When Work Becomes Personal: One Family’s Story of Cataract Surgery

When Work Becomes Personal: One Family’s Story of Cataract Surgery

The wish was simple– Ira Harris (73) wanted to get back to reading blueprints.

A skilled and deeply knowledgeable builder his whole life, Ira was enjoying spending his retirement years helping others plan their projects, until his cataracts made the detailed blueprints too difficult to see.

His daughter, Tawnya Pastuck, asked him an important question: “Dad, when was the last time you had your eye exam?” As the Director of Health Economics & Market Access at Johnson & Johnson (J&J), Tawnya understood the importance of annual eye exams. Now that knowledge was becoming personal to her family.

Insight on Eye Health

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ira was a busy man. He managed and consulted on building projects, while taking care of his farm in Ridgefield, Washington. Every summer he would be joined by his seven children, including Tawnya, who would travel from around the country to spend quality time together and lend their father a hand. Ira had built a wonderful life that kept him connected to others and engaged in meaningful work.

Ira was also diligent about getting his annual comprehensive eye exam, where his ophthalmologist noted that he had early signs of cataracts. At the time, the cataracts had minimal impact on his daily life. While he was starting to struggle when reading blueprints, he would simply compensate by enlarging the computer screen until he could read the details. After a heart attack in 2022, though, Ira missed his annual eye exam and, over time, Ira’s cataracts worsened.

Understanding Cataracts

Cataracts are a condition that causes a clouding of the normally-transparent lens of the eye. This can lead to a variety of symptoms including blurred vision, faded colors, poor night vision, or halos around light. Ultimately, cataracts may result in blindness. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, cataracts are the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide, affecting over 94 million people. 

The risk of cataracts increases as people age. Other health conditions such as smoking, family history, spending a lot of time in the sun, or taking steroids for health problems can also increase the risk for cataracts. Ira has diabetes, which is another risk factor for cataracts. 

By the time Ira returned for another eye exam, his cataracts had worsened and, in order to regain his quality of life, it was time for corrective surgery, something Ira wasn’t entirely interested in. “I’ve had a lot of operations,” Ira shared. “I didn’t want to think about going in for another procedure for my eyes, but Tawnya assured me it’s a safe4 and quick treatment5.”

The Road to Sight Recovery

Cataract surgery may seem overwhelming, but the reality is that most cataracts can be treated through a relatively quick outpatient procedure5. Ira and Tawnya consulted with doctors at Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute (PCLI). Their initial evaluation was with Dr. Williams, who just happened to be Tawnya’s former professor at Pacific University. Both Ira and Tawnya felt immediately comfortable as they began discussing the procedure for treating cataracts and Ira’s course of care.

The medical staff of PCLI shared that they would be using the TECNIS Eyhance Intraocular Lens (IOL) from J&J, often chosen for patients with diabetes that need cataract surgery. Tawnya’s work life and personal life were melding together as she experienced first-hand how the innovations of J&J were improving the lives of patients like her dad.

Ira’s Surgery Day

In early January, 2024, Ira and Tawnya traveled to PCLI’s Salmon Creek location in Vancouver, Washington for his procedure. Ira had some concerns about the procedure and the recovery, but was quickly put at ease by the kind nursing staff at PCLI. He said, “I was just totally surprised how people treated me. They treated me with the utmost respect and kindness. They prepared me both physically and mentally. They were top of the line.” 

The portion of the procedure that Ira was most worried about was the pre-surgery shot. The shot would be administered to the lower periorbital area of his eye to numb the area and restrict the movement of the one eye that would be operated upon. Ira was surprised to learn that the shot felt more like pressure than pain.

Another positive surprise was meeting with the doctor responsible for his surgery, Joyce Choe, who made Ira feel like family with her warm bedside manner. Ira appreciated the level of care Dr. Choe demonstrated at every step of the process. 

The Circle of Care Grows

When it was finally time for Ira’s cataract surgery, Tawnya took her place in the observation room where it was her turn to experience a pleasant surprise. Joining her was J&J’s field representative, Katie Belan, who came to support her and Ira on the big day. 

“Working for Johnson & Johnson and going through this process with my dad brought it to an emotional level – a family connection. And, the pride of working for Johnson & Johnson has just escalated. I was very proud of it before, and now that much more!” said Tawnya.

