Vision restored with rare eye surgery

February 10, 2009 8:34:08 PM PST
Teodor Kielbus, 61, of South River, N.J. takes pride in his role as grandfather to four-year-old Julia and two-year-old Lilianna. But up until recently, the Poland-native had to read to them using only his left eye. He and his family moved from Poland to America in 1990. Shortly after, while working as a machinist, Kielbus had an accident and a crow bar went into his right eye.

His daughter Monika translated for us. She said,"Iit happened so quickly that he didn't feel any pain."

But the accident left him nearly blind in that eye. Doctors first tried to transplant a human donor cornea, but it didn't work. So Monika says he learned to live seeing with just his left eye. Still his depth perception was off.

"Once in a while we would find sugar all over the counter because he was pouring it and kind of got away from him," Monika said.

Opthamologist Dr. Sadeer Hannush of St. Mary Medical Center said for many patients like Kielbus, in the past they were basically out of luck. "Meaning if you are not a patient who is a candidate for routine corneal transplant, you just didn't see out of that eye," he said.

But there is one, very rare option. Kielbus is getting what's called a Boston Keratoprosthesis. It's an artificial cornea. There's less than two dozen surgeons in the United States who perform the operation. Dr. Hannush is one. He said it was FDA-approved in the 90's but recently doctors have made some adjustments, making the success rate now over 90-percent.

"This is the best we've had in the last century," Dr. Hannush said.

In the operating room, Dr. Hannush assembles the artificial cornea which is made of several parts. The main part is a

In two weeks, Kielbus' vision is 20-70.

"He went from barely seeing shadows in front of his eye to essentially daytime driving vision and this is with the bad eye," Dr. Hannush explained.

And Kielbus' right eye vision is expected to get even better... 20-40 or 20-30.

Almost four weeks out, he said he has his depth perception back and is now reading to his granddaughters with both eyes.

"He knew he would get some vision but he didn't expect it to be this wonderful; Now he can see where before he couldn't see at all," Monika Kielbus said.

Mr. Kielbus has to wear protective glasses and use antibiotic eye drops everyday. But he is back to work now for the first time in eight years seeing with both eyes.

For patients who have lost vision in both eyes, and can't have a routine transplant, this is an option that can be life-changing for them.

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