A year ago, at age 56, I had the same surgery in my right eye. It was a breeze. The surgery — one of the most common medical procedures in the world — took 15 minutes, and the entire visit took less than two hours. Afterward, I walked around the corner with my wife, Polly, for lunch.
Within a day, I was a new — if slightly bionic — man with no more cataracts blurring my vision. Not only that, but my surgeon/ophthalmologist, Daniel Pluznik, implanted a state-of-the-art lens that corrected my vision so that I didn’t have to wear glasses anymore. I felt so lucky compared to what my dad went through.
Fifty or 60 years ago, my career might have been sidelined by cataracts. But cataract care has seen major advances in recent years.
Good thing. If you live long enough, you are almost certain to get them. They can come on slowly or very fast (mine came out of almost nowhere in a few months), and can ruin your quality of life. Cataract comes from the Latin term for “waterfall” for the whiteness it causes in the back of the lens. None of my doctors could say with certainty what causes it. It’s probably genetic.
Once cataracts reach a certain point, the Pluzniks of the world swoop in and pull up the shade.
“It’s as close as you get in medicine to instant gratification,” said the 43-year-old doctor.
It pays, too.
Ophthalmology is one of the more lucrative specialties in the medical world. Pluznik said ophthalmologists’ salaries range between $200,000 and $400,000 a year. He may make even more than that.
I don’t begrudge him a dollar. He spent about a decade in medical school and residency, works in a high-pressure profession that requires great skill, and performs a valuable function by restoring people’s sight.
Danny, as he likes to be called, grew up in Montgomery County in a science-oriented family. His father, who has a doctorate in microbiology, is a researcher at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. His mother is an audiologist.
He got the medical bug studying chemistry at the University of Maryland, College Park, during the late 1980s. He walked into Bethesda’s Suburban Hospital one summer day early in his college career and asked if he could volunteer.
He was a gofer in the operating room, wheeling people around on gurneys, fetching supplies and helping nurse technicians. He watched surgeries in his spare time, enjoying the technical aspects of it the most.
“I didn’t mind the blood, as long as it wasn’t my own,” he said.
A good student, he attended the University of Maryland Medical School, located in Baltimore, and eventually narrowed his speciality down to two choices: ear, nose and throat (known as ENT) and ophthalmology.