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Springfield Woman Has Artificial Cornea Transplant

The eyes are complex organs that receive millions of pieces of information about the outside world. One day without them would be unimaginable for many. One local Springfield woman finally got her sight back after 35 years. KSMU’s Justin Lux has the story.

Since she was about 10 years old Mindy Huff has been legally blind. She suffers from congenital aniridia. That means since birth, she basically has had no iris. The iris is responsible for controlling a person’s pupils as well as the amount of light that reaches the eye.

Along with the aniridia, Huff was also born with secondary glaucoma, leaving her optic nerve severely damaged and also contributing to her loss of sight.

Last December, Huff decided to undergo the region’s first Boston Keratoprosthesis, which is the insertion of a titanium window into the eye. Dr. Shachar Tauber, the Director of Eye Research at St. John’s and the doctor who performed the procedure, explained what it was like to be able to give the gift of sight back to someone.

"It's an incredible gift. It's something that everyone here at St. John’s and my partners in Springfield and the region work everyday diligently at. With healthcare in the news everyday it’s beautiful to focus on what we do right, it’s something that brings tears to our eyes that we could actually help,” says Dr. Tauber.

Huff says her biggest fear was that she would lose the little sight she did have. Typically, someone who’s at her stage of glaucoma does not receive this sort of procedure--something she says only heightened her fear. But the moment the bandages were removed is one she will never forget.

“I stood up out of the chair and my first thought was, 'Wow!' When they took the bandages off I could see the nurse. I could see her fingers typing on the computer and I said, ‘I can see your hands typing on the computer,’ and then I said, ‘I can just not see your hands, I can see your fingers!’ I could see her face. It was just 'Wow,'" explains Huff.

St. John’s says nationally, between 70 and 90 percent of the people who have artificial cornea transplants have improved sight and retain it.

For KSMU News, I’m Justin Lux.