Although it remains unclear why a popular, beloved Michigan meteorologist took her own life on Wednesday, studies suggest she isn’t the only person who committed suicide following laser eye surgery.
CTV News reports that Paul Fitzpatrick, of Canada, took his own life after he suffered a rare complication of eye surgery that left him in so much chronic pain that, according to his family, he took his own life. The incident sparked an investigation by the station, which uncovered a group of people who also said they experienced debilitating pain after eye surgery.
“It ruined his life, and it also left a lot of people around him suffering,” Paul’s father, Gene Fitzpatrick, told CTVN in November.
Unlike Detroit Fox News meteorologist, Jessica Starr, who had Lasik eye surgery, Fitzpatrick opted for the PRK procedure to help correct his vision.
“He researched it and he made sure that he was going to the best place. He felt the PRK was safer because there was less cornea used.” Paul’s mother, Christine Fitzpatrick said.
After the surgery, Paul began having excruciating migraines, followed by “needles in his eyes” pain that prompted him to travel overseas to the U.K. for additional PRK treatment.
“The burning pain in his eyes, the needles in his eyes, that was how he described the pain,” Gene Fitzpatrick explained.
Recent #research suggests that contact lenses, refractive surgery (such as LASIK), are also #risk factors for chronic dry#dryeye. #Allergies can also contribute to eye dryness, causing additional eye discomforts such as itchiness, redness, swelling and wateriness. #optometry pic.twitter.com/upvs3qBzGD
— DryEyeCoach® (@dryeyecoach) December 13, 2018
Paul’s family explained that no amount of treatment worked and as soon as pain medication wore off, he was in extreme pain again, and spent most of his time at home, with his eyes closed. He left a note behind after took his own life.
“I cannot experience any type of pleasure anymore. Just the pain of burning eyes inside my head and throughout myself… Since 1996 Pain, pain and more pain, please forgive me for not being strong enough to cope. The past few months have been unbearable.”
The New York Times reports that although the majority of people who have Lasik eye surgery recover and go on to lead normal lives with better vision, others aren’t as lucky.
In 2008, numerous people, along with families of those who took their lives following laser surgery, expressed during a meeting with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that after receiving Lasik surgery, the extreme pain and impaired vision caused them to miss work and miss out on life events, leading to chronic depression, social isolation, and in some instances, suicide.
Colin Dorrian’s family attended the FDA meeting on his behalf, after he committed suicide following Lasik eye surgery. Dorian, 28, of Pennsylvania, was a patent attorney and aspiring medical student when he took his own life in 2007, years after the surgery. His father, Gerald, said his son left a note behind stated he would not “continue facing this horror” after living with pain and complications in the years following the surgery.
“If I cannot get my eyes fixed, I’m going to kill myself,” Colin reportedly wrote in a note that authorities found on his body. “I just cannot accept the fact that I’m supposed to live like this…I have other problems like most people do. But this is something else,” he wrote. “As soon as my eyes went bad, I fell into a deeper depression than I had ever experienced, and I never really came out of it.”
In another instance, Martha Walton, of North Carolina, stated she developed chronic, extreme pain due to eye dryness after the surgery. The pain was so intense that Walton attempted to take her own life.
“I was in so much pain. Twenty-four hours a day there was no escape. The only relief I could think of was to end my life. At least the pain would be over.”
Experts said that not all people should get Lasik eye surgery. People are typically advised against if certain pre-existing problems or other factors exist. Colin was advised he was not a good candidate, according to his family, but went through with the surgery regardless. According to Lasik MD Vision, people under the age of 18 and over the age of 40 may not be good candidates. Other people who may not be good candidate Lasik eye surgery can include:
- Those with “dry eye syndrome”
- Pregnant women
- People with diabetes, autoimmune disease, or collagen vascular disease
- People with other forms of eye problems, such as myopia or hyperopia
- Those with a history of depression
- Unstable vision caused by medication
Some Laser eye surgeons, including Dr. Steven C. Schallhorn, don’t feel eye surgery is what causes depression. Scallhorn, former former head of the Navy Refractive Surgery Center in San Diego, indicated that people who have depression following the procedure are typically “psychologically troubled” prior to surgery.
“There’s no cause and effect,” Scallhorn told the Seattle Times.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, meteorologist Jessica Starr, a Michigan native, committed suicide, leaving behind a loving family and shocked colleagues. Before her death, Starr had Lasik SMILE eye surgery, and often spoke publicly on how she continuously struggled with dry eyes afterward, which caused her to miss work for weeks at the Detroit FOX station.
“Yesterday was a struggle for me. I really wanted to come back but need more time to recover. Please keep me in your thoughts during this challenging time,” Starr tweeted in November.
Last night we were informed of the heartbreaking news that our friend and colleague, meteorologist Jessica Starr took her life. All of us here are in shock and cannot believe such a wonderful, bright and intelligent individual will no longer be with us. https://t.co/hK31DaPwp0
— FOX 2 Detroit (@FOX2News) December 13, 2018
Starr had the surgery in October and returned to work for one day in November, but she apparently needed more time to recover.
The meteorologist also had issues with hate emails and letters after the birth of her youngest child in 2015. According to the station, Starr addressed the public concerning nasty comments regarding her weight gain during pregnancy.
“We’re in the public eye, and you have to have a thick skin to be in the media. That’s just part of it, and I’m okay with that. You can not like the hair today; we’re used to that. You can not like the makeup, the outfit, that’s fine. Doesn’t bother me….But, I got a hand-written letter saying that it looks like I’m about to deliver an elephant, and, ‘Isn’t it about time you start your [maternity] leave?’ And I just think that’s crossing the line.”
Meanwhile, Paul’s parents told CTV News that they hoped by coming forward, others would do extensive research before opting for laser eye surgery.
“I think these stories are what helps people understand what the potential consequences are of elective surgeries,” Paul’s brother, Kevin, told the outlet. “Having known what Paul has gone through, he would expect us to tell his story.”
If you are having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for free and confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 800-273-8255, or text 741-741.
[Feature Photo: Jessica Starr/Facebook, Twitter]