Getting eye surgery in style Businessman from Cyprus has surgery at UM.

March 11, 1991|By Sue Miller | Sue Miller,Evening Sun Staff

When Andreas Rossos had his cataract removed, he was operated on by a Russian surgeon on a hospital ship that was staffed by 300 eye specialists and moored off his native Cyprus.

But when the 66-year-old tourism industry tycoon developed chronic retinal problems that threatened his sight, he headed straight for America and Baltimore.

Here he would get the best treatment, he was assured. That assurance came not only from surgeons in Moscow but also by a prominent urologist in Cyprus, Dr. George Pipis, and his wife, Stallo.

George Pipis happens to be a University of Maryland Medical School graduate, who trained under the highly respected Dr. John Young. And Stallo Pipis was ready to vouch for UM ophthalmologists who several years ago had been able to quell her nagging fears that her breast cancer had spread to her eyes.

Rossos, who was discharged Friday after a 15-day stay at the University of Maryland Medical Center, said he is convinced he made the right decision when -- after consulting experts in Zurich and in London and a flurry of trans-Atlantic faxes -- he put himself in the hands of Dr. Stanley S. Schocket, a UM retinal specialist.

"I can see Baltimore's skyscrapers now," Rossos said. "I know I'm going to be all right."

Schocket called Rossos' visual comeback "a miracle," considering the business executive has had five surgeries on his right eye.

"It's unusual to have five procedures and get such good results," Schocket said. "It's almost unheard of. Many people lose their eye when they develop a complicated retinal detachment."

Schocket predicted that within months Rossos' vision will be good enough so that he can drive again.

Rossos underwent two cataract procedures -- one due to a pupil complication, a retinal attachment in Moscow that did not hold up, and then in Baltimore, a retinal reattachment and the removal, due to his infection, of the vitreous or jelly-like substance in the eyeball between the retina and the lens. A protruding lower lid was corrected by Schocket, using glue in lieu of surgery.

Schocket also treated Rossos for a genetic condition in his left eye, a thinning out of the retina that comes with age. Both of Rossos' eyes will need monitoring the rest of his life, the surgeon said.

An admitted "incurable optimist" and a 16- to 20-hour-a-day workaholic, Rossos recalled that only a few months ago he was struggling to come to grips with the continuing problems of his right eye.

"In London, they thought I should wait a little longer before we did anything about my retinal detachment," he said. "In Zurich, the surgeon wanted to remove a cataract in my left eye first. But I could see that the vision in my right eye was deteriorating quickly."

That's when Rossos, who headed his first business firm when he was 17, made an important executive decision about his eyes.

Rossos is one of those atypical patients seen on rare occasions by hospitals. When he entered the UM medical center 15 days ago, he was worried because he was not covered by health insurance in this country. So, he whipped out his plastic just as if he were checking into a hotel.

"Bill me, I don't care what it costs," he said. The hospital took the credit card. Hospital officials were not really sure what his bill -- including the surgery fees -- would amount to, but Schocket estimated it might be about $25,000.

Rossos, who transacted business from his "luxury room" on the 13th and top floor of the downtown hospital while recovering, quickly pulled out his pocket calculator, noted quietly, "it would be less expensive in England," then dismissed the finding with a shrug of his shoulders.

He said he was concerned that reporting the costs "might scare other people away."

No one really questioned his ability to pay. Twenty companies make up the consortium he heads. He said 40 percent of the people who visit Cyprus use firms in the consortium.

While confined to the hospital, Rossos received roses from a friend in Switzerland, which he watered carefully each day, followed world events on television and in news magazines and welcomed visitors.

He will spend another week or so in Baltimore, making several final visits to Schocket.

"There's no need to rush," he said. "I want to take things slowly. I want to get the best result from all this."

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