The two observed as Dr. Choe removed Ira’s clouded cataract lens and replaced it with a new TECNIS Eyhance™ IOL. The procedure was a success and lasted about 10 minutes total, all while Ira was awake and aware of what was happening. The cataract surgery was a success, and Ira noticed immediately that his world had become brighter. 

Delighted with the outcome of the cataract surgery, Ira scheduled to have his second eye treated one week later. He no longer wanted to delay his chance at sharper, clearer vision any longer. The results were the same– it was a quick procedure, with noticeable visual improvement and an incredible amount of care and support from PCLI and J&J.6* 

“Everything's so bright and clear and crisp. It's just beautiful. It snowed last night and the snow is white and it's gorgeous. I hadn’t visually noticed how beautiful things are,” Ira said.

Ira’s Future Looks Bright

Ira is now in the after-care portion of his cataract surgery, which involves eye drops and ointment four times per day, and Tawnya is by his side, as she has been the whole way. Her biggest challenge now is getting Ira to put down the blueprints to allow his eyes sufficient time to rest and recover. With each rest he takes, Ira has noticed his sight getting progressively clearer and brighter.

Looking back on where his vision was and where it is now, Ira said, “Why see everything in a fog?” He has regained his precious sense of sight thanks to the J&J TECNIS Eyhance™ IOL and the skilled medical team at PCLI. For anyone who is considering cataract surgery, Ira urges, “You just want to do it!”

Improving Ira’s sight wasn’t the only positive outcome of this journey; it brought him closer to his daughter. He shares, “On the way to my exam this morning, we talked about how it’s great when you can do something that helps humanity. [Her work] ended up helping her immediate family as well as humanity,” Through the process, Tawnya grew closer to her work and purpose. She affirms, “Being a part of such a great team and being a part of something that's bigger than myself, that touched my dad, is so meaningful.”

* Results may vary.


Routine cataract surgery risks, irrelevant to lens selection, could be minor, temporary, or affect patients’ vision permanently. Rare complications are worsening of vision, bleeding, or infection. Discuss all risks and benefits with your eye doctor before surgery. If the patient’s eye is unhealthy (including glaucoma), vision may not be good even after cataract removal; patients may not get full benefit of the IOL. Before surgery, the eye doctor will check for any eye diseases. Patients’ vision with the IOL may not be good enough to perform detailed ‘up-close’ work without glasses, and rarely, may make some types of retinal treatment (e.g., retinal tear repair) more difficult. You should avoid any activity that could harm your eye while you are recovering from surgery. Your doctor will tell you what activities to avoid while you are recovering from surgery. TECNIS Multifocal, TECNIS Symfony IOLs, and TECNIS Symfony OptiBlue Extended Range of Vision IOLs: Risks related to use of this lens include a slight loss in vision sharpness with decreased use of glasses. Even with glasses, loss of sharpness may worsen under poor visibility conditions such as dim light or fog. Patients may also notice halos, starbursts, glare, and other visual symptoms with extended range of vision and multifocal IOLs. This may lead to driving difficulties, and not detecting road hazards as quickly at night or in fog. This may impact patients when there are bright lights at night.  Therefore, you may need to take extra care when driving, especially in poor light conditions. A small number of patients may want their TECNIS Symfony, TECNIS Symfony OptiBlue or TECNIS Multifocal IOL removed because of lens-related optical/visual symptoms. TECNIS Toric IOLs: A Toric IOL corrects astigmatism when it is placed correctly in the eye. There is a chance that the Toric IOL could be placed incorrectly or could move within the eye. Your doctor may need to move the lens to the right position following surgery. If the Toric lens is not placed correctly, you may have visual distortions. A second surgery may be needed to properly position the lens. TECNIS EYHANCE IOLs: The effects of the TECNIS EYHANCE and TECNIS EYHANCE Toric II IOL optical design on quality of vision, contrast sensitivity, and subjective visual disturbances (glare, halo, etc.) have not been evaluated clinically.  

1 https://www.seeintl.org/cataracts/

2 https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/blindness-and-visual-impairment

3 https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/cataracts

4 American Refractive Surgery Council. Cataract Surgery (https://americanrefractivesurgerycouncil.org/cataract-surgery/). Accessed 4/5/2023.

5 Yetman, D. (2020, November 24). Cataract surgery preparation, procedure, costs, aftercare, recovery. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/eye-health/cataract-surgery

6 Cataract surgery: How it works and what to expect for recovery. Cataract Surgery. (n.d.). https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/21472-cataract-surgery