Bringing “Amazing” Clarity
Karl Kuhlmann, a software engineer, was creating programs that interpret scientific data from DNA sequences when in September 2011, the complex strings of code on his computer monitor started getting blurry. “By December, my eyes had gotten so bad that I could only read code by supersizing the font,” recalled Karl, who lives in Menlo Park, California. “I also stopped driving because I had trouble seeing street signs. That’s when I realized there was something seriously wrong.”
After a diagnosis of Fuchs Corneal Dystrophy, a genetic condition affecting the endothelial cells of the cornea, he was referred to Dr. Margaret Liu, Chief of Cornea, at California Pacific Medical Center. Dr. Liu performed a type of corneal transplant surgery called a Descemet’s Stripping Automated Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSAEK) on Karl’s left eye. “The surgery was very successful,” she said, “but tragically, his wife passed away and we lost touch for almost a year.“
When Karl returned for a followup visit, he had developed glaucoma in his left eye, and symptoms of Fuchs Dystrophy in his right eye. Dr. Liu provided treatment that stabilized the glaucoma, and in January 2015 performed an even thinner donor cornea graft procedure on his right eye. This technique, a Descemet’s Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty (DMEK), uses a graft that is just 15 microns thin and has the advantage of faster visual recovery and shorter durations of high-dose topical steroids.
The result “is a lifesaver,” he said. “I can’t get over how much better my eyes are. I’ve worn glasses since I was eight, and don’t remember when I could see this well. I can read everything now, even the words on my smartphone without enlarging them. And I passed my driver’s test without glasses.”
Dr. Liu said that vision improvements resulting from corneal transplant procedures are often quite dramatic, and Karl’s case was no exception. He was so grateful, in fact, that he was inspired to write lyrics to the tune of “Amazing Grace”:
Amazing Peg, how sweet the things
that Doctor Liu can do
I once was blind but now I see
all thanks to Margaret Liu.