One Patient + No Contacts = Six Patients Gone

Sometimes a "rule of thumb" needs to be bent. In this case, inflexibility in one practice sent a whole family elsewhere.

One Patient + No Contacts = Six Patients Gone
Sometimes a "rule of thumb" needs to be bent. In this case, inflexibility in one practice sent a whole family elsewhere.
By Andrew and Jan Rutsky, Solon, Ohio

Andrew Rutsky, 12, has worn contact lenses since he was in the third grade.

My name is Andrew Rutsky. I'm 12 years old, and I'm in the seventh grade. I like to play soccer and baseball and do tae kwon do. When I was in the third grade, I found out I needed glasses. First, I got sports glasses — the flexible kind where the earpieces curl around your ears — but they broke, so I asked to get contacts. Dr. Stiegemeier said she thought I'd do OK with them because my mom and dad and sister wear them.

I got soft contact lenses. At first, it was a little hard to get them on my eyes and they felt a little weird, but after a few days, I got the hang of it. I can see fine, just the same as with glasses. I throw the contacts away every 2 or 3 weeks.

Now that I have contact lenses and don't have to worry about breaking my glasses, I can be a little bit more physical in sports. I'm glad I didn't have to wait until I was older.


Andrew wore eyeglasses for about 6 months before he got his contact lenses. I agreed he could try contacts because he's so active, his eyeglasses would break, even his sports glasses. Also, his eyes were changing fast, and he's very sensitive to the blurriness. Every 4 to 5 months, he'd need a new prescription. He was 9 years old and in the third grade when he went to see our family eye doctor Mary Jo Stiegemeier. Andrew's worn contact lenses ever since. He's always taken care of his lenses himself and has never had a problem.

"Now that I have contacts and don't have to worry about breaking my glasses, I can be a little bit more physical in sports." — Andrew Rutsky, age 12.

I wasn't surprised when Dr. Stiegemeier let Andrew try contact lenses because she'd prescribed contacts for my daughter when she was 11 years old. We'd been seeing another doctor at that time, and he had a rule that he wouldn't prescribe contact lenses for anyone under the age of 12 — no exceptions. My daughter really wanted contacts. She played sports, but for her, it was more about how she looked. She just didn't want to wear glasses. Dr. Stiegemeier let her try contact lenses, and she did just fine. Having contacts made a huge difference for my daughter.


Our whole family sees Dr. Stiegemeier — the four of us who need vision correction and the two who don't. She examined our 15-year-old daughter about a year ago, and her eyes are fine. She also checked our 5-year-old son. Even though he'd passed the vision test at pre-school, I noticed he was sitting close to the TV, and I didn't want him going into kindergarten with a problem they didn't catch. Dr. Stiegemeier did a full exam on him and said he's fine, but she recommended that we watch him. We'll keep up with his yearly check-ups.


Our previous doctor said "no contacts till you're 12." Sometimes, that's a good general rule, but certain kids can handle contact lenses. In certain circumstances, you may want to make an exception. That doctor didn't lose one patient, he lost six!



Dr. Stiegemeier's Perspective

I still remember the thrill of getting my first pair of eyeglasses. I wasn't really symptomatic when my optometrist prescribed those –1.50D glasses, but when I put them on and realized the beauty of clear vision, I was ecstatic.

I started wearing contact lenses when I was 16. The first time I applied the lenses, I felt a little awkward handling them. But in the end, I can say without a doubt, getting contact lenses was a life-altering experience for me.

Because of my positive personal experience with contact lenses, I proactively recommend them for young patients. I find young children, pre-teens and teen-agers are very responsible and enthusiastic about contact lenses. Pre-teens in particular are very aware of their looks and appreciate not having to wear eyeglasses.

But it's not only appearance that stimulates conversations about contact lenses for young patients. Concerns can range from best visual acuity to improved athletic performance to myopia control.

In Andrew's case, he and his parents were concerned about his sports goggles breaking as well as improving his athletic performance. Being able to modify the prescription frequently during his growing phase was an added benefit of contact lenses.

I've fit many children with medically necessary contact lenses, and they've done quite well. The next logical step is fitting kids without medical necessity. The results are fantastic.

If you're interested in including pediatric contact lens care in your practice, I've found that patient and compassionate staff members are essential. I recently fit a young man who was referred to me by one of my successful pediatric patients. The new patient had gone to another practice where the staff member could not apply his lenses. My patient told him my technician Michelle was gentle and applied his lenses easily the first time. He came to our office and was successfully fit with lenses.

These patients are so happy and grateful, my staff and I derive a great deal of satisfaction from working with them. I love fitting contact lenses on adolescents.

Mary Jo Stiegemeier, OD, FAAO
Diplomate Cornea and Contact Lens Section
Beachwood, Ohio


Bruce and Jan Rutsky and their four children are loyal patients of Mary Jo Stiegemeier, OD, FAAO.



Staff Matters

Dr. Stiegemeier's office staff is wonderful. I appreciate that. If a doctor hires pleasant people who remember your name, talk to your kids and even ask about the kids who aren't at that appointment, that makes a difference.

Jan Rutsky
Solon, Ohio


One-stop Shopping

We receive flyers all the time with offers to buy contact lenses through mail-order or wholesale clubs. But everyone in our family who wears contact lenses gets their lenses and back-up glasses from Dr. Stiegemeier. It just makes sense to go to her directly.

For example, if I run out of lenses, I know I can get a pair right away from Dr. Stiegemeier until the order comes in. Also, my son Andrew's prescription was changing faster than he was using his contact lenses. Dr. Stiegemeier told me to return his unused lenses and she'd exchange them for the new prescription as long as the packages weren't opened.

I don't know if all eye doctors do these things, but for me, that's great customer service. Sometimes, doctors nickel and dime you to death. Dr. Stiegemeier isn't like that.

Jan Rutsky
Solon, Ohio


Family-friendly Office

My youngest son Michael must have been 3 when he discovered Dr. Stiegemeier's book shelf. He was reading "My New Puppy" while we were waiting for his big sister and when it was time to go, he didn't want to leave it. Dr. Stiegemeier told him he could take it home and bring it back the next time he came to the office. She showed him inside the book was the name of a little girl, one of her patients who gave her some books for children to read in the waiting room. So when Michael brought the book back, he took some of our books to leave there at the office. Little touches like this make a visit to the doctor's office a pleasant experience.

Jan Rutsky
Solon, Ohio