A Beautiful Sight to See: Journey of Restored Vision After Corneal Transplant Surgery

Blessed with New Vision: Wendy is grateful for improved vision for her husband, Sean, after his corneal transplant surgeries in 2018 and 2021.

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.

Journey to Better Vision: My husband, Sean, pictured above enjoying his first meal after his first corneal transplant surgery in August 2018
Sean is pictured above with Dr. Uyen L. Tran in 2017 at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute. She performed both of his corneal transplants.

About the Author : Wendy Mercer

NOTE: This person is a past employee or intern of the STAR Center. Their name and authorship is preserved for posterity. Wendy Mercer joined the STAR Center team in 2017. She is a job placement specialist and coordinator of the STAR Center Business Advisory Group. Wendy earned her master's degree in teaching from the University of Memphis. She received her bachelor's degree in print journalism from Clark Atlanta University. Wendy is a former special education teacher and freelance writer. Wendy is active with several community organizations. She currently serves as vice president of the Jackson Old Hickory Rotary Club.

  1. Ann Harrison November 5, 2021 at 10:21 am - Reply

    Wendy Mercer, you and your husband are so blessed! Congratulations to him for having two successful corneal transplants . God is so Awesome!

    • Wendy Mercer November 5, 2021 at 10:32 am - Reply

      Thanks so much, Mrs. Harrison! Yes, we are so grateful to God!

  2. Debbie Morris November 5, 2021 at 10:46 am - Reply

    So glad Sean was able to have this surgery! Great article Wendy!

    • Wendy Mercer November 5, 2021 at 10:50 am - Reply

      Thanks so much, Debbie!

  3. Charisse White-Amos November 11, 2021 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    This is such a beautiful story of love, courage, perseverance, and commitment, to read about. Your journey, together, has been a blessed one. I’m so happy to see that the surgeries have been successful and that you, two, have each other.

    • Wendy Mercer November 11, 2021 at 2:34 pm - Reply

      Thanks so much, Charisse!

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