Text Size: Small Text Medium Text Large Text
Contrast: Standard Contrast High Contrast

We Bring Hope

Inspiring Stories of Patients Who Have Overcome Vision Challenges

Two Year Old Girl Receives Gift of Sight

Jasmin Before Surgery
Jasmin prior to surgery.
Jasmin After Surgery
Jasmin after DSEK procedure.

The youngest child to receive a DSEK surgery

2009 - The Desai family found it difficult to contemplate their young toddler going through any kind of surgery.  But eye surgery was really important because they wanted their daughter, Jasmin, to have the best possible chance for her visual system to develop as normally as could be.

In the words of Zankhana Desai, her mom, “Her quality of life was terrible prior to the surgery. Every day was a challenge because she was really light sensitive to her world. This meant that she required keeping the curtains closed and keeping her in the dark. Her car rides were terrible as well. She needed to be covered with a blanket just to survive even a short ride, and, unlike most children, playing outside was out of the question for Jasmin, so she would play in the garage where the light was controlled.”  It was not the kind of life her parents had envisioned for their young daughter.

Finding Dr. Price

Mr. and Mrs. Desai were referred to Dr. Price by their Pediatric Ophthalmologist, Dr. Michael Kipp from the Wheaton Eye Clinic in Wheaton, IL. They had been seeing Dr. Kipp for Jasmin’s exam’s (done under general anesthesia) and when he determined that she needed eye surgery, he referred them to Dr. Price. He knew of Dr. Price’s work with DSAEK/DSEK and informed the family that Dr. Price was one of the original surgeons to introduce the European procedure in the U.S.  They decided to make an appointment to meet Dr. Price in order to get his opinion and to learn if he could perform the procedure on a child as young as 2 years old.

Parental Expectations

Mr. and Mrs. Desai had high expectations since Dr. Price had performed so many of these DSEK surgeries in the past.  They were confident that he was very comfortable performing the procedure even though Jasmin would be his first 2 year old patient. Their only concern was that they wouldn’t know the outcome of the surgery until it was completed, so they knew they had to be patient. 

New Surgery Brings Improvements

Jasmin’s first surgery was performed on her right eye in September followed by a second surgery on February 10, 2009.  How do you keep a two year old quiet enough after surgery so that she does not jeopardize the eye’s healing?  Mrs. Desai lay down with Jasmin to help her lie still and also used the captivating power of DVDs played on a portable DVD player to keep Jasmin occupied, and it worked well.

Since the surgery, says her father, Achyut Desai, the quality of her life has “…improved dramatically. She is not nearly as photosensitive as she used to be.  I was really happy with Dr. Price and his group.  He’s a great guy and very professional.”

New Zealand Vet Attends Dr. Price’s DSEK Course

Dog wearing Glasses

Dogs’ eyes and human eyes are remarkably similar and distinctly different

2008 - Ever worry about your dog’s eyesight and wonder what could be done in the event that your family pet became blind or had diminished sight?  There’s good news: a lot can be done today to help restore or preserve your family pet’s sight.  We learned that recently when Dr. Nick Whelan, BVSc, attended Dr. Price’s DSEK Advanced Cornea Course.

Veterinary medicine has specialties just like human medicine. Dr. Whelan specializes in ophthalmology, performing surgeries on dogs’ eyes and treating them for various conditions that threaten eyesight and diminish their quality of life.  He is from New Zealand by way of Guelph, Canada where he teaches courses on ophthalmology to veterinary medicine students at the Ontario Veterinary College. 

The first veterinarian to ever attend the DSEK course, Dr. Whelan was motivated by his long-standing interest in finding a better way of treating corneal edema (swelling caused by accumulation of fluid in the cornea) than using sodium chloride eye drops.  Even though corneal surgery is more expensive than eye drops, it looks like it could provide a longer lasting solution and is gradually becoming more attractive as an alternative. 

Dogs’ Eyes and Human Eyes
The eyes of dogs are similar to human eyes and are affected by some of the same conditions that affect humans, such as cataracts and glaucoma.  The procedures and equipment used to remove cataracts in dogs, for example, are the same as those used in humans.  A small incision is made in the eye and a hole is made in the capsular bag that holds the lens.  After the entire lens is removed, an artificial replacement lens, called an intraocular lens, or IOL, is placed in the bag and the eye is closed with small sutures.

Human eyes and dogs’ eyes are also different; dogs’ eyes are more prone to inflammation after intraocular surgery and in this species glaucoma presents quite differently, with a very sudden increase in intraocular pressure rather than the slow insidious rise seen in people. Overall, ophthalmology for dogs has become as high tech as it is for humans; diagnosis commonly includes the use of advanced imaging tools such as ocular ultrasound, MRIs and CT scans, and treatments include placement of glaucoma shunts and retinal reattachment and laser surgery.

Reassuringly, Dr. Whelan emphasizes how resilient dogs are and points out that “even blind dogs do just fine; they can be trained to respond to verbal commands and most adapt to their environment and live a full life without sight.”  He recommends a book, Living with Blind Dogs, by Caroline Levin, R.N. for inspiration and information.

