The Gift of Sight
Donors’ generosity enables ophthalmologists to restore a young artist’s vision
by Cathy Alton
Photographs by Sonya Revell
Nineteen-year-old Naomi Lopez knows what a difference donor support can make. When she came to Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the Miller School of Medicine in 2016, Lopez, a gifted artist, had been suffering for months with a chronic and painful eye infection. A parasite in her left eye was eroding her cornea, and she was not responding to traditional treatment. With every month that passed, her vision became cloudier and her cornea became thinner, with a high risk of perforation. Eventually, light was the only thing she was able to see out of the eye.
Then her ophthalmologist, Guillermo Amescua, M.D., associate professor of clinical ophthalmology and medical director of the Ocular Surface Program, gave her some good news: Bascom Palmer, the nation’s No. 1 eye hospital, had developed an innovative new treatment for corneal ulcerations and infections.
That treatment, rose bengal photodynamic antimicrobial therapy, uses a green fluorescent light with the precise power to activate a chemical that kills organisms and strengthens the collagen fibers of the cornea. Bascom Palmer’s biomedical engineers and researchers, under the guidance of Jean-Marie Parel, Ph.D., associate professor of ophthalmology and the director of the institute’s Ophthalmic Biophysics Center, created the groundbreaking machine, thanks to the generous support of the Beauty of Sight Foundation and a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.
The procedure gave Lopez back her eyesight. After undergoing treatment, her infection healed, and she was able to avoid an emergency corneal transplant. Without an active infection, her physicians started her on antiinflammatory therapy and scheduled a transplant once her eye was free of infection and inflammation.
Today her vision is clear, and she is very grateful to the donors who made it all possible.