes of the miles you travel, the milestones you achieve, and the pain you reconcile. These are, whether negative or positive, the greatest hits of your life. The scars you collect are essential elements of your constitution; consequently, they should be celebrated for, so strong an effect they have, they change you forever.

“The scars you collect speak volumes of the miles you travel, the milestones you achieve, and the pain you reconcile.”

Don’t hide from your scars! There is no need for that “perfect face and body” Benatar alludes to above. Instead, embrace scars, imperfections, and stains. Actually, let me go one more: welcome the opportunity to develop new scars! Challenge your character and choices in ways that provide opportunities for personal growth and the ability to foster new relationships.

When life pushes you, push back.

When you are held down, the only next move is to get back up.

When you are questioned, answer in the affirmative. Answer without fear of scars.

 

MEDICINE & MACULA: Check out one of our recent publications, Dysfunctional Autonomic Regulation of the Choroid in Central Serous Chorioretinopathy by C Nathaniel Roybal, Elisabeth Sledz, Yasser Elshatory, Li Zhang, David RP Almeida, Eric K Chin, Brice Critser, Michael D Abramoff & Stephen R Russell.

It was published in the June 2017 issue of RETINA. You can find the study here.

We describe the effect of changing perfusion pressures on retinal and choroidal structure in central serous chorioretinopathy (CSC). In this study, we found that choroidal thickness increased in response to increased perfusion pressures in patients with CSC and not in normal controls. These findings likely represent an autonomic dysregulation of choroidal blood flow in patients with CSC.

 

GRATIS: Happy Father’s Day to the selfless individuals who, without fear, serve as mentors and role models!

 

My best to you,

David Almeida

david@davidalmeidamd.com

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sss-fear-failure

“Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward.”

John C. Maxwell (Failing Forward)

 

TASK AT HAND: This week I’m thinking about failure. A word associated with massive negative connotation. Imbedded within insecurity, fear of failure enforces the concept that we need to avoid failure if want to be successful. That failure is for the weak and lazy. That if you are intelligent and industrious, failure can be avoided. This is wrong and ignorant. Failure – and how we cope with it’s force – is of crucial importance to our character development.

Why is failure important? Failure is part of the iterative process of learning. Like trial-and-error, it is a basic process that we master in order to develop higher forms of reasoning and decision making. Thomas A. Edison writes, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Failure allows us to improve processes and techniques and is essential to the learning of individuals, growth of organizations, and coherence of cultures. “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better”; these words by Samuel Beckett see failure as this fundamental process of learning.

Why is fear of failure debilitating? The shame of failure comes from the pervasive negative assumption that failure is an ultimate end. In truth, failure is just another step in the process. I’m a vitreoretinal surgeon and I regularly operate on blinding diseases. I am humbled by the eye and the gravity of complications that may, without notice, occur during surgery. I orchestrate every movement to avoid complications, but I do not fear them. If so, I would be paralyzed with fear and overwhelmed by the weight of possibility. This would dramatically hinder my performance and limit my ability to help patients. Show me a surgeon with no complications, and I’ll show you a surgeon who never operates. Failures are not final but part of evolving solutions and strategies.

How can you erase your fear of failure? If you fail at something, the first step is to give yourself the opportunity to learn from it. There is a twisted irony in the failure to learn from your failures. Don’t do this. Take ownership of your failure. “A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else” (John Burroughs). Realize your error. Take ownership of the failure. Accept responsibility for the consequences. This provides you with immense learning. See this as a temporary event and in no way a synopsis of your life.

MEDICINE & MACULA: Check out our new feature in the September 2016 issue of Retina Today entitled, Postoperative Infectious Endophthalmitis: Evolving Trends and Techniques.

retina-today-sept-2016

Infectious endophthalmitis is a vision-threatening condition that involves inflammation of the entire eye. Early vitrectomy for endophthalmitis provides significant benefit in removing infectious material. We describe how vitreoretinal practices have changed with the adoption of small-gauge surgery.

endopth-ppv

Check out the publication and video here.

GRATIS: If you’re not failing often, you’re not trying hard enough.

My best to you,

David Almeida

david@davidalmeidamd.com

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SSS face punch

“Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.” Mike Tyson

 

TASK AT HAND: This week I’m thinking about strategy setbacks. We all have to soothe the bumps, bruises, blisters and burns associated with negotiating the often rocky landscape of our evolving strategies on the way to successful solutions.

But what happens when you hit a wall with your strategy? Or as Mike Tyson aptly summarizes – what happens when you and your plan get punched in the mouth? As much as your strategy may be well-being, it’s at this point that we must clarify core principles to break through.

What do you do when your best laid plans, your carefully tailored approach, your curated strategy stall? I have found 3 approaches to help navigate these difficult times.

1. Realize and accept that you will eventually get punched in the mouth. It will happen sooner than you think. It will happen multiple times. “Any time you think you have the game conquered, the game will turn around and punch you right in the nose” (Mike Schmidt). Denial of this truism will cause you to hold faulty strategies and you will fail to see the emerging landscape. Don’t bother with the padding…

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

2. When you get hit, be receptive and flexible. This is counter-intuitive because the first reaction is to get defensive. The ability to be receptive allows you to discover what details you missed. Then, flexibility allows you to adapt your strategy to the new conditions. Being flexible does not mean quitting on your plan. “Take things as they are. Punch when you have to punch. Kick when you have to kick” (Bruce Lee). Be open and receptive but remain committed. This is counter-intuitive but is of immense advantage.

