12-Year-Old Undergoes Procedure To Restore Vision

By CBS News

Published 03/21 2014 05:41PM

Updated 03/21 2014 05:43PM

CBSNews -- 12-year-old Jake Anstett has received what his mother simply calls a “miraculous gift.”

Jake has a degenerative eye disease called keratoconus – which slowly changes the shape of the eye’s cornea from the normal round shape to a cone shape – and is nearly blind.

The Anstetts had been told his only hope of ever seeing again was a painful cornea transplant.

But on Thursday, Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler is instead performing a procedure he pioneered that uses strengthening eye drops and ultraviolet lights.

“I knew there had to be a better way and that’s why I invented the Holcomb C3-R procedure, which is non-invasive and has a one-day recovery,” Boxer Wachler said.

According to Boxer Wachler, the disease – which used to be rare, affecting about one in 2,000 people – is now believed to damage the eyes of one in every 500 people.

Jake’s mom says the only reason she discovered the procedure was because during the Winter Olympics in Sochii, gold medalist Steven Holcomb spoke out about his battle with keratoconus, which so badly damaged the bobsledder’s eyes he had to stop competing until undergoing surgery.

But she says Jake’s basketball game grew more erratic as he continued playing on a club team while having no vision in one eye and seeing double and halos of light in the other.

“He would have balls come to him and he would grab at them and miss it,” his mom said. “I apologized to him, because I used to get mad at him and now I know why.”

Just one hour after Jake’s procedure began, he sat up and looked at the world in a whole new light.

“Wow, that’s amazing,” he said. “I can now, like, recognize my own mom. I can read stuff on the wall that I wasn’t able to see.”

His parents say they will now work to help educate families about getting regular eye exams and the still little-known surgery that gave their son his sight back.

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