HOW A SUBSPECIALTY OPHTHALMIC PRACTICE CHANGED THE LIFE OF A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SURVIVOR

Board-certified, fellowship-trained oculoplastic surgeon, Jasmine Mohadjer, MD performs intricate lid reconstruction from eyelid lifts to correct droopy or sagging eyelids to removing cancerous cells around the eye. She sees patients of all ages for procedures that are medically necessary, as well as cosmetic. One of the aspects she likes best about being a board-certified ophthalmologist (medical eye doctor), fellowship-trained in ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgery, is that her job is to correct a problem related to the eye or face. While every case is different, Dr. Mohadjer wants every patient she sees to look and feel like the best possible version of themself.

On Thursday, January 14, 2016, Dr. Mohadjer met Jessica Mullins, a 29-year-old mother of three. Jessica was introduced to Dr. Mohadjer through Julie Weintraub’s Hands Across the Bay, a non-profit organization developed to “support programs, organizations and individuals whose mission and efforts are dedicated to improving the quality of life in Tampa Bay.” She needed an appointment with Dr. Mohadjer because she had pain in her right eye.

Jessica’s pain stemmed from a domestic violence attack nearly six years earlier.

Jessica reflects on the day that changed her life: “I will never forget any detail about this day; it stays very fresh on my memory. May 27th, 2010. It was a gorgeous spring day.” She went to meet her son’s grandmother so he could visit his father for the weekend. When she saw his grandmother’s car pull into the 7-11, she got out of her car to get her son. Suddenly she realized it was not his grandmother; instead, it was his father. She kept her cool and went to give him their son and without warning, he began choking and beating Jessica until she was unconscious.

“I was bay-lifted from the scene to Bayfront Trauma Medical Hospital, where I underwent emergency surgery to sew my right eye back together. The next week I had to have surgery to repair an orbital fracture, which consisted of

[inserting] metal and 4 screws just below my eye as well as reconstructive nose surgery because my nose was detached from my skull and all nasal cavities were crushed,” Jessica remembers.

Six years later, she is still working to overcome physical and emotional damage from her attack. Her son’s father did so much damage to Jessica that she lost vision in her right eye. It was slowly dying due to the severe trauma and appeared shrunken compared to her left eye. It caused her daily pain and was cosmetically a concern. Julie Weintraub and the Hands Across the Bay team knew that Jessica needed to see an oculoplastic specialist. Dr. Mohadjer determined that Jessica’s eye needed to be removed and replaced with an implant. This would eliminate any pain Jessica felt and return her orbit to its natural size.

On February 22, 2016, Dr. Jasmine Mohadjer performed Jessica’s enucleation in the Largo Ambulatory Surgery Center at The Eye Institute of West Florida. Family and friends supported Jessica, sitting in the waiting room during her procedure wearing shirts that read “Team Jessica” in purple, the color of domestic violence awareness. The procedure was complete in under an hour, and Jessica was able to return home with her family to recover. Six weeks later, Jessica received her prosthetic eye from Ocularist Randal Minor, crying tears of joy, relief and excitement upon seeing herself for the first time.

Dr. Mohadjer notes that, as with all of her patients, knowing Jessica and her story reminds her why she became an oculoplastic surgeon. “It’s humbling to know that something I do in my everyday normal day can have such a profound effect on a person’s life.”

Following her surgery, Jessica finally feels free from her attacker and has an improved outlook on life. She is supporting others through her Facebook page, “Jessica’s Journey,” and refuses to see herself as a victim. Jessica knows she is a “surthrivor” (thriving survivor).

Jessica is no longer afraid to speak out and now advocates against domestic violence, working to change the grim statistic that “one in four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime.”1 She offers support to others who have suffered like her and is working to prevent future instances of domestic violence.

She tells Dr. Mohadjer, “It’s people like you; our cheerleaders and encouragement warriors who give us the uplifting attitude to want to change the world and to make a difference. We could never do all of this without you all.”

1Information provided by safehorizon