3. The ability to take a punch is good, but the ability to avoid one is best. Your ability to navigate assaults is a defining property of your defensive strategic framework. “In the battle of existence, talent is the punch; tact is the clever footwork” (Wilson Mizner). Your strategy is your footwork – it will provide you with the needed defence for when you under duress, and it will allow you to counter when an opening occurs.

In chemistry, a transition state is a temporary high-energy configuration existing between two stable forms. The transition state corresponds to the highest potential energy along a reaction path. It is often violent and tumultuous but the potential energy allows for the formation of new stable forms. Think of these periods of your life – times of setbacks and shock – as transition states and look for ways to harness the potential energy to form an improved baseline.

 

MEDICINE & MACULA: Check out our most recent publication, Retinal Injury Secondary to Laser Pointers in Paediatric Patients. Our study describes children who had laser-related retinal injury to the macula due to the mishandling of the laser pointer devices.

Peds citation

Peds laser figure

Thank you Pediatrics for publishing our study! Check out the study here.

 

GRATIS: There is no shame in taking a punch, and there is much character growth in our ability to transition into an improved form during the difficult transition states. However, there may be times where you find yourself constantly under assault. If this occurs, you may have to punch back. Unfortunately, this is the only currency some understand.

“You punch me, I punch back. I do not believe it’s good for one’s self-respect to be a punching bag.” Ed Koch

 

My best to you,

David Almeida

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wrong way

“The years teach much that the days never know.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Task at hand: This week I’m thinking about negative outcomes. Times when life gives us the proverbial lemons… Surgery and life mirror each other in the interplay between action, reaction, and consequence. Sometimes – despite our best efforts, despite our best strategy, despite our best analysis of the situation – there are negative, untoward, unfavorable outcomes. In surgery, these are complications. In life, more commonly, these are hurdles and stumbling blocks that hinder our relationships and goals.

 

The question then, becomes, how do you effectively deal with these negative outcomes that invariably come our way?

 
There are three main attitudes that I use to deal with negative outcomes – whether they be in life or in surgery. First and foremost, do not over-react! What is done now is history, so you have to immediately start planning for the next step. The idea of not over-reacting is absolutely crucial, and almost guarantees your ability for damage limitation. You must stay calm, stay focused, and try to assess what just happened. In surgery, you will sometimes encounter a complication. If you are not careful, your rush “to fix” this first complication that instant, can cause you much bigger difficulties. I can’t stress this enough: the idea of not over-reacting is paramount.

 

 
This brings us to attitude number two: Take inventory of the perceived negative outcome. Is this a decision that’s been poorly executed? Have you offended someone? People tend to over-react and speak endlessly in these situations… Don’t do this! Instead, hold space. “Holding space” is a concept that I’ve come to appreciate. The idea is that you take inventory of the situation by actively listening and consciously processing information. You don’t have to say anything. You don’t have to do anything, but you have to consciously be there. For example, if someone comes up to you and says, “You did this wrong”, it’s very easy to get defensive; it’s easy to start talking, to start moving in a counter direction (usually defensive). Instead, try holding space. Hold that moment there, and you’ll see that the silence, and the pensive aspect has a powerful effect – it can diffuse tension and allow you to empathy in stressful momemnts.

 
The final one is – and I’ve said this before – plan and execute. This is always your go-to strategy. You have to plan. Then you execute. You have to develop a strategy, followed by its application. What was the negative outcome? Was there an unhappy patient? Was a co-worker offended in the way that you dominated a meeting? Was it a friend who feels abandoned? Whatever it is, you make a plan, and you execute the correction.

 
These are the three attitudes I have found to successfully mitigate negative outcomes. There’s no way to avoid conflict or complications: these are the crucible of character that you will encounter, undoubtedly, many times. The adage that calm seas don’t make for a skilled mariner – it’s the storm that brings it out – rings true. Remember: don’t over-react! Instead, hold space, and plan your escape.

 

 

Medicine & Macula: Interesting article in the open access journal, Medical Practice & Reviews, on Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). It can affect anyone who spends three or more hours a day in front of computer monitors and – worldwide – up to 70 million workers are at risk for CVS (risk factors include prior ocular history and poor ergonomics). The most common symptoms include headache, eye strain, double vision, dry eyes (burning, foreign-boy sensation), and eye fatigue.

While a better understanding of the pathophysiology underlying CVS is necessary, I try to always remind patients that when you are in front of a monitor, you blink approximately one-third less than normal. Consequently, artificial tears and lubricating drops are excellent to maintain a happy ocular surface and the integrity of your cornea-tear film interface.

Check out the study here

 

 

Gratis: Our new case, Central retinal artery occlusion in a young HIV-infected patient on Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART), has been published online ahead of print by Retinal Cases & Brief Reports. Thank you for all the positive feedback! Check out the paper here

HIV CRAO

 

My best to you,

David Almeida

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