Finally, Treatment that Works
Patient: Sandra DeFrancisco
Sight Restored: May 2011
Sandra DeFrancisco thought she had a mild case of shingles when she was first diagnosed in 1993. But as the skin rash cleared, the pain in her left eye began. “It was piercing,” recalls the Plymouth resident. “I knew I needed to see my eye doctor.”
A course of steroid eye drops helped, but after a sudden death in the family one year later, the shingles erupted again, and the inflammation in her eye worsened. Stress plays a role in shingles, which affects the nerves and, in a small percentage of cases, results in neurotrophic keratitis, a degenerative corneal disease.
Ms. DeFrancisco, who is 68, soon realized how vulnerable her eye was. “The steroid drops caused a cataract to form and, in 1999, I had surgery to remove it,” she explains. The outcome of her cataract surgery proved disappointing; it was followed by a precipitous decline in the condition of her left eye.
“My vision became very distorted, and I was told repeatedly through the years, from numerous doctors, that there was no cure,” she says. “I went about my life, grateful that my right eye was healthy.”
As 2011 began, a change in medication caused progressive ulceration of her left eye’s corneal surface. Ms. DeFrancisco wore an eye patch and soon had the eye stitched shut with an opening just large enough to administer medication. “I had previously learned I was not a candidate for a cornea transplant. Now my concern was the possibility of losing my eye.”
When Ms. DeFrancisco was referred to Boston Foundation for Sight in May 2011, her hope was for a treatment that might begin to heal her damaged left cornea. “I never dreamed my vision would improve and the pain would go away,” she says.
Alan Kwok, OD, and Ryan Ridges, MD, wasted no time. “They were very concerned about the condition of my cornea and suggested I try a trial PROSE device, which I wore that first night,” says Ms. DeFrancisco, “The pain stopped as soon as the device was inserted.”
That was just the beginning. The next morning, she returned to BFS, where Dr. Kwok removed the device and took photos of her left eye. “In that short amount of time, my cornea showed signs of healing,” she says. “Dr. Kwok and the BFS staff were so happy to see even a little bit of progress, and so was I! They fitted me for my own PROSE device.”
Once her custom-designed device was in place, Ms. DeFrancisco’s cornea slowly healed, and her vision improved from 20/200 to 20/40. “I had prayed that the pain would go away, but I could not believe the impact on my vision,” she says. It had been 18 years since she was diagnosed with the shingles virus and, for ten years, she had lived with extremely limited vision.
The care and attention she received at BFS matched the staff’s professional expertise. “As soon as I was referred, I was seen immediately, and Dr. Kwok even came to the office on a Sunday to monitor my progress,” she recalls. “I feel so blessed to have found these wonderful people.”
Ms. DeFrancisco knows she will never have a healthy left eye, but she found treatment that allows her to live with greater comfort. People continue to ask about her eye condition, and she’s eager to tell them the good news.
“My goal now is to spread the word so that people everywhere know that PROSE treatment exists,” she says. “I want to help advance the work of Boston Foundation for Sight.”