Jessica Starr, 35, died on Wednesday by hanging herself
A beloved Fox TV meteorologist and mother-of-two who killed herself on Wednesday is one of 11 people to have taken their own life after undergoing Lasik eye surgery.
Jessica Starr, 35, was found dead on Wednesday night. She was married with two young children and had a successful television career.
Questions remain over why she killed herself but her final public remarks were to tell fans that she was still struggling to recover from Lasik SMILE eye surgery.
She underwent the widely performed procedure in October to correct her nearsightedness so that she could stop wearing contact lenses.
Ordinarily, patients take a few days to regain their sight but Starr complained on November 13, a month after her procedure, that she was still having trouble.
On Friday, the Oakland County Medical Examiner confirmed her manner of death.
A spokesman told Radar Online the coroner found a ‘gruesome scene’. It is not yet known what time she was found, where she died or who found her.
An alarming number of Lasik patients suffer from agonizing, chronic pain following the surgery, according to Paula Cofer, the founder of a support group called Lasik Complications, which strives to educate potential patients about the risks of the surgery.
In October, Canadian father-of-two Paul Fitzpatrick killed himself and blamed 20 years of post-Lasik pain in his suicide note.
It remains unclear if Starr took her life as a direct result of complications from the surgery.
Fitzpatrick was unequivocally clear when he died. He wrote a suicide note where he said he had been suffering excruciating pain for two decades years.
Paula Cofer, who underwent Lasik in 2000 and has suffered from severe dry eyes as a result, told CTV that at least nine others she knew of had committed suicide after having the procedure.
Other doctors have specifically warned against the procedure.
Among them is Dr. Edward Boshnick of the Global Vision Rehabilitation Center who writes on his website: ‘Over the years I’ve had the misfortune of examining hundreds of patients who have lost quality vision and suffered severe depression as a result of lasik surgery.
‘Two of these patients were so depressed by their post-surgical vision loss that they attempted suicide. In fact, there are several documented cases of post-lasik suicides.
‘My feeling is that lasik surgery and other refractive surgical procedures exist solely to enrich doctors and the corporations that manufacture the laser equipment and not to benefit mankind.’
Starr was a well-known television meteorologist who worked for Fox 2 in Detroit. She had returned briefly to work in November for one day but had to take time off again afterwards because she was still struggling from the surgery
Starr, 35, worked for WJBK Fox 2 since 2011. On Thursday morning, her colleagues cried as they announced her death on the air.
Starr, whose married name was Rose, left behind two young children and her husband of eight years, Daniel.
Her devastated colleagues at the WJBK news station, where she had worked since 2011, announced her death on Thursday morning.
‘Last night we were informed of the heartbreaking news that our friend and colleague, meteorologist Jessica Starr took her life,’ the station said in a statement.
‘All of us here at FOX 2 are in deep shock and cannot believe that such a wonderful, bright and intelligent individual will no longer be with us.
‘Her family and friends will be in our thoughts and prayers in the coming days as we all deal with our grief.’
Over the last month, Starr said she had been facing ‘challenging times’ since undergoing Lasik SMILE eye surgery.
The procedure was approved by the FDA in 2016 and is carried out by doctors across the country.
Starr’s colleagues announced her death tearfully on Thursday morning
Starr and her husband Daniel have two young children. They are shown with their kids, in a photograph she shared with Fox fans on Facebook, and her parents
Starr and her husband Daniel had been married for eight years before she took her own life
It involves the surgeon using a femtosecond laser to create a small piece of tissue within the cornea then, using the same laser, they make an arc-shaped incision on the cornea’s surface to extract the tissue through and discard it.
It changes the shape of the cornea and corrects nearsightedness. Ordinarily, patients’ incision heals within a few days, without stitches, and their vision is quickly improved.
It is unclear where Starr underwent her procedure in Detroit.
She had the surgery in October and took four weeks off then returned to work for one day in November but it was too much of a struggle for her and she was back at home the next day.
In a video uploaded to her Facebook page on November 13, the day she went back to work, she was downcast as she asked viewers for their prayers and well wishes.
‘I am struggling a little bit so I need all the prayers and well wishes. This is a hard go.
‘If you have any tips I’d appreciate it, I’m trying to stay strong and get through this recovery.
‘Thanks again for all the wishes, I’m excited to be back I just want to get my vision back so I can keep you guys smiling,’ she said.
The following day, she posted that she had not yet been ready to go back to work. Yesterday was a struggle for me. I really wanted to come back but I need more time to recover.
