Jacksonville woman waited 10 weeks to have surgery on 2nd eye due to COVID-19

Dr. Arun Gulani performs complex laser eye surgery after ban lifted

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Back under the knife: Florida surgeons are once again allowed to do elective surgeries after a two month ban because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted the sanctions Monday, urging people who need scheduled surgeries to get them, as long as they’re not sick or positive for COVID-19.

News4Jax spent Wednesday afternoon at Gulani Vision Institute on Jacksonville’s Southside, where Dr. Arun Gulani conducted his first laser eye surgery since the moratorium.

His first patient, 20-year-old Alicia Vandyk, said she has always wanted to see clearly without thick glasses.

With extreme astigmatism and farsightedness, Gulani said her case is important because she had one eye done right before the outbreak and then waited ten weeks for the other.

He said it was the first procedure like this in history and he only did one eye at a time for safety. However, the surgery ban left her with uneven vision.

Vandyk, who is from South Africa but is working in Florida as an au pair, had to extend her work visa and delay her flight home so she could finish the procedure on her second eye. She is now set to return in July.

“I would say use your judgment everybody,” Gulani said about booking elective surgeries again.

He’s urging other medical professionals to proceed with caution.

“Is the patient really someone who deserves it at this time? Can she now get back to her life and family?" he asked.

Vandyk’s surgery was a success. She said it was quick and pain-free.

“I’m a little emotional, but I am happy,” she said, moments after leaving the operating room. “It’s wonderful. This is not something you can describe.”

Besides having everyone wear the personal protective equipment (PPE) and getting temperature checks at the door, Gulani said he is making sure patients are safe by sending them a few days earlier to testing sites to make sure that they are negative for COVID-19.

At a news conference Monday, DeSantis said many elective procedures are important and it’s good they’re back.

It may be elective as to when you schedule it, but you need to do it and so to be able to get this back online,” he said. “We now have health care systems around the state, who are moving forward, to bring people in to get them care that they really do need.”

He said hospitals are prepared and safe; ready for these surgeries. However, he stressed people should not go in for a procedure if they’re experiencing any symptoms that could be associated with the virus.

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