Doctors at Geisinger Medical Center near Danville have just pulled off a first for the hospital: an iris implant, done on a woman whose eye was severely damaged in an accident a few years ago.
Karen Plummer says the accident on Interstate 81 more than two years ago happened in a flash.
"I glanced down at the GPS and I hit the back of a truck. The airbag forced my glasses into my eye," she explained.
Thankfully Plummer, from McClure, wasn't hurt otherwise. But her eye was bleeding and she was in severe pain. Doctors at Geisinger operated soon after.
"This part of her eye, the lens, was completely in the back part of the eye and wasn't functioning, had to be removed," said Dr. Kendall Dobbins, an Opthalmologist at Geisinger.
He showed us an image of Karen's eye after the crash, then another one taken after the initial surgery, which was successful. But there was still a problem with her sight.
"The only thing I could see was a big blur," she said. "I compensated by learning to close one eye so I could read and watch television better."
Karen tried special contact lenses, but they wouldn't stay in because her eye was too misshapen. Another issue was that her pupil was so dialated, any light was painful. So Dr. Dobbins and a research team went to work to figure out a possible solution, and they found one: an FDA clinical trial of a procedure called a 3-11 artificial iris implant.
"It wasn't something that we had done here before at Geisinger," admitted Dr. Dobbins. "Not only does it replace the iris, it also replaces the lens. there are two components to it."
Because Karen had lost both, she was the perfect candidate. The procedure wasn't a transplant- there was no tissue donation involved. The eye is made of a special type of plastic.
Today, one of her eyes droops just a bit, but Karen is glad she- and the team at Geisinger- made the choice to take the chance.
"I can see pretty well. I'm very excited about this," she said.