No obstacle can keep a good doctor down. When Thomas Rene, OD ’98, experienced a serious car accident, he says he was “gone for a little while.” In his case, “a little while” meant a six-week induced coma, six weeks of rehab in Fargo, North Dakota, and six months of additional rehab in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In almost every sense of the word, he had to start over.
“I missed a lot of time with my kids,” says Dr. Rene. He learned to live in a wheelchair, but didn’t let the change in mobility slow his life down. Dr. Rene picked up his children every day from school. He worked 1-2 days a week at a clinic in Jamestown, but wanted to own a practice again.
Dr. Rene was helping out a practice in Fargo, which he recently purchased and renamed Eye2Eye Vision. He became owner on April 11, 2017. It’s a small practice, employing just 4 people. “My staff stuck with me and were a big part of the transition,” says Dr. Rene.
The future is looking bright, with a new partner joining the practice this summer. Dr. Rene is golfing, grilling, and spending time with family, just like always. Here is a Close Up look at his life in Fargo:
“The first thing I do, it’s kind of funny. We have flavored coffee. I’ll say, ‘How is everyone?’ and somebody- usually Dyan or Ellyn- will answer, ‘Oh, it’s vanilla hazelnut today!’ Everyone meets, has a cup of coffee, and we talk out the day.”
“Emily is our optician and tech. She always calls me ‘Boss,’ and I always give her a hard time. ‘Do you ever not smile?’ She’s really bubbly, fun, good with patients… they love working with her.”
“We have an optomap. It takes a picture of the back of the eye- the retina, and the optic nerve. With every one of my patients, I give an anatomy lesson, per se, just to give them an idea of what I’m looking at.”
“This patient owns a hair and beauty salon in West Fargo. She hadn’t been for an eye exam in a long time. She kept saying, ‘I’ll probably need something, I’ll probably need something.’ She has close to 20/20 vision, but tried on some glasses as an optional prescription for driving.”
“I have a Diet Coke and M&M’s. That’s about my lunch. Usually, I do paperwork. Acquiring a practice, I’ve got insurance plans I’m signing up for, advertising, statements, prices, frame lines… I clean. I arrange furniture. I’m going through drawers throwing away things I don’t need.”
“We bought a bunch of brand new pens. Most businesses usually put flowers on them or something, but [Ellyn] thought it was fitting to craft something for an eye place.”
“My daughter is a sophomore at North Dakota State University. My son is a sophomore at West Fargo Sheyenne High School. I also have a stepdaughter who lives in Minneapolis with her husband, and a stepson who works in Fargo. We live on a pond. We just really enjoy spending time back there.”
“I had three grills last year, but my wife told me I should probably think of just having two. I just love to do it. I like the taste of the food, enjoy being outdoors… just sitting out there, it’s nice and peaceful.”
“That’s my business partner and his wife. His father was the one I worked for in Jamestown. His wife is an optometrist, also. She has a really good job. They have a little girl. They liked what they had, so they decided they were going to stay in Fargo.”
“I use a golf cart I can stand up on. My golf clubs stand up on the side. I get strapped in with knee support and chest support, and then I stand up and swing the club using my arms only. I’ve used it to shovel in the winter. I’ve used a push mower on it. My wife’s still trying to figure out how I can wash the windows.”
“We built that house. I designed it all myself. My wife, Teresa, has been really, really supportive of me, starting this practice. She just wants me to succeed. She’ll say, ‘I don’t care how late you work. Don’t worry about the house stuff.’ She is my rock!!”