We Pursue Eye Research
Fuchs’ dystrophy is a hereditary abnormality of the inner cell layer of the cornea known as the endothelium (Figure 1). The purpose of this layer is to pump fluid out of the cornea, keeping it thin and crystal clear. Figure 2 shows the regular arrangement of this thin cell layer in healthy eyes, while Figures 3 and 4 show how this cell layer becomes distorted as Fuchs’ dystrophy progresses with age.
Fuchs’ dystrophy exhibits dominant inheritance, which means that roughly half of an affected person’s offspring may inherit it. However, the degree to which the condition is expressed is variable, so some family members may be more severely affected than others. The Cornea Research Foundation is collaborating with researchers at Case Western Reserve University to determine the genetic basis of Fuchs’ dystrophy.
Fuchs’ dystrophy tends to show up later in life and symptoms are uncommon before the adult years. The initial findings in Fuchs’ dystrophy are corneal guttata, which appear as dark spots on the corneal endothelium. As the condition progresses the critical endothelial cells start to die off. The normal function of these cells is to pump water out of the cornea. As they decrease in number and fail to function properly, fluid builds up in the cornea causing it to swell and become cloudy.
Symptoms and Progression
If you have Fuchs’ dystrophy, one of the first signs may be that you begin to notice glare with headlights at night or in bright sunlight. As the Fuchs’ dystrophy progresses, your vision may become foggy or blurry in the morning and clear as the day progresses. This occurs because evaporation of fluid from the cornea is decreased while your eyes are closed during sleep, and accumulation of fluid in the cornea during the night results in corneal swelling. This early stage can be treated with a special salt solution or ointment to help pull the water out of your cornea. However, as the Fuchs’ dystrophy progresses, your vision will stay blurry longer during the day, and eventually your vision may not clear at all.
Corneal transplants for Fuchs’ dystrophy
A corneal transplant is necessary when vision is diminished sufficiently to hurt your quality of life or if blisters develop on the surface of the cornea and cause pain. The success rate of cornea transplants is very high for Fuchs’ dystrophy. Results from the Cornea Research Foundation transplant database have shown that 98% of full thickness grafts (penetrating keratoplasty) performed at Price Vision Group remained clear 5 years after surgery. These are among the best results reported in the medical literature.
Dr. Price has helped pioneer a new small incision transplant procedure known as endothelial keratoplasty (or EK for short, with specific variations named DSEK, DSAEK, DMEK and DMAEK). EK is now the preferred surgical treatment for Fuchs’ Dystrophy. In contrast to a traditional cornea transplant (Figure 5), which replaces the entire corneal thickness, EK spares the healthy portion of the patient’s cornea (Figure 6). Only the diseased inner cell layer is removed and replaced with healthy donor tissue. This is done through a small incision that may require a few sutures or no sutures at all.
Advantages of EK compared with a traditional full-thickness transplant are:
- the eye heals faster and stronger
- useful vision is recovered in a few weeks or months rather than years
- minimal activity restrictions or change glasses prescription is required
Dr. Price, the founder and president of the Cornea Research Foundation, was one of the early pioneers of the EK cornea-sparing transplant procedure and has performed over 1600 EK surgeries, more than any other doctor in the world.
Fuchs’ Dystrophy From A Patient’s Perspective
(excerpted from Celebration of Light, 2006)
Pat Cowan was wearing orange-feathered Halloween earrings and a brightly patterned Halloween sweater when we met for her interview in October. A spirited woman, she clearly likes to have fun, and to enjoy life to the fullest. For many years a legal secretary, Pat has transferred her passion for details into her work as a volunteer helping senior citizens make their way through a maze of healthcare and Medicare questions. Warm and witty, she has a perfect mate in her equally warm and witty husband, Lou, to whom she has been married for 50 years at the time of this writing.
I was six years old when I got my first pair of glasses and they were thick ones. I don’t remember much about grade school except that I did not want to be assigned a place in the “sight-saving” class. That seemed too drastic and I didn’t want to go there! So I told my mother that I just wasn’t going to go to school at all if that happened, and in the end, I got my way and entered a regular class instead.
Looking back, I can recall my eyes tiring easily and having many reading problems in school. I had a lot of difficulties with depth perception, too; I could hardly see my hands in front of my face. I also had continuing trouble seeing a ring of “circles” around lights, like red and green traffic lights, the sun, and the moon. I just thought everyone saw these objects the way I did. It also seemed that every time I got a new prescription for glasses, I would have to watch where I was going very carefully so I wouldn’t stumble and fall.
