Patient sees great value in hospital's first cornea transplant

cornea transplant patient linda hascall at ChristmasDr. Abu-Bakar Zafar joined Carle in August, bringing with him the expertise to perform the health system’s first cornea transplant. Previously, patients had to travel to Bloomington, Chicago, Indianapolis or St. Louis for the procedure that has Savoy’s Linda Hascall seeing more clearly than she has in years.

Soon, Hascall will get the new pair of glasses she’s been wanting.

Three months after surgery, her eye has healed to the point her vision is stable and likely will not change. The new prescription will come in handy when it’s warm enough for gardening and when the retired graphic artist—who made her living with her sight—again can help with design projects for Altrusa International Club of Champaign-Urbana, where she’s been a member for almost 20 years.

Dr. Scott D. Ohl, one of Carle’s optometrists, diagnosed Hascall with Fuchs’ corneal dystrophy. However, Dr. Ohl had to refer her outside of Champaign-Urbana for consultation. Dr. Ohl encouraged his patient to see Dr. Zafar soon after the specialist arrived.

“I was excited. This is cutting-edge. Dr. Zafar knows the latest. I was impressed with his fellowship work at Barnes, learning the best and most successful procedures,” she said.

“He explained what I should expect. He used a model of an eye to show me what he would do, where he would cut.”

human eye illustration includes cornea, pupil and moreFellowship-trained in cornea and refractive surgery at Pepose Vision Institute and Barnes Jewish Hospital, Dr. Zafar replaced a portion of the cornea of Hascall’s right eye with a wafer-shaped portion of a donor’s cornea.

“The donor’s cornea is thin and held in place by an air bubble, allowing for fewer sutures and faster recovery,” said Dr. Zafar, adding a decade ago most eye surgeons replaced the entire cornea.

Fuch’s corneal dystrophy impacts the eye’s ability to process light and therefore its power to focus correctly.

For Hascall, that meant objects and scenery looked darker than they were or appeared faded. She usually let others drive at night and, even during the day, worried about being able to see objects like the stray parts of semi tires found frequently on roadways.

“Now the detail is back,” Hascall after after cornea replacement and cataract removal surgery November 10. “I can read menus in dimly lit restaurants, see birds in the backyard and, overall, I have great definition in lights and darks.”

Raymond and Linda Hascall of Savoy, Illinois, cornea transplant recipientMarried to Raymond for 26 years, Hascall said her husband was an excellent caregiver while she recovered, calling him the “head eye dropper” and schedule supervisor.

“I never felt I had sensitive eyes, but I found out that when that eye wants to close, it closes,” she said with a smile, admitting that although she felt well quickly, she wasn’t in a hurry to look at her eye after surgery.

Here’s something else she’s not exactly thrilled to see.

“Before, when I looked in my makeup mirror, I really couldn’t see my wrinkles. With my vision so much better, I certainly can now,” Hascall quipped.