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Cataract surgeon offers Quigley Cares programs

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Jun 9, 2021

Dr. Thomas Quigley. PHOTO PROVIDED


Those who have debilitating cataracts and are experiencing a financial hardship may qualify for the Quigley Cares program, a program that pays for cataract surgery in its entirety.

Quigley Eye Specialists Founder and cataract surgeon Dr. Thomas Quigley said when he was in high school his sister, Cathy, who was in her mid 20s, developed a rare eye disease called uveitus, an autoimmune disease, which attacks the tissues of the eye.

“We never could figure out why she got this disease,” he said, adding that they traveled around the country and his sister had 16 different eye surgeries. “Despite that, she ended up blind.”

One of Cathy’s eyes had to be removed and the other was determined blind. She now has a seeing eye dog.

“When she had those 16 surgeries, no one gave her a financial break,” Quigley said, which eventually led his sister to declaring bankruptcy.

From that experience, he was determined to make a difference in other people’s lives, which started the Quigley Cares program. 

“I care about people. We all at some point reflect on our lives and say did we make a difference in this world. I want to make a difference, that is important to me. We will always help people,” he said.

In 1988, Quigley started his practice and saw that there were a number of people that had no insurance, so he started waiving the surgeons fee at the beginning of opening Quigley Eye Specialist. Unfortunately, there was still a facility fee, which he could not waive when the surgery was done at such places as a hospital.

In 1994, Quigley thought that “this is silly, these patients still cannot afford” surgery. The St. John’s Surgery Center was built off Conference Drive in Fort Myers, allowing Quigley to waive the surgery in its entirety. The year round program has performed more than 3,000 free surgeries.

“It’s important for people to know, free means free,” Quigley said. “These are people that don’t have insurance. We don’t charge them anything.”

Although it has cost him tens of thousands of dollars to offer Quigley Cares, he said it’s about giving back and serving the community.

“We want to contribute back to the community to make it a better place,” Quigley said. “It’s been an awesome program.”

Quigley Eye Specialist has formed a partnership with Fort Myers Lions Club to help those in need of cataract surgery during June’s Cataract Awareness Month. Quigley Cares is offered to United States citizens who are residents of Lee County that have a financial hardship, are not eligible for Medicare and have debilitating cataracts.

Vice President of Marketing & Business Development Frances Wilhelm said individuals have to contact the Fort Myers Lions Club at (239) 205-2166, or email chuck517@comcast.net by June 30. She said those individuals have to have debilitating cataracts, no insurance or means to pay for the surgery.

“They do need to be a resident of the county in which we serve, whether its Charlotte, Collier, or Lee County. We do have offices across the state, in Miami, as well as Sarasota,” Wilhelm said.

If the individual qualifies for the program, Wilhelm said they will be referred to Quigley Eye Specialist for surgery and be seen by one of the surgeons to schedule the cataract surgery.

“I have worked with a number of surgeons. There has never been such an extraordinary surgeon and human being. Dr. Quigley has the biggest heart and service to the community,” she said.

Quigley said the surgery itself is fairly brief, only lasting seven to eight minutes. The patient will be sedated, so they do not feel any discomfort. There are two different types of lasers used during the surgery — one to assist the surgeon and the other to remove the cataract with an ultrasound.

When someone has cataracts it makes their vision cloudy, blurry, or dim. Quigley said with the lens in their eye being cloudy, it has to be removed.

“With no lens, you cannot see anything. We have to put a lens back in there. We put an implant in and it has a prescription to see well without glasses,” he said.

Although the day of the surgery the patient will feel sleepy, due to the sedation, the next day they can resume normal activities.

“It is a quick recovery. The eye is completely healed within a week,” Quigley said. “Implants have been a huge step forward.”

Quigley Eye Specialists has a location in Lehigh Acres, 5220 Lee Blvd.; two offices in Cape Coral – 112 Del Prado North and 513 Cape Coral Pkwy. W., and a Fort Myers Beach location, 11170 Summerlin Square Dr.