Mike was diagnosed with Keratoconus when he was 16 years old. His mom had it, so Mike’s doctor had been watching for the onset of symptoms for years. He and his doctor were able to manage the symptoms until Mike was about 23 years old. He then needed a cornea transplant in his right eye. Five years later, he received a cornea in his left eye. Due to complications, he received another cornea in his right eye in mid-2017 and then again in 2018.
For unexplained reasons, his right eye kept rejecting the grafts. Then to complicate things further, Mike developed a severe infection in his right eye from an Acanthamoeba and received yet another cornea transplant in June 2019. Acanthamoebas typically dwell in fresh water lakes, and Mike hasn’t visited one in years so it remains a mystery as to how he contracted it.
Even after the second and third transplants in his right eye, Mike’s vision was bleak. He is hopeful this fourth cornea will heal properly as he’s already seeing- literally- signs of improvement. He can now see images, colors and shapes clearly.
“One of the strangest things about only being able to see out of one eye is the lack of depth of field. I had to develop tricks. When shopping at a store, I would put my hand out for the receipt or change. That way the worker would just put it in my hand instead of me having to reach for it and miss.”
Mike happens to work with two other people that only have sight out of one eye, so he was happy to share his trick with them.
“I have been able to continue working through all this but with limitations.” Mike is a truck driver for a package delivery company. Because he hasn’t been able to drive, he has temporarily been reassigned to the office sorting packages. Even there he has limitations because heavy lifting is prohibited after a cornea transplant. “I have a goal to get to 20/40 vision in order to get my class A license to drive truck again.”
Mike submitted a photo taken in Arizona in April 2019. “The sun was setting on a lone palm tree. I took a picture with my phone, and it looked amazing. I didn’t have to change or edit a thing.”
“I also submitted a photo I took from my garage.” Mike returned home from work about 1 a.m. during a late spring storm, and his wife’s 1949 Chevy pickup was covered in snow. She was on vacation in Arizona as it snowed at home. “I could see the streaks of snow coming down through the light from the garage, and had to send my wife a picture of the two different climates we were experiencing.”
“It’s so bizarre to have someone else’s cornea in me, but I am so grateful. I participated in this project because it’s the least I could do. Sending in photos is my way of giving back and showing my gratitude. I hope it encourages someone else decide to become a donor.”