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“The Fear of the Operation Itself Was My Biggest Concern” Sean's Corneal Transplant

37 year old purchasing manager

My Decision

My name is Sean Derber, I am 37 years old and I'm a purchasing manager for a steel bellows manufacturer in Corona, California. 4 days ago, I had a corneal transplant in one eye. My right eye had an infection that over the past 10 years had destroyed my cornea and left me blind in that eye. A corneal transplant was my only choice to return vision to that eye. With only one eye my depth perception was completely off. Reaching for things, walking down stairs, and a simple game of golf was uncomfortable. I could do all these things, it was just uncomfortable.

I decided to undergo a corneal transplant a few months ago with Dr. Paul C. Lee who specializes in Corneal and Refractive surgery. Last September, I was put on the list for a donor cornea and within 2 weeks one was located. Money was not a barrier as my surgery was covered by our HMO and the surgery was scheduled. I have never been operated on before. The fear of the operation itself was my biggest concern.

I was really nervous about the surgery. I didn't know what would happen – if I would go blind, what a shot in the eye would feel like, or the stitches afterward. There were a number of limitations during the healing process – like a limitation on showering and swimming for several months. Despite these barriers, being able to see in stereo – with both eyes – was worth the risks to me.

My Consultation
There were no real restrictions before the surgery. No eating after midnight and that was really about it. When I arrived at the hospital the next morning, and after the usual paperwork, I was led to a room where I put on my gown. I watched TV for about 15 minutes, and then off to the pre-operating room where I met my anesthesiologist and doctor. They again reviewed the procedure with me.

My Procedure

We moved to the operating room where I laid down on a table. The procedure started with an IV in my arm. The anesthesiologist gave me a few drops in my nose to make sure it remained clear and, as I had asthma, they had me take a breathing treatment before the process began. Whatever they gave me through the IV gave me a warm tingling sensation and I was out. I remember talking to the doctor throughout the surgery, or what I thought was throughout the surgery, but apparently I was out (according to the doctor) for quite a while.

I felt no discomfort during the surgery. When it was completed – I was conscious. I remember them stitching the eye, but it didn't hurt. In fact, it didn't bother me at all. I was trying to think of the names of the new Los Angeles Laker players while this was going on – my mind just didn't focus on the surgery. I was talking to the doctor during the end of the surgery.

When the doctor indicated we were done, they moved me into the post-operative room. I was the only patient awake there, and I was joking with the nurses. I felt fine. From post-operative I was moved to a room. I was told once I could walk, hold down liquid and urinate I could go home. When I got back to my room I was already able (and ready) to do all these things. I still didn't hurt at all.

I was discharged and road home with my wife within 2 hours after the surgery. With me was a prescription of an antibiotic, a steroid I need to use 6 times a day to strengthen the eye, and a topical ointment to keep my eye moist which I use four times a day and a steel shield over my eye. I had some fast-food on the way home and filled the prescriptions. After I left the hospital, I debated going to my son's High School Football game that night but decided otherwise because of the way I thought I looked.

The Weeks After

My wife and I rented and watched a movie that night and I went to bed. The following day, I drove myself to the doctor for a post-operative check-up. I wore the steel shield this whole time, but at this first post-operative check-up the doctor said this was unnecessary and I now only wear it at night so I won't rub my eyes. When the doctor took the shield off, I could count the fingers my daughter was holding up with my bad eye for the first time since she was born.

The day following the surgery my eye was swollen nearly shut. It wasn't black & blue and it didn't hurt. It was just swollen. This was the first time I had any discomfort. My eyes were really light sensitive. I stopped and purchased some sun-glasses which helped a lot, but the doctor was a 30 mile drive and it was not easy. I was even more light sensitive the second and third day after the surgery. Even watching TV required sun glasses. It didn't hurt, it was just uncomfortable.

Today is the fourth day after the surgery. My eyes are only a little bit sensitive and the swelling is gone. I am using the transplanted eye now, and my depth perception is great. I had my second post-operative check-up today. On the eye chart I could see the big "E" and the entire second line – something I could never have done before. All seems to be going well so far. I see the doctor in two weeks. My vision improves daily.

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