Corneal Fuchs Dystrophy … With a Silver Lining

In the past 2 years I’ve had 3 transplants for corneal fuchs dystrophy, an eye disease curable only by corneal transplants, which require a donor. My right eye (with a distance lens via cataract surgery) functions reasonably well after the 2nd transplant. The left eye (with a close up lens via cataract surgery) was operated on four months ago and was coming along well enough for a new eyeglass prescription. Just as I received the new glasses (the irony) the left cornea swelled to an extent I had no vision at all. For the past 12 days we’ve been treating the eye with strong dosages of steroid drops. The eye is some better but there is a possibility a fourth transplant will be required.

Government bureaucracy is a real hassle, as the surgery is performed under Department of Defense Guidelines while the “sharing agreement” with the Veterans Administration requires prescriptions be filled at the VA. That aside, I’m grateful for donors and the availability of surgery. I can write, photograph, and read, but for limited periods of time. Slowly, I’m accepting the limitations on my life’s passions. 


 During one of my visits to the ophthalmology clinic, I noticed a hispanic man wearing a cap with “Tunnel Rat” embroidered on the back. I tapped him on the shoulder and asked whether indeed he had investigated Viet Cong tunnels in South Vietnam. He had. Not only that, he worked with the South Vietnamese. I acknowledged his courage (I never entered a tunnel) and what transpired was such a warm, compassionate exchange it brought tears to my eyes. Our brief encounter resonated because we saw the sameness in each other, grasping the other’s essence. It’s seeing and being seen.