Optometrist finds brain aneurysm in Houston woman, saving her life

You've probably heard the saying that your eyes are the window to the soul.  They're also a window to health problems.  Equipment has become so advanced, eye doctors can often see problems like diabetes, cancer, thyroid disease, and high cholesterol, in your eyes.

A local Optometrist ended up diagnosing a life-threatening illness, just in time to save a young woman's' life.  Noel Crutchfield is still in disbelief that it was an Optometrist who helped diagnose her serious medical problem.  "It is shocking - it is insane for a lack of a better word - but it is remarkable," exclaims Noel.         

She says it all started with an excruciating headache.  "The ambulance checked my blood pressure, and it was 233/138.  That was at 'stroke level'.  It's a miracle in that sense.  They were more focused on the blood pressure versus pain.  It was right behind my eye.  They did a CT scan and got blood pressure down and reasonable.  They didn't find anything, though did suggest I go to my primary doctor, which I did," explains Noel. 

A few days later, it got worse and she ended up back in the emergency room.  Again, no answers, and she was sent home.  "At this point, I'm starting to lose control of my eyelids and they're closing.  Seven days later, I couldn't open my eyes.  I'm legally blind in my right eye from a childhood incident.  I'm working with one eye, and now, I have none," states Noel. 

        Noel's friend told her she had an eye doctor who might help. They called Dr. Allan Panzer on a Sunday afternoon.   He opened his office on his day off to see her and was expecting to treat a minor problem.  "I saw them walking her in on both sides and I knew it was something more dramatic.  She asked about forms, I said, no, you need to come straight back!  It wasn't a swollen lid - it was a lid that it was closed.  I raised it up and there was a fixed, dilated pupil looking at me.  I knew that wasn't a good sign and asked if she could see my finger.  It only went halfway. I immediately knew it was a third nerve.  I'm not all that neurologically astute, but I knew that was a third nerve and a sign of aneurysm  I told her to just sit here and I'm going to make a few phone calls," explains Dr. Panzer. He reached out to a friend who agreed to be waiting at the door of the Emergency Room to help. 

        Noel was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm, which is a weakened blood vessel that fills with blood.  "They didn't see it originally because they didn't do the proper test.  They should've done an MRA to look at the arteries, but they did a CT scan and MRI, which didn't give them what they needed to know," says Noel.  "My biggest fear was that she wasn't going to be able to see out of that eye because she had already lost the vision in it.  Two days later, I look up and she's sitting in my chair, and she says I drove here, and she had 20/20 vision and I was very thankful," smiles Dr. Panzer.

        Noel had to take a few months off from work to recover, but she says every day gets better.  "I am happy to be alive!  It has shown me the strength of you, if you pay attention, and it also allowed me to be vulnerable and to be OK with not having all the answers.  God has favor and He has me here for a reason.  It's my duty to figure that out.  I promise you, I am indebted to this man (Dr. Panzer).  He literally saved my life," says Noel.

        Doctors suggest you have your eyes examined at least once every year, starting in childhood.  Then, always seek multiple opinions, if you feel something isn't right with your body.