”I was fortunate to have excellent care since the very beginning,” said Betty who has been coming to OSU since she was an infant. At age 10, after one of her many surgeries, Betty developed an eye infection. This infection lead to the loss of her right eye and the need for a prosthetic eye.
Betty’s father was determined that she would have a normal life, including going to a normal school. Despite her visual difficulties and the lack of adaptive equipment available, Betty was always an A student. It was not easy. She had to walk up to the blackboard to read whatever the teacher had written. She quickly learned that if she memorized the information, she didn’t have to make as many trips to the board. As a freshman in high school, she was very unwilling to walk up in the front of the class and stand next to the teacher. She learned to decipher what was being written on the board by watching the teacher's hand movements.
“Even though I had visual impairment, I didn’t really understand that I had an impairment,” said Betty. “I never saw myself as handicapped. I just went to Columbus to the doctor a lot, but I don’t recall that it was such a big deal to me.”
After 25 years at Perry County Children’s Services Agency, she had to retire because of a very severe change in her vision. Paul Weber, MD, who has been taking care of Betty’s glaucoma for years, sent Betty to Thomas Mauger, MD to see if she was a candidate for a procedure called a Keratoprosthesis (K-Pro). A K-Pro is a combination of man-made/artificial cornea and a donor tissue.
“Dr. Weber has always been very careful about what he would recommend for me,” said Betty, “never wanting to do anything that could possibly damage my remaining sight. I had gone totally, clinically blind. I had a little usable vision.”
She knew that the K-Pro surgery had risks, including a complete loss of vision, but she had gotten to the point where she was injuring herself, running into furniture and walls. She was afraid of falling and almost felt that she did not have a lot to lose. Ultimately, she made the decision to do the surgery. After the surgery, Betty was surprised by the immediate improvement to her vision.
“I said, ‘Dr. Mauger I can see, I can see the lights!’ Dr. Mauger asked, ‘How many fingers am I holding up?’ I just reached up and took his hand and said, ‘you’re holding two fingers up!’ I wish you could have seen his face. He was smiling from ear to ear. He was as happy for me as I was for myself.”
Before the surgery, she had trouble reading and using a computer. She had utilized low vision aids for years to help her read and write. The magnification kept getting bigger and bigger, until she was only seeing about two words on a screen the size of a television. Now, she still has the vision aids to help write, but she requires very little magnification to read.
“I am no longer isolated. I can go to the grocery store by myself, I don’t have to have anyone go with me. I mean, I can’t drive, but they drop me off and I can shop by myself. I feel like I’m more a part of society. I can see facial expressions and reactions which before I couldn’t see. Since the surgery, I can get back to doing some of things I did before. I’ve even joined a reading circle.”
Betty has been married 37 years, has one son and two grandchildren, ages 14 and 11.
"Dr. Weber will tell you that I was profoundly visually impaired before, but I never let it stop me," said Betty. "I have traveled. I’ve been to Israel, Nova Scotia, out West, all over the East Coast, and Florida countless times. I’ve done a lot in my life. And, in my opinion, I have been tremendously blessed with the best doctors in the nation."