Glad that he came to Indianapolis to take the course with Dr. Price, he cites takeaways that include learning about and seeing the DSEK technique; learning what equipment is needed for use in veterinary medicine; and being encouraged to evaluate the feasibility of this surgery in dogs.  He also came away inspired by Dr. Price, and said, “I am excited to see what he is going to do next!”

Worldwide Shortage of Corneal Tissue Not Yet Affecting U.S.

Jim Butler

Local businessman funds study that offers promising new supply of corneal tissue

2007 - Three major forces have shaped Jim Butler’s interesting career and life.  One was his earliest career in metallurgical engineering at U.S. Steel which educated him to the latest advances in aircraft guided missiles and rockets and launched a lifelong interest in leading edge companies.  Then in 1952 he was thrown from a car in an accident and spent four months in the hospital recuperating. The experience taught him about the field of medicine, the body’s capacity for resilience and the gift that comes from helping others triumph over challenges. It changed his thinking forever.  Finally, he had the wisdom and good fortune to marry his wife, Charlotte, who has been his life partner for 52 years.  She not only was a wonderful mother to their three daughters, but she also encouraged Jim to pursue a wide range of educational and career experiences.

Jim suffers from macular degeneration and has chosen to invest in companies working for vision research because he would “like to see something done in eye diseases, even if it’s not in my lifetime.”  He met Merv Yoder, M.D., Ph.D., a world-renowned expert in adult stem call research, whose lab is located in the Wells Center on the campus of I.U. Medical School.  Dr. Yoder told him about a joint cell culturing project with the Cornea Research Foundation of America which had been in the planning stage for two years.  After meeting Drs. Marianne and Frank Price, and seeing firsthand how their work was impacting doctors and patients from around the world, Jim decided to get involved. 

His investment of $45,000 enables the cell culturing project to move forward.  The collaboration will develop cell sheets suitable for the small incision corneal transplants that Dr. Price has helped pioneer.  If successful, the sheets will help alleviate the worldwide shortage of donor corneas and provide superior, longer-lasting tissue for corneal transplant patients.  While the shortage is not yet affecting the United States, many other parts of the world have waiting lists for corneal transplants because there are not enough donor corneas available.

Jim is an avid golfer which has led to his belief that the best things in life come with equal commitments to “God, garden and golf!”  More seriously, he avows, “I think we have to continue our education and be interested in helping others to make our own lives worthwhile.  I hope that my financial support will give people with eye problems a chance to restore the precious gift of sight.”

Donating Stocks Enables Couple to Express Gratitude

Kentucky couple sees stock donation as a “win-win”

2007 - Roger Reichmuth aspired to be a band director when he was young, and life has provided the fulfillment of that goal and much more.  A musician and an educator, Roger’s entire career was spent working with young people from middle school to college age in his roles as a music education teacher, choir director, marching band director.  His career at Murray State University included serving as assistant dean and then interim dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication for a period of 7 years.  Eventually, he served as Development Director of a five year capital campaign at the University before he retired 5 years ago.

Since retirement, Roger has spent considerable time volunteering with the local Rotary Club, his church and serving on various committees of charitable groups in his community.  He also plays saxophone in a jazz quartet called the Grumpy Old Men.  During the last few years, his eyesight began to fail, and he noticed that he was unable to read music clearly.  Being an optimist, Roger told himself that it was a good way for him to be even more improvisational in his jazz, but down deep he wished he still had the choice of looking at the music while playing.

A Fortuitous Chance Encounter
As often happens, life presented him with a “chance” encounter three years ago that would help lead him to Dr. Price in Indianapolis.  He was on vacation with his wife, Cindy, in California when one night in their hotel they met a group of Indianapolis doctors and nurses who were traveling with NASCAR.  The conversation got around to his vision challenges and they recommended that he come to “Indy” to see Dr. Francis Price, Jr. for a consultation and a possible corneal transplant.  He came home, and mentioned it to his own ophthalmologist in Kentucky.  A few months later, his doctor attended the Advanced Cornea Course taught by Dr. Price.  When Roger’s doctor came back, and it was time for Roger to consider a transplant, he referred him to Dr. Price.  Roger had a DSEK transplant on August 22, 2007.

He and Cindy were so delighted with the surgery, the results and his quick recovery that they decided to make a donation to the Foundation in order to support ongoing research so that others could regain their sight.  Roger explained, “I did not expect such a rapid recovery of eyesight – in one day! I am so grateful for the research, the caregivers and the person who chose to donate their corneas who helped make it all possible.”

Special Stocks Are a Special Donation
Roger’s work as a Development Director had educated him to the “win-win” that a stock donation offers because there are no capital gains taxes for the individual or for the recipient charity.  Roger and Cindy chose to donate stocks that had originally belonged to his mother who had passed them on to Roger; they were certain she would approve of their gift.

“We have all been given a lot and we should give back.  Volunteering is one way, but don’t forget the importance of research,” he continued, “Using our time, talent and money to make the world a better place in the time that we have been given is a wonderful way to live.”