A Brighter Future

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An unusual procedure performed at UM’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute restores a blind woman’s sight—and makes ophthalmic history in the U.S.

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Sharron “Kay” Thornton describes her joy over being able to see again. At her side, from left, are Yoh Sawatari, D.D.S., Rick Brister, a family friend, and Victor L. Perez, M.D.

An Extraordinary Strategy
Blinded by a syndrome that severely scarred her corneas, Sharron “Kay” Thornton saw only shadows for nine years—until she regained her vision at UM’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, thanks to a complex and highly unusual series of procedures known as modified osteo-odonto-keratoprosthesis (MOOKP).

Developed in Italy and proven effective as a solution to end-stage corneal disease, MOOKP had never before been performed in the United States. “This procedure ‘of last resort’ implants the patient’s tooth in the eye to anchor a prosthetic lens and restore vision,” explains corneal specialist Victor L. Perez, associate professor of ophthalmology, who performed the surgery. The interdisciplinary team also included Yoh Sawatari, assistant professor of clinical surgery at the Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and Dentistry at UM’s Miller School of Medicine.

Rediscovering the World
“Through the work of Dr. Perez’s team, patients in the United States now have access to this complex surgical technique,” said Eduardo C. Alfonso, chairman of Bascom Palmer, which has been rated the nation’s leading eye hospital for six years in a row by U.S.News & World Report.

For Thornton, the surgery marked the successful conclusion of a long medical odyssey. Now she is excited about seeing her three grown children and nine grandchildren, as well as rediscovering simple joys like watching clouds and playing cards with friends. “Without sight, life is really hard,” she says. “I’m hoping this surgery will help countless people.”


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