Patient: Gary Fentin
Sight Restored: 2008
Gary Fentin remembers when he first realized something was wrong with his eyes. “I had been drafted and was in basic training at Fort Knox,” Gary recalls. “The physical training and marching were going fine, but I had a problem with rifle accuracy. When it was time for the 100-meter target, I couldn’t see it and wondered what everyone was shooting at.”
He soon learned that he had keratoconus in both eyes. The condition causes the cornea to thin and bulge outward. “My condition didn’t really bother me,” he recalls, noting that it didn’t prevent him from heading to law school and plenty of heavy reading. “I kept changing my glasses—that is, until changing my glasses didn’t work anymore.”
Gary made the switch to wearing hard lenses, but it came with a challenge. “Because of my cone-shaped corneas, the lenses kept popping out. So I carried multiple pairs with me. Because my eyes were also incredibly light-sensitive, my optician and I worked together to design a special pair of sunglasses that were coated to let in only two percent of the light.”
But he continued to struggle. By the early 1970s, Gary had his first cornea transplant, with disappointing results. “It provided functional vision—20/40—but only with extremely thick glasses. I couldn’t play tennis or golf. Luckily, it didn’t prevent me from my real passion: competitive cycling.”
The disappointing result of the transplant led Gary’s ophthalmologist to refer him to Boston Foundation for Sight, where PROSE treatment was newly available. However, his eyes presented a fitting challenge that, despite repeated efforts, the existing custom design software could not accommodate. Two more cornea transplants followed.
Fortunately, on a return trip to BFS in 2008, the technology had advanced to where BostonSight® PROSE devices could be custom-designed for both his keratoconus and his cornea transplants. “I had 20/20 vision in both eyes for the first time in many years,” says Gary. “It was a miracle.”
But he wasn’t out of the woods yet. His cornea transplants involved donated tissue and thus required Gary to take steroid medication that suppresses the immune system to prevent rejection. Over time, the medication caused him to develop glaucoma that was difficult to control.
“My ophthalmologist performed surgery that placed tube shunts to drain fluid from my eye to reduce the pressure,” he says. It resulted in a new problem: the shunts—tiny plastic drains—are located exactly where PROSE devices land on the eye. He needed new devices to be designed to accommodate the shunts, if that was possible.
“We needed the software capability to place the channel at the proper height and width—with no rubbing against the tube—and make it reproducible in case a patient loses the device and needs another one,” says Dr. Karen Carrasquillo. “We made many, many devices for Gary before we were satisfied we had the right design.”
He says the results were amazing. “My vision is incredible—20/20 in each eye.” As a grateful patient, Gary quickly became an enthusiastic donor. But he wanted to do more. “I volunteered to join the BFS board. I owe them so much,” he said.
Gary credits BFS for his ability to continue pursuing his love for competitive cycling. “Dr. Carrasquillo worked tirelessly to get me the devices I needed. I am so thankful for BFS and their ability to modify PROSE devices to almost any shape – I feel terrific.”