My mother had developed macular degeneration as she aged, and because of that I thought I should see an ophthalmologist for eye exams, instead of an optometrist. The doctor I chose assured me that I did not have the same condition as my mom; but he told me that I had extremely bad astigmatism and cataracts that were starting to form. From 1989 to 2002, my story is typical of what happens to many people with Fuchs’ Dystrophy. I went to a different ophthalmologist who did a test for dry eyes but never mentioned Fuchs’ to me. He advised the use of Preservation drops during the daytime and Preservation night ointment that helped. He never mentioned Muro.
I had several bouts with blisters but never understood what caused them. My doctor never addressed the condition with me, and he just kept insisting that I use the eye drops and the ointment. Whenever I called his office, it seemed as if I always got the same answer: there were no appointments open and I would have to wait until the next day. Then the next day would come and my eye would feel a bit better and, since it was always difficult to get time off work, I would decide not to keep the appointment.
Learning about My Condition
My eyes usually felt like I had sand in them and they often itched. I later found out that the itching was caused by allergies, something else that was never diagnosed or discussed with me. Finally, in sheer frustration with what felt like arrogance in my latest doctor combined with the lack of help I was getting, I decided to change doctors again. I found an optometrist I liked who was recommended by several friends; once again during the exam I was told that I did not have macular degeneration, but I did have cataracts and a lot of astigmatism.
When I had the next attack of blisters, I stopped in my optometrist’s office and he told me to wait because he wanted to examine my eyes. He gave me some numbing drops and an antibiotic. He told me that if I had any more trouble with my eyes, he was going to refer me to an ophthalmologist he recommended. Blisters, by the way, are miserable. It feels like you have a paper cut in your eye and you just can’t get comfortable no matter how often you blink or what you do.
I was growing tired of living with cataracts and I wanted to do something about them in order to enjoy life more. I decided to see the ophthalmologist who had been recommended; during the exam I was diagnosed with “Fuchs’ Dystrophy.” It was the first time I had ever heard the term. The doctor told me that he would not operate on my cataracts because he was afraid it would cause the Fuchs’ to accelerate. He advised me to use Muro ointment and that helped. He also told me that he did not think I was quite ready yet for a transplant. It was November of 2004.
I went home and got immediately on the Internet to find out all I could about Fuchs’. I read everything I could find on the topic, and I also joined Fuchs Friends, an online chat group and resource site (http://www.fuchsfriends.com) for people with the condition.
A Disappointment Leads To Hope
I was sure the time had come for me to visit a corneal specialist and, with great hopes, I had my first appointment in January 2005. I explained about the glare, the circles around the lights, the feeling of sand in my eyes, not being able to drive at night, not being able to focus in the morning and needing increasingly stronger magnifying glasses to read. The doctor advised against me having a corneal transplant because he thought I was not “ready” for it.
I was disappointed but I had done my homework and so I asked him about DLEK. He said “no” to that, too, because he felt it was “too new a procedure.” He mentioned that a physician friend of his was working on a three-year study at the Mayo Clinic and when it was completed, he thought by then he would begin performing DLEK on patients. He had also just opened a new laser clinic and it seemed to me that he was more interested in that than in helping me. Neither Lou nor I were positively impressed with him.
Looking back, this disappointment was actually a good thing because it helped me become really clear about my feelings: I knew I did not want to wait three more years before doing something to improve my vision. I was ready for a change! The people in Fuchs Friends had already told me that Dr. Price was the doctor I should be seeing. I decided to call him for a consultation and it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. My appointment was in March 2005.
My first impression of Dr. Price and his team was “They are fantastic!” Everybody was just so friendly and made me and Lou feel really comfortable. They were very understanding and I just loved all of them. I knew I was in the right place and I felt great confidence in Dr. Price. I had never been given tests for glare or corneal thickness but they were part of the work-up. His staff also did several other tests that were new to me. The whole atmosphere in the clinic was so supportive, up-to-date and professional. I learned a lot as I went through the process; it opened new doors of information for me and increased my sense of positive anticipation and eagerness to have the surgery. Finally, after all the doctors I had seen, I had found the right one!
