Keratoconus is a progressive eye disease that distorts sight and can cause permanent vision loss if left untreated. In honor of World Keratoconus Day on November 10, Avellino Lab USA, Inc. recently donated $25,000 to the National Keratoconus Foundation to raise educational awareness and support scientific research to help treat this condition. This condition that affects the shape of the cornea is often referred to as “a silent disease” because it typically progresses during adolescence and sometimes goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed until adulthood.
I never knew anyone with keratoconus until I met my husband, Sean, in 2000. Sean has lived with keratoconus most of his life. Just recently, I learned that Golden State Warriors NBA Star Steph Curry also has keratoconus. (I enjoyed telling my husband, who is a lifelong Los Angeles Lakers fan, that he and Steph Curry share something in common.) Back when I met my husband, he told me that he would likely be a candidate for corneal transplant surgery if his vision did not improve. Eighteen years after we first met and six years after we married, corneal transplant surgery became a reality for him. In 2018, I watched as he was taken into surgery for the first corneal transplant on his right eye. He bravely navigated the year long recovery process as we made regular trips to Nashville for follow up visits with his amazing surgeon. (By the way, my husband’s surgeon, Dr. Uyen L. Tran, is affectionately regarded as “The Cornea Queen” by her colleagues because of her stellar reputation and success rate of corneal transplants in keratoconus patients.) We started making the regular visits to Nashville again this year after Dr. Tran performed corneal transplant surgery on my husband’s left eye.
I’m so grateful to the people who choose to leave their legacy by donating their corneal tissue and improving another person’s sight. Corneal transplants have a success rate higher than 95 percent, according to restoresight.org. “Since 1961, member eye banks have provided tissue for over 2,113,365 people whose sight was restored through corneal transplants,” according to the Eye Bank Association of America. I have seen first-hand how corneal transplant surgeries have greatly improved my husband’s vision and his quality of life. I’m so thankful that we haven’t had to travel outside of Tennessee to get the treatment that he needs. I’m especially proud to work at the STAR Center, where a variety of vision services and assistive technology resources are offered for children and adults who have a range of visual impairments.