For Patients

Life - and License - Restored

PROSE patient and cancer survivor Eric

Patient: Eric Sommers
Diagnosis: GVHD
Sight Restored: January 2013

In 2007, a stem cell transplant saved Eric Sommers’ life, but stole his vision. He had been living and working in South Africa with his family in 2006, when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. He returned to the United States, where Eric’s doctors determined that his best chance of survival would be a stem cell transplant. “I got lucky,” said Eric, “because my brother was an exact bone marrow match.”

About a year after his transplant, Eric began to show symptoms of graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD), a common side effect of stem cell transplants in which the newly transplanted cells attack the recipient’s body. Eric developed severe dry eye, as well as a host of other issues related to his eyes not normally associated with GVHD. Both of his retinas detached over time, and the surgery to repair them severely damaged Eric’s peripheral vision. He developed both glaucoma and cataracts, and was left almost blind in his right eye.

A scratch on his left cornea in 2011 – the “good” eye – resulted in Eric’s vision deteriorating to the point that he lost his driver’s license. “I have two children, both active in school, so it was devastating that I couldn’t drive them around.” His dry, painful eyes further limited his activities.

Earlier this year, Eric was fortunate to meet Gary Knaak, Chairman of the Board of Directors at BFS and a BostonSight® PROSE patient. Gary heard about Eric’s situation through a shared connection at Flaum Eye Institute in Rochester, NY, and thought PROSE might be able to help. However, a failed trial of scleral lenses had left Eric reluctant to put anything into his dry eyes – and, without a driver’s license, he was unable to make the six hour drive to Needham.  But Gary persisted, and, knowing he had to come to BFS for a Board meeting, offered to take Eric for an initial consultation. They made the trip together in January.

“It’s been a life changer for me and I have been so happy with everyone at BFS,” said Eric. “I am very grateful to Gary for convincing me to give PROSE a try.” Eric is due back to the Foundation soon to try out a new set of devices; this time, he can drive himself. Thanks to PROSE, Eric has his license back, along with his life.

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