On April 27, I had the first surgery on my right eye to remove the cataracts and have a cornea replacement. The surgery was a breeze and I had no pain whatsoever. Dr. Price always makes me feel calm because he is so matter of fact and calm himself. Dr. Ali, his assistant that day, was great, too, and my husband even took pictures of both of them. Lou later told me that it was like a coffee klatch in the waiting room while I was having surgery! Other family members were waiting for their loved ones, and everyone talked with one another and shared their feelings and their stories. We were among kindred spirits.
Let me briefly explain what the surgery was like and what happened. Many people are afraid of eye surgery but it is actually a comfortable procedure and nothing to be afraid of. I was given several drops in my eye and then told to wait for awhile before taking me back to the operating suite. In the prep room, I got into a surgical gown and cap and got an IV of a relaxing medication. I went into “la la” land. Lou was with me right up until they administered the anesthetic. I had an injection to freeze the eye and soon after, I got pretty sleepy. I had a softening patch put over the eye. They woke me as they took me into the surgery room, and I was semi-awake from there on. I could hear Dr. Price’s voice and I was aware of what was going on around me. I did not feel a thing; no pain and no discomfort at all. At the end of the surgery, Dr. Price put a contact lens in my eye and then I was wheeled into the recovery room.
We stayed overnight at a local hotel nearby and I had to lie on my back all night. I had an early appointment the next day; Dr. Price examined my eye to make sure the air bubble pressing against the cornea was still in place. We came back the second day for another exam and I was amazed at how well I could see! Three big E’s on the visual acuity chart and the whole first line! He released me to go home and wanted me to have follow-up with my optometrist.
I rested quite a bit that first week after surgery, and I also had my first check-up with my doctor. He monitored my eye drops and started me on PredForte and then removed the contact lens two weeks after surgery. After four months, my vision was 20/25, the best I have ever seen in that eye since I can’t remember when.
More on the Horizon
I am still not done; I have another surgery scheduled for my left eye for cornea transplant and cataract removal. I can hardly wait to see the results. I have told everyone I know that I think Dr. Price is a miracle worker. I would recommend his practice, Price Vision Group, to anyone and everyone that needs help. Everyone on his staff is so caring and thorough in their examinations. You are in good hands with them.
I am at an age to be considered a senior citizen now and I want to travel with my husband, Lou. By the way, I have decided to say that I am only 29 years old. After all, age is only a number by which to judge my experience! I celebrate each year as another “anniversary” of turning 29! (Jack Benny celebrated being 39, but I think women ought to be allowed to be a bit younger.)
When Lou and I go on trips now, I can see all the colors of the trees and the sky. I can see the faces of my grandkids clearly. I can thread a needle again and have taken up my sewing after not being able to do it for ten years. I can focus my eyes and read the daily newspaper again; it has been so hard to see for such a long time that it’s just great to be alive!
The most important lesson I have learned from regaining my sight is the appreciation of the gift of vision. It has enabled me to volunteer again for something I love: being able to help senior citizens. I volunteer for seniors in Illinois helping them with their medical bills and insurance questions. Some of these people are surviving on such a small amount of money that it makes you wonder how they can live. I am so glad I can offer help that makes a practical difference in their lives. Without my sight, I would not be able to do this work.
Advice to Readers
My advice is if you have eye troubles, go for help now! The longer you wait, the worse it will get. Do it now! It will feel like opening a door into a new world. Any discomfort you have will soon be gone and there’s no sense in waiting. If you get ten years of improved vision from it, isn’t that worth it?
I would also say “reach out” to other people for support. For those readers who have Fuchs’ Dystrophy, there’s a great group called “Fuchs’ Friends.” This is one of the nicest groups of people you could ever know. For example, one woman I met there had breast cancer last year and she said later that she could not have gotten through it if it hadn’t been for the support of the people in Fuchs’ Friends. We are a great collection of people and I would like to directly say “thank you” to everyone in the organization. Without your website and your knowledge, love and loyal support, I would never have found Dr. Price, my miracle worker.
I’ll close by saying that my inspiration in life comes from God, Lou, my great husband of 50 years, my two dear daughters and five beautiful grandchildren, my caring family and friends and my deep love for the beauty of nature. My philosophy of life is this: if something can be done, I want to do it. I know that Dr. Price is the same way and that’s why he keeps finding new solutions and is able to help so many people.
