Tuskegee Airman Regains the Gift of Sight

Vol. 17, No. 3
Fall 2007

  • The Institute for Neurosciences: At the Vanguard of Specialized Care

  • Nine Winthrop Specialists Named to New York Magazine's ´┐ŻBest Doctors List

  • Good Health - It's in Our Hands

  • Tuskegee Airman Regains the Gift of Sight

  • Stroke Care at Winthrop

  • Under the Big Top

  • Golfing for the Kids

  • Pat Lyons Foundation Shows Unwavering Support for Generation of Survivors Program

  • Winthrop Opens LI's Only Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center

  • Migliozzi Family Donates Rocking Chair to NICU

  • Jay's World Foundation Shows Ongoing Support

  • Winthrop's Home Health Agency Tops National List Again

  • Clinical Trials: Bringing the Future of Medicine to Long Island

  • 2007 MineolaStreet Fair

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  • Retired Lt. Col. Spann Watson (right) and his wife Edna are grateful to Lawrence Jindra, MD, for their newfound vision.
    Spann Watson vividly recalls his first memory as a child. Looking out the front door of his home in South Carolina in December 1918, he saw the front yard covered with snow, and ice all along the roof of his father's blacksmith shop.

    "I see and remember things that others simply can not," said Mr. Watson of Westbury.

    One of the original Tuskegee Airmen, Mr. Watson was one of the first cadets to train with the all-black Army Air Corps flying squadron in Tuskegee, Alabama. A man known in history books for his true heroism, Mr. Watson was instrumental in opening the door for hundreds of other black aviators in pursuit of their dreams.

    Mr. Watson's vision was crucial to his career as a P-40, P-47 and P-51 Mustang pilot. But naturally, as Mr. Watson grew older, his vision slowly began to deteriorate. Yet today, at the age of 91, Spann Watson's eyesight is better than ever following recent cataract surgery performed by Lawrence F. Jindra, MD, Acting Chief of Winthrop's Division of Ophthalmology.

    "Mr. Watson is seeing with 20/20 visual acuity at distance and near," said Dr. Jindra recently. "He doesn't need glasses to read or drive."

    Dr. Jindra, a former military officer and pilot, has a passion for helping veterans. For almost 15 years, Dr. Jindra volunteered his services at the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where he was Assistant Chief of Ophthalmology and Founder and Director of the Glaucoma Consultation Unit. "It's a pleasure to be able to volunteer my time to help those who served this country," said Dr. Jindra.

    Dr. Jindra first met Mr. Watson in the waiting room of his Floral Park office. Mr. Watson had been accompanying his wife Edna to her routine check-ups following her cataract surgery in 2003.

    "I noticed that Mr. Watson was wearing a military pin on his jacket. We began to share stories about our time in the military and our experiences as pilots," said Dr. Jindra. "It wasn't long before Mr. Watson was asking, 'Can I be your patient too?'"

    Dr. Jindra discovered that Mr. Watson had cataracts - a condition that gradually steals sight without warning. To repair the condition, Dr. Jindra performed monovision cataract surgery on Mr. Watson. The procedure involves the implantation of an intraocular lens (IOL) in one eye to provide near vision, and an IOL in the other to provide distance vision.

    "I was rather impressed by the doctor and his first-class operation," said Mr. Watson. "The surgery went very well and the staff were outstanding. They reaffirmed my already high opinion of Winthrop."

    "Understanding first-hand the visual demands of a pilot, it was truly rewarding for me to be able to restore eyesight to a decorated veteran and a trailblazer in the profession," said Dr. Jindra. Today, Mr. Watson is enjoying his newfound vision as he continues to lecture and make guest appearances at schools and community organizations across the country.

    What's more, Mr. Watson is one of nearly 400 pilots to recently receive the nation's highest civilian honor - the Congressional Gold Medal. He has also had the pleasure to look down at the world from an airplane once again - this time with his new and improved vision.

    "There are many gracious people across the country who extend invitations to me to fly with them," said Mr. Watson. "When I do get the opportunity, I do my best to get a window seat - and thanks to the surgery that Dr. Jindra performed, I can now see that glorious view from the sky once again!"

    For more information about Winthrop's Division of Ophthalmology, call 1-866-WINTHROP.

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