Artificial Cornea Restores Sight in Blind Woman

Boston – Mercy Muzmara, a Zambian woman with three children, has been blind for three years due to a rare disease that caused severe, permanent scarring in her corneas. As a widow, she is the sole provider for her family, and her blindness has made it extremely difficult for her to take care of her young children, ranging in ages from 7 to 13.

“At the time, I was like, ‘God, why is it that you’ve allowed this to happen to me? Maybe if I was born blind, I was going to take it. But not at this age, when I need to give so much care to my kids…my family,” said Muzumara.

Muzumara visited several eye doctors in Zambia, but they all told her they could not help her see again. Determined to regain her sight, Muzumara decided to try her luck with ophthalmologists in the United States. Eye specialists at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary found out about her situation, and they brought her in for a visit to see if she was a candidate to receive treatment using the brand new, state-of-the-art technology that they had developed.

Dr. James Chodosh, an eye surgeon and ophthalmology professor at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, performed a procedure to insert an artificial cornea, called a keratoprosthesis, into her eye. Due to the severity of the scarring on her natural cornea and her inability to produce tears, Muzumara required a type 2 keratoprosthesis which uses an interior extension that goes in between the lids so that they can close around it.

The operation on her left eye lasted more than five hours, and the results were extremely successful. Muzumara was able to see immediately following the procedure, and by now her normal vision has been completely restored. She is returning home this weekend, and is looking forward to being able to provide her children with the care they need and deserve.

Chodosh said that Muzumara will need lifelong care to protect her newly restored vision. More than one third of patients undergoing this procedure experience complications within two to five years. These complications can potentially cause her to once again go blind if they are not properly treated in a timely manner.