Bullous keratopathy is a condition in which the cornea becomes permanently swollen. This occurs because the inner layer of the cornea, the endothelium, has been damaged and is not pumping fluid properly (Figure 1). The cause of the endothelial damage could be from trauma, glaucoma, or inflammation after eye surgery. Endothelial keratoplasty (EK) is the recommended treatment for bullous keratopathy.
Certain intraocular lens implant designs can damage the cornea. Sometimes it is helpful to replace a lens implant with a newer design when a transplant is being performed to prevent damage to the transplant.
The causes of bullous keratopathy have changed over the last two decades. Twenty years ago, the most common reason for bullous keratopathy was complications from cataract surgery with or without problems from intra-ocular lenses. Over the past 20 years, cataract surgery techniques and intra-ocular lens implants have improved dramatically. Now, corneal problems are less common after cataract surgery. Currently, one of the most common reasons for developing bullous keratopathy, or secondary corneal decompensation, is from problems related to glaucoma surgery.
Glaucoma surgery can lead to corneal failure because of direct damage to the cornea either during surgery or in the immediate post-operative period. Often this is from the cornea coming into contact with the other structures in the eye like the iris or lens. Another association between glaucoma and bullous keratopathy is that sometimes the cornea can decompensate after a laser treatment is performed to treat acute angle closure glaucoma. In acute angle closure glaucoma, the iris blocks the normal flow of eye fluid from the area where it is produced behind the iris to the trabecular meshwork in front of the iris, where the fluid drains from the eye. The treatment for acute angle closure glaucoma is to make a hole in the peripheral iris so the fluid can bypass the areas of blockage. Typically if a drainage hole is made in the iris before acute angle closure happens, it does not cause corneal problems. However, when the drainage hole (called an iridotomy) has to be made after the eye is inflamed from the onset of acute angle closure, there can be secondary decompensation of the cornea either immediately or even years later. This is particularly a problem in Asian eyes, where the space between the iris and cornea is often smaller. Being farsighted (hyperopia) can be a risk factor for this type of glaucoma.
The Cornea Research Foundation is actively involved in evaluating a new corneal strengthening treatment that may help patients with keratoconus.
Check out our new Keratoconus e-Brochure!
What is Keratoconus?
Keratoconus (KCN) is a disease characterized by thinning and protrusion of the cornea, resulting in an irregular, conical shape (Figure 1 and 2). Irregular astigmatism occurs as the keratoconus progresses, and results in blurred vision, which can be impossible to correct with spectacles. Usually keratoconus occurs in both eyes, and involves the central cornea with the apex of the cone just below the visual axis.
Approximately 100 to 200 of every 100,000 people are afflicted with keratoconus and it occurs in all races and usually affects both eyes. Sensitive techniques, such as corneal topography, often detect keratoconus in both eyes in cases thought to be only in one eye based on physical examination and refraction. Keratoconus often starts in puberty and slowly progresses over decades and then stabilizes. In progressive cases, severe irregular astigmatism and scarring may require a corneal transplant in order to restore useful vision to the eye.
Heredity of keratoconus has not been clearly established. While there are families in which multiple persons are affected, factors such as allergic conditions and contact lens use make analysis difficult. As a general rule, chances of a blood relative developing clinical keratoconus are less than 10%.
Conditions associated with keratoconus include atopic disease (atopic or allergic dermatitis, allergic rhinitis, asthma), Down’s syndrome (5-8 % of Down’s patients), and connective tissue disorders (Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and osteogenesis imperfecta). Chronic eye rubbing is associated with keratoconus and may accelerate progression. Eye rubbing may be the common link between keratoconus and allergies, atopic disease and Down’s syndrome.
Findings in keratoconus include protrusion of the cornea, striae or wrinkles of the posterior cornea (Vogt’s striae), superficial scarring of the anterior cornea, and staining of the corneal surface epithelium with iron (Fleischer ring). Corneal hydrops, or marked swelling of the cornea in keratoconus, may occur when severe bulging of the cornea results in a tear in the deepest layer of the cornea (Descemet’s membrane), allowing fluid from the inside of the eye to permeate the cornea. Severe haziness, often accompanied by blister like lesions of the superficial cornea, results in impairment of vision and discomfort.
