By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Delano resident Mike Bradley’s world has been an increasingly blurry place for the past several years, but recently, life has started to “look” up.
In October, he underwent a cornea transplant in one eye for keratoconus, a condition that causes progressively fuzzy vision.
“I can actually see out of it,” Bradley said. “It’s a huge improvement.”
Surgery on his other eye will need to wait until the first one is healed, a process that takes about a year.
In order to help with the cost of the surgeries, a benefit is planned for Bradley at the Delano American Legion Saturday, March 12.
A spaghetti dinner will be served from 5 to 7 p.m. The adult price is $7, and children are $2.50. At 8 p.m., there will be a raffle drawing ($2/ticket) for cash prizes. First prize is $500, second is $250, and third is $125.
DJ Scott will provide musical entertainment throughout the night.
Clear vision ahead
Bradley said it’s been exciting to be able to see more clearly in one eye, and he’s looking forward to his second surgery.
“There’s a 95 percent chance I’ll have 20/20 vision when it’s all done,” he said.
So far, the healing process is going well.
“I had 13 stitches in my eye, and the doctors just took out three of them,” Bradley said.
Before the surgery, Bradley had trouble seeing anything clearly that was more than a few inches from his face.
“I couldn’t see the big ‘E’ on the eye chart,” he said.
Now, the vision in his corrected eye is 20/40, and is expected to improve even more throughout the year.
Bradley’s eye troubles started when he was 6 years old. At first, glasses were helpful, but as time went on, the problem gradually got worse.
“The cornea gets warped and thinned out,” Bradley explained.
According to the Minnesota Eye Consultants website, the cornea of keratoconus sufferers gradually bulges forward, assuming a cone-like shape.
The abnormal curvature changes the cornea’s refractive power, producing astigmatism and blurriness.
“Nobody knows exactly why it happens,” Bradley said, explaining he’s the only person in his family who has had keratoconus.
Most likely, there are a number of factors that play a role in the condition, such as genetics, eye allergies, and constant eye rubbing, the Minnesota Eye Consultants website stated.
Typically, symptoms worsen as time goes on. To reduce distortion and improve vision, Bradley began to wear special contact lenses.
The contacts helped him to see somewhat better, but they weren’t a perfect solution.
“The cornea’s so deformed, the contacts don’t fit right,” Bradley said. “It constantly feels like I have a rock in my eye.”
Despite eye irritation and progressively worsening vision, Bradley wasn’t one to complain about the situation.
“You get used to it,” he said. “I’ve had it so long, I just kind of adjusted to it.”
Since the onset was gradual, Bradley said he didn’t fully realize how bad his vision had gotten.
“About the second day after the surgery, I went to let the dog out, and I could see everything. It startled me,” he laughed.
Bradley and his wife, Joy, began researching corneal transplants a few years ago. They found Minnesota Eye Consultants, which is one of the premier sub-specialty and refractive research and treatment centers in the nation.
The roughly one-hour surgery involves removing the deformed cornea and replacing it with a donor cornea.
“Just like any surgery, there are always risks,” Bradley said, such as the chance of infection, blindness, or other issues. However, with the possibility of being able to see clearly again, it was a risk Bradley was willing to take.
For several weeks after his surgery, Bradley was told not to do any heavy lifting, because it would put pressure on his eye.
After a week, he was back at work at Arctic Fox, helping with only lightweight tasks.
“My work has been really good about it,” he said.
Bradley, a graduate of Hopkins High School, has been living in Delano for the past four years.
For more information about Bradley’s March 12 benefit, contact Joy at (763) 498-9177.