Transplant opens up wonderful world of color for a McAlester woman

Wednesday, November 23rd 2005, 10:25 pm
By: News On 6

McALESTER, Okla. (AP) -- A bright blue sky. A baby's smile. Green grass. Colorful flowers.

Most people can see all these things. But for some, that's not possible. Until her corneal transplant in her right eye, Denise Timmons had a hard time seeing anything at all.

"You take your vision for granted," she said.

As a mother of two active children, Kimberly and Josh, she said she couldn't even watch them during onstage school programs. She had to have someone point them out to her.

"My transplant has been a blessing to me. I can actually see. If I turn to the right, I can find them" onstage. Timmons is now on the top of a list to have a transplant in her left eye.

Timmons has a disorder called Keratoconus. It's a progressive thinning of the cornea that causes the cornea to bulge outwards, forming a rounded cone shape. No certain cause has been found for the disorder although doctors feel it may be hereditary.

"We're almost positive I was born with it and it progressed in my life," she said. "Mine went quickly. I was told I would be in my 50s. I'm 37 now. I was 34 when it came."

She began wearing glasses in the fifth grade and then got contact lenses in the seventh grade. "That's probably what saved my vision, they kept the cornea in shape," she said.

The initial prognosis of Keratoconus is made by an optometrist who can tell during tests whether a cornea is normal or not. The optometrist then refers the patient to an ophthalmologist. For Timmons, that meant being put on the corneal transplant list at Triad Clinic in Muskogee. She only had to wait 2 1/2 weeks for the transplant. The surgery is outpatient, she said, and took about 45 minutes.

"You're put under for part of the procedure," but during the actual transplant, Timmons said she was awake.

"I couldn't feel anything," she added, which was good because the transplant involves "piggybacking" 62 to 64 sutures. After the surgery, Timmons came home and several days later was back at work.

"You do a lot of doctors' visits," she said. Some of those visits are for checkups while others are for removal of the sutures.

Timmons now has 20/20 vision in her right eye.