Treatment of keratoconus can be divided into three tiers. For patients whose vision can be adequately corrected with spectacles, no other treatment is necessary. However, these patients should be very careful to never rub their eyes, because that could make the keratoconus worse. Control of systemic allergies in keratoconus patients with antihistamines may help achieve this goal by decreasing itching of the eye and eyelids. However, systemic antihistamines cause the eyes to become drier with less tear production, which can actually cause an increase in eye itching with allergies. Therefore we recommend using eye drops to control itching, instead of systemic antihistamines, in keratoconus patients.
Corneal Cross-linking for Keratoconus
The Cornea Research Foundation of America is conducting studies of corneal collagen cross-linking (CXL) in subjects with progressive keratoconus or with corneal ectasia after prior refractive surgery. These studies are designed to assess the safety and effectiveness of CXL for halting or slowing the progression of these conditions.
Corneal collagen cross-linking involves administering riboflavin (vitamin B2) eye drops and UVA light in carefully selected parameters that strengthen the front layers of the cornea (clear covering of the eye) and avoid damage to the back part of the eye. The riboflavin and UVA light source that are used for CXL are investigational in the United States. If you qualify and decide to participate in the study, you will receive the riboflavin and UVA light at no cost. However, you will need to pay a fee for the examinations. Most insurance companies will not cover the cost, because the procedure is investigational in the USA.
Eligible For The Study?
You may be eligible if you have the following in one or both of your eyes or are:
10 years of age or older
Have been diagnosed with progressive keratoconus or have had previous vision correction surgery and now have corneal ectasia
Corneal thickness greater than 300 microns at the thinnest point
If you are female, you cannot be pregnant
Can leave your contact lens out for at least 6 weeks in the eye to be treated
If you have keratoconus, it must have gotten worse in the last three years based on your previous eye exams. You will need to contact your eye doctor or allow us to contact your eye doctor to get your eye exam records for your vision measurements, corneal maps (topographies) and contact lens or glasses prescriptions
Contact Lenses for Keratoconus
When irregular astigmatism makes clear vision with spectacles impossible, rigid gas permeable (RGP) contact lenses are the next stage of therapy. The rigid lens masks the underlying irregular cornea and functions as the new refractive surface of the eye, with the tear film filling in the space between the back of the contact lens and the front of the eye. However, in keratoconus the steep cone and irregular shape of the cornea makes fitting these lenses challenging, and the experience and expertise of the contact lens fitter is very important in determining the success of this intervention. Central corneal scars can also develop in keratoconus eyes. Usually this is caused by the contact lens rubbing on resting on the apex of the keratoconus cone. Proper fitting of the lens is very important to prevent or minimize scarring. When corneal scars in keratoconus limit vision or the ability to wear the contact lens, the scars can often be removed surgically without the need for a transplant.
Intacs for Keratoconus
If keratoconus progresses to the point where a contact lens cannot be fit or does not adequately correct vision, surgery may be indicated. Small plastic ring segments placed in the cornea can produce a more regular corneal surface in about 2 out of 3 keratoconus patients.
Cornea Transplants for Keratoconus
Historically, in about 1 out of 5 patients, keratoconus progresses to the point where a cornea transplant is needed to restore a more normal shape to the cornea. Data from the CRFA database of corneal transplant shows that transplants performed for keratoconus are in the highest category for successful outcomes. In most cases, Dr. Price recommends the newer targeted transplant technique known as deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty (DALK) to help minimize the risk of graft rejection.
Keratoconus Support Group
For more information about keratoconus or to participate in a keratoconus chat group, you may wish to visit the National Keratoconus Foundation website at: http://www.nkcf.org.
Keratoconus from a Patient’s Perspective
(Excerpted from Celebration of Light, 2006)
Pastor Clarence Moore has a warm and ready smile that immediately put me at ease when we met in his comfortable office at the Northside New Era Baptist Church. His lifework is an inner city ministry that he relishes as his life’s calling. A humorous man, Pastor Moore enjoys speaking in a playful manner to elicit a grin or a giggle. Equally eloquent at other times, he inspires listeners to strive to find their life purpose in order to serve the world and to serve God.
