Entries in Eye (3)


New Jersey Father Donates Cornea to Legally Blind Son

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Tom Bestwick enjoyed the open road, especially the feeling he got when riding his Harley Davidson through the back roads of southern New Jersey with his son, Tom.

But on July 17, 2012, Tom Bestwick would ride for for the last time.  His 1997 silver CMC motorcycle collided with a Buick La Saber in Quinton, N.J.  He was rushed to Christiana Hospital in Delaware, but doctors could not save his life.

His unexpected death, however, left his family with an unexpected gift.

"I never would have even dreamed of it," said his son, Tom, 32, who is legally blind.

In 1987, Tom, then 7, was celebrating another Thanksgiving in Pennsville, N.J., with his family when he and his younger brother, Paul, had found a Bungee cord and wanted to see just how far the giant elastic string would stretch.

"It flung back and caught me in my left eye.  I went blind instantly," said Tom.  "Everything happened so fast.  It didn't even hurt."

For the next month, Tom wore an eye patch.  Five years later, he underwent an inner ocular lens transplant -- the first in a handful of surgeries to improve his damaged sight.

"Doctors at that time questioned if the surgery would even work or not," said Tom.  "I got some sight back amazingly enough.  But I was legally blind."

For years, Tom needed surgery to correct the sight in his damaged left eye.  His ophthalmologist suggested the idea of laser eye surgery to help minimize the original scarring on his cornea.  But Tom hesitated to try such new technology.

"I never put a second thought into a transplant of any sort," he said.  "I just figured my vision is what it is."

But his father was a registered organ donor, and Tom and his family began to wonder, what if?

Tom's aunt, Kathy Hughes, asked if Tom could use his father's cornea to help correct the vision in his left eye.  A cornea transplant had never been considered.  The family wondered whether it was even possible.

Corneas must be transplanted within 12 to 14 days, and the clock was ticking.

"It all had to be precise," said Hughes, who has worked as a transplant coordinator at the Gift of Life Donor Program, an organ procurement organization.  "We had to stay on top of this to make sure it happened."

She reached out to Christiana Hospital in Newark, Del., where Tom's father had died, to find an eye surgeon.  And to keep it all "under one roof," Hughes coordinated with Christiana Hospital, the Gift of Life Program and Wills Eye Institute in Philadelphia

Dr. Parveen Nagra, a corneal surgeon at Wills Eye Institute, agreed to perform the surgery after hearing Tom's story.

Nagra she'd never encountered a situation quite like Tom's.

"It was a very emotional time for him having learned very unexpectedly of his father's premature death, and to make these decisions," she said.  "He felt very strongly about getting his father's cornea."

Nagra performed the surgery four days after Tom's father died.  When Tom went back for a follow-up checkup, it was the day of his father's funeral.

"A loss of a loved one, and certainly a donation doesn't take that away, but it does give people hope that their loved one somehow lives on in the recipient," said Nathan Howard, CEO and president of the Gift of Life Donor Program.  "It really is a living legacy."

Tom Bestwick's legacy also lives on through others who received his other organs, including his kidneys, skin, bone and other tissues.

"This is what he wanted.  We got a really nice letter from the recipient of one of his kidneys," said his son.  "His liver and lungs went to science and I got his cornea."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Did Colored Contacts Ruin Teen's Cornea?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A 14-year-old girl from Queens, New York may need a cornea transplant after wearing colored contact lenses she bought at a beauty store for $20.

Erica Barnes said she only wore the hazel-hued lenses for one day, according to local reports.  But that was long enough to scratch the surface of her right eye and spur an infection that could leave behind a blinding scar.

"Once that protective barrier is defeated, bacteria can just flow in," said Dr. Roy Chuck, professor and chair of ophthalmology at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.  "You can treat the infection.  But part of healing is making a scar, and that can block vision."

It could take up to six months for doctors to know whether Barnes will need a cornea transplant to restore vision in her right eye.  But while she waits, the teen tolerates excruciating pain.

"The density of nerves on the surface of the eye is higher than almost any other place on the body," said Chuck.  A small scratch can feel like 1,000 toothaches.  And a big scratch, Chuck said he could "only imagine what it would be like for a 14-year-old."

Federal law prohibits the sale of contacts, even for cosmetic purposes, without a prescription.  But beauty shops on the street and online sell them cheap, without a proper fitting or instructions on how to use them.

"Teens and young adults are bypassing doctors to get these lenses.  And when you do that, you run the risk of not having the right fit," Chuck said.

The wrong fit makes lenses more likely to scratch the eye.  Add in a teen who doesn't understand the importance of clean lenses and hands, and the infection risk soars.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Oregon Baby May Go Blind Because of Faith-Healing Parents

George Doyle/Thinkstock(OREGON, CITY, Ore.) -- Oregon doctors have said that Alayna Wyland, an 18-month-old with a massive growth covering her left eye, may go blind because her parents refused to get her medical treatment on religious grounds.

On Thursday, jury selection continues in the trial of Timothy and Rebecca Wyland, who have been charged with first-degree criminal mistreatment of their child, only days after the state House passed a bill to be tougher on faith-healing parents.

The Wylands, who are 43 and 22, respectively, and are members of the Followers of Christ Church, told authorities they believed that prayer and anointing oils would heal their daughter's hemangioma, an abnormal growth of blood vessels that was occluding her vision.

In the past two years, Oregon's Clackamas County has prosecuted two other couples from the same church whose children died from untreated ailments.  One, Jeff and Marci Beagley, were convicted of criminally negligent homicide last year and sentenced to 16 months in prison after their 16-year-old son, Neil, died of complications from an untreated urinary tract blockage.

About 300 children die a year at the expense of their parents' religious beliefs, according to the Iowa-based organization, Children's Healthcare is Legal Duty, a group that advocates for tough penalties against those who seek exemption from child abuse laws.

Under Oregon law, parents have a "legal duty" to provide care for their children, and those who "knowingly withhold physical care or medical attention," can be prosecuted, according to Michael Regan, senior deputy district attorney in Clackamas County.

Child welfare officials reported the Wylands, who said they would not seek medical care for their daughter unless it was court-ordered, according to Regan.  The baby was taken into state custody last July and has been treated with medication.  It is not clear if vision will ever develop in that eye, he said.

If the Oregon House follows the Senate's action earlier this week, religious beliefs "would not be a defense for harm to a child for any crime," according to Regan of the district attorney's office.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio