As a teenager, I always wanted to learn to fly.
After attending college, I joined the U.S. Navy as a Naval Aviation Cadet in 1955 and was ordered to Pensacola to begin training to be become a Naval Aviator. I had perfect vision. In fact, I was told my vision was better than 20/20, the necessary minimum to become an Aviator. I completed my training, was commissioned an Ensign, and designated a Naval Aviator in 1956. My career in the U.S. Navy spanned a total of 24 years, over 5,000 flight hours, and many operational flights throughout the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea.
In 1979, when I retired as a Commander from the Navy, I started using reading glasses to correct my vision to 20/20. As years progressed, my eyes began to become cloudy and my vision slightly impaired. In my 60’s, I was diagnosed with cataracts in both eyes. In the next few years I had those cataracts replaced, and my vision improved. I continued to have additional cloudiness in both eyes, and in 2004 I went to a specialist, Dr. Sadeer Hannush, who said my cornea in my right eye was deteriorating. The vision was approaching 20/20 in that eye. I remember he asked me the question, “If you lose the vision in your left eye (the good eye), could you function with only the right eye, the one with the failing cornea?” I told him no, I absolutely could not! He told me a new corneal transplant procedure was being used and asked me if he could perform the new procedure on my failing cornea. The procedure essentially involved replacing only one half of the cornea instead of the full cornea, a procedure known as Descement Stripping Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSEK). I consented, and in November 2005, at age 69, I had the cornea replaced in my right eye. It was bloodless and painless, and recovery from the operation was swift, less than 2 hours.
The following day, the eye patch was removed. Within less than one week, after the replacement of the half cornea, I was able to read the newspaper with my prescription glasses. My vision was crystal clear and corrected to 20/25 using my glasses. I was elated, to say the least. As time went by, my left eye began showing symptoms of cornea deterioration; my vision was clouded and my best corrected vision was at beyond 20/50. The question of being able to function with only that eye came up again, and I said it would be very difficult. I elected to have another half corneal replacement in May 2007. Success was again astounding. Within a week, I could read the newspaper using my prescription glasses, and my vision was crystal clear with 20/25 eyesight. Thank you Dr. Hannush for your expertise! Thank you, Lions Eye Bank, for being there for me and many others for 50 years.
- Courtney Y