My vision challenges began when I was in my early twenties and working at General Motors in the purchasing department. One day a co-worker came to my cubicle and said, “Clarence, do you realize how close you are holding that paper to your face?” It dawned on me then that I had gradually adjusted to a significant loss of sight and it shocked me to learn how much accommodation I had made just to carry out my work. Not long after, an incident happened in a softball game that was equally sobering. A normal ground ball came towards me and hit me right in the forehead. My wife asked me later, “How did you let that happen? Did you not see that ball?” I had to admit to her that my eyesight was diminishing. I had not fully realized it myself until then. I should also mention that my Mother has been legally blind all her life. She had two detached retinas and, when I admitted my failing sight, I wasn’t sure but that I might be headed down that same road.
At the time I was supervising a good Christian lady who wore thick Coke-bottle glasses. Peggy and I became good friends and one day she came to work without her glasses and I was startled. I asked her where they were and how was she able to see without them. She said, “Oh, I have to tell you about the miracle. I had laser surgery with a young doctor in Indianapolis named Dr. Francis Price.” I had never heard of laser surgery and she was so enthusiastic that it made a strong impression on me. Being free of those thick glasses made a positive difference in her self-confidence and her appearance.
Time to Get Help
I couldn’t see well enough to drive at night although it was hard to admit it. One frightful night, I picked up my two small children from the babysitter and I simply could not get home. I could not turn left or right or read the road signs. I still remember vividly how frightening that night was. I had to stop and call my wife to tell her what was happening. I made it home, finally, but only because God was looking out for us. On another occasion, I drove some friends home and hit two or three mailboxes on the way and scared us half to death.
A few years later I accepted my calling into the ministry. By then, I was seeing so badly I could not drive myself to seminary classes and so my wife had to provide transportation. My eyesight was very blurry, and I had to enlarge things in print in order to be able to read them so I studied by listening to my wife read chapters to me. She would read and then tell me what she thought were the key points and we would discuss them. You know, even to this day, when I see colleagues I went to school with they give credit to my wife, Hope, for my A’s in seminary. They would overhear her talking to me in the halls between classes and they thought she was my “secret weapon” for academic success. In keeping with her character, she always defended me by pointing out that I had a great memory and that’s how I got such good grades.
When I graduated seminary and became a minister, I could not see my Bible or my sermon notes. I couldn’t go back and forth between the two to find the right phrases as I preached. As a result, I was very limited and ineffective; good, passionate preaching requires the ability to stay in the flow as you inspire people. I felt my limitations were not what God wanted. There had to be a better way and I decided that it was time to do something about my sight.
My optometrist had treated me for keratoconus and astigmatism and referred me to an ophthalmologist in Kokomo, Indiana so I started there. After the exam, I told him I wanted a second opinion and I asked him to recommend someone. He responded that he’d like to handle my condition himself and told me that I needed a corneal transplant. After he explained that he had just started doing these procedures, I thought it over and got a referral from him. It was Dr. Francis W. Price, Jr. in Indianapolis.
Probabilities in my Favor
I came to Indianapolis to meet Dr. Price. He was a young man around my own age but he seemed very knowledgeable and he had experience with all kinds of things that impacted the cornea. I wanted to put the probabilities in my favor; I thought my chances of improvement were better with Dr. Price even though having his care and surgery would mean traveling to Indianapolis.
Dr. Price was an impressive doctor. He first tried hard contact lenses on me for about three months but I couldn’t wear them. He explained how the football shape of my eye differed from the baseball shape of a normal eye. The lenses irritated my eyes and he said, “Well, we have no other choice but this transplant procedure.” I was scared to death, of course, but I knew that he was skillful. His communication of my condition to my wife and me was outstanding. I was encouraged by his prognosis. The other thing that impressed me was sitting in the lobby and realizing how many people came from all over the Midwest to see him. I had this thought, “All these people can’t be wrong.” Especially my friend Peggy who was so high on Dr. Price; I had great trust in her judgement.
I remember an early conversation between Dr. Price and I about the transplant; he said to me, “We are going to get you the best cornea in the world.” I jokingly replied, “Well if I have to have a new cornea, make sure it’s blue.” He looked at me funny and asked, “Excuse me?” I did not know then that corneas are clear without any color, and so I explained further, “Well if you have blue eyes, you get promoted. I may have the wrong color skin, but with blue eyes, I might have half a chance of getting promoted.” At that, we both laughed together but he had the last word and said, “Well I can’t help you with a blue one; you’re stuck with brown eyes!”