‘Please keep me in your thoughts during this challenging time. Will keep you updated,’ she said. It was her final post.
In a video she uploaded on November 13, Starr said she was having a ‘hard go’ recovering from the surgery and asked fans on Facebook for their prayers and well wishes
Just weeks earlier 56-year-old Fitzpatrick killed himself under similar circumstances 20 years after undergoing laser eye surgery in 1996.
Since then, the father-of-two suffered headaches and described feeling needles in his eyes as well as an unbearable dry and burning sensation.
He left a suicide note when he took his life in October, which described the pain he felt that pushed him to death.
‘I cannot experience any type of pleasure anymore,’ Paul wrote. ‘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.’
His parents Gene and Christine Fitzpatrick, of Ontario, spoke to CTV about their son’s condition.
‘It ruined his life, and it also left a lot of people around him suffering,’ Gene said.
‘He had always worn glasses, maybe since he was about 12 and he just thought it would be great not to have them,’ Christine said. ‘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.’
PKR, or photorefractive keratectomy, was the first form of laser eye surgery and typically safe.
However, Paul’s family said he began suffering from migraines and dry eyes shortly after his surgery.
Canadian doctors were unable to diagnose what was causing his pain, so the self-made-millionaire traveled to Europe and the US to find a specialist who could help.
He began treatments and underwent more surgeries which only made the pain worse.
Paul’s family said in the months leading up to his death, the pain was so unbearable he would keep his eyes closed for most of the time, walking with a cane and planned to move in with his parents.
‘We didn’t know what to do for him,’ his mother told CTV. ‘We would recommend pain killers and he would take some. He wasn’t one to take pain killers much, but when they wore off he said the pain was worse so he’d keep his eyes closed most of the time.’
Now his family believe he suffered from a rare, yet severe condition known as corneal neuralgia.
Corneal neuralgia can cause nerve damage to the eye causing excruciating pain.
‘Had he been aware (of his condition)…he definitely would not have continued with subsequent surgeries,’ his brother Kevin Fitzpatrick said.
Paul’s case is the first-known suicide from laser eye surgery in Canada, according to CTV.
If you or anyone you know is struggling and needs confidential help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255 or visit their website here.
THE RISKS OF LASER EYE SURGERY
Of some 600,000 Americans that get laser eye surgery, or LASIK, only about one percent experience complications.
But for those who do, the effects can be devastating.
Complications can include:
- Vision loss
- Impaired vision
- Pain or burning
In 2017, the US Food and Drug Administration conducted a clinical trial to assess patient-satisfaction after LASIK.
About half of the patients in the trial developed burred or distorted vision that they had never experienced before surgery – even if their sight was technically ‘improved.’
They also found that patients were about half as likely to tell their doctors about developing complications after surgery as they were to admit to these issues in an online survey.
The American Refractive Surgery Council claims that LASIK has never been the ‘primary cause’ of someone’s post-operative blindness.
Back in 2008, the FDA held a hearing and heard testimony from patients who had suffered from blurred vision or burning eyes for years ever since surgery.
Families claimed their loved ones had lost their jobs and even been driven to suicide by the complications they developed after LASIK.
LASIK also requires the surgeon to cut a ‘flap’ in the front of the cornea and fold it back, which raises the risks of infection and, if the flap is not properly replaced, this can cause blurred or double-vision.
SMILE: THE NEWER, LESS-INVASIVE AND (SUPPOSEDLY) SAFER PROCEDURE
The newer SMILE (small incision lenticule extraction) procedure is supposed to minimize those risks because it requires a much smaller incision in the cornea.
Approved by the FDA in 2016, SMILE so far seems to carry lower risk of dry eyes after surgery.
Patients must be 22 years old, and the procedure is only intended to correct nearsightedness and astigmatism.
It still carries risks of:
- Haloed or glared vision
- Debris getting into the corneal incision area
- Needing ‘retreatment’ with a more invasive surgery
- Making vision worse
If there are complications during a SMILE procedure, surgeons may have to switch to the more invasive technique, or do another operation.
Recovery from SMILE is supposed to be shorter, lasting a few days as opposed to a month.
Nearly all patients recorded in FDA data have shown improvements from SMILE, but 10 percent said they had moderate or severe glare and six percent saw halos, though these mostly subsided after a year.
However, about 2.5 percent of patients experienced minor deterioration of these corrections after a year.
Sources: American Academy of Ophthalmology, AllAboutVision.com