It was the year 2000 and I had my left cornea, my “worst” eye, replaced with a transplant. During surgery, I was put to sleep and when I woke up, I had no pain in my eye at all. One admonition I remembering receiving before being discharged was not to sneeze and I can remember feeling I wanted to sneeze so badly, but I would not let it happen. (It is hard to hold back a sneeze for hours, I can tell you!) Twenty-four hours later, Dr. Price took my bandages off. I looked at him with awe and said, “Wow, I can see you really well.” I know that God used him to work a miracle. He had changed my world, but he didn’t want any accolades. I was ready to shout it from the rooftops but he was calm and just patted me on the shoulder, saying, “You did well.”
When I got home that day, I could see my dear little children’s’ faces just as clearly as I had seen Dr. Price and it was a moment I will never forget. It makes me emotional even now just remembering it. And I could also see my lovely wife’s face clearly, too. What gifts from God!
My recuperation took 3-4 months and I was off work during that whole time. I had been assigned to work in a chemical area and I really didn’t want to be in that environment while I was healing. Neither Dr. Price nor I thought it a good idea for me to return to work under those circumstances. I also could not do any heavy lifting or even bend over to tie my shoes. Other than that, I just rested and took life a bit more slowly than usual. When it was over, I was able to drive again, even at night, and I had no more blurriness. I could enjoy reading stories to my children. I could go to soccer games and actually see my child score, rather than just hear about it from another parent seated nearby.
In 2004, I had a corneal transplant in my right eye. Dr. Price predicted that it would do better than my first transplant because, in the interim, he had gained even more experience and the technology had gotten better. My left eye had become my dominant eye and the right eye had become dependent. With correction in both eyes my overall vision would be much better. Dr. Price did two relaxing incisions after the transplant to improve my vision as much as possible and I had LASIK twice. My vision became 20/30 – another of God’s miracles.
How Life Has Changed
The miracle of sight allows this preacher to “…rightly divide the word of Truth…” as I preach the Gospel. The sight that has come through the hands of Dr. Price allows me to not just function as an average pastor, but my sightedness has allowed me to use all of my gifts with greater confidence. I owe my ministerial work to him and his staff. God used each of them to bring miracles into our lives.
I have been able to take a trip to Africa with my family, for example, and I was able to see all the sights and experience the people, the land, etc. I was able to travel to Greece this summer, too, and all of these things have come because I have been given the miracle of being in Dr. Price’s care. He has literally opened the world up to me.
My children are now grown; Curtis is the oldest and he’s at medical school, Courtney is a teacher and Cristen is a writer. I am proud of them and sharing life with them as a sighted parent is one of the many “residual blessings” God has given me with my sight.
I believe Dr. Price’s work goes far beyond him, and I hope he realizes this. God is using him to touch lives and work miracles. In essence, Dr. Price is actually giving a new life to each of his patients and there’s no way of gauging how far that life reaches and how many other lives will be impacted.
I think God used vision failure as a tool to reorder my steps. I had been active in my church but I didn’t have ministry on my mind. He used my lack of sight to really talk with me and get my attention. There’s a similar story in the Bible about Paul on the Damascus Road who was blind. God sent Annais to uncover the scales from Paul’s eyes and restore his sight. I don’t think I would have heard God call me to a higher mission if I had not been losing my sight. And He could have left me in that state but then Peggy walked into my office that day without glasses and I saw that look on her face and I witnessed a new life emerging.
Each day when I wake up I am reminded of the fact that I could lose my sight again if these corneas are rejected. That knowledge continually gives me the sense of being in the presence of God. I have empathy for drug abusers and alcoholics that I work with in my ministry. I have a sense of their struggles as I sit across from them. Not that I struggle with my sight every day but I know the potential is there to lose it, just as they can lose their sobriety. In that sense, we are sharing a journey of gratitude.
Advice to Readers
There is, indeed, help for those who struggle with sight issues. Someone like Dr. Price and his organization are worth a visit or a consultation. I have noticed one thing about him: he has incredible patience. He’s not in this for the money because he takes so much time with his patients; he does not just run into the exam room and rush you into surgery. He spends time getting to know his patients. There were days when I felt impatient and wanted him to go faster, but he would just take his time to find the best care possible for me. Readers should try and find someone like this when they are seeking a doctor to help with vision problems.
In closing, I would tell readers that the accounts you are reading are of real and normal people whose quality of life has been enhanced immensely as the result of taking a worthwhile risk. Have courage and have faith in God as you go forward to find the best care for your eyes.