One sunny, humid day in Minneapolis, Dr. Theo Keith was playing in a golf tournament with his daughter and son-in-law. He usually plays a good game of golf, shooting in the mid 80s, but that afternoon he felt he wasn’t performing like usual.
“I knew something wasn’t right,” Dr. Keith said. “I wasn’t striking the ball solidly, but I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.”
In 2010, Dr. Keith visited the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center where he was seen by H. Kaz Soong, MD, and diagnosed with Fuchs dystrophy, a genetic condition where fluid builds up in the cornea, causing it to swell and thicken. This can lead to blurry or cloudy vision. Dr. Keith learned he also had cataracts in both eyes.
“I was informed that cells within my inner layers were failing, and that over time my corneas would gradually cloud to the point that I would lose sight in both eyes,” Dr. Keith said.
The first thing Dr. Soong and his team did was measure the thickness of Dr. Keith’s corneas. They found that one was swollen and explained possible treatments before surgery.
Dr. Keith was told to take a hairdryer and gently blow air into his eyes to remove as much moisture as possible. He was also prescribed eye drops to try and reduce the swelling.
About a year later, cataract surgery was performed on his left eye.
“Everything was fine for about a week,” he said. “But then all of a sudden it was like someone pulled a curtain over my eye.”
He called Dr. Soong who said his cornea had failed and it was time to perform the first transplant.
In 2013, Dr. Keith’s vision was restored, but not without its challenges.
“After the surgery Dr. Soong looked into my eye and said the transplant was not centered,” Dr. Keith said. “After about three or four hours of waiting, I was told the cornea had not attached.”
After lying down for about eight hours and having to stay at the hospital overnight, he was told the cornea had successfully attached. Four years later, Dr. Keith received a second cornea transplant in his right eye.
“It went perfectly,” Dr. Keith said. “Everything went so smooth.”
Now, with his vision restored, Dr. Keith can concentrate on his various projects. He has a PhD in mechanical engineering and is a distinguished university professor emeritus at the University of Toledo. Dr. Keith conducts research in wind energy, heat transfer, fluid dynamics and an array of other topics. He’s even worked on the aerodynamics of wind turbines for NASA.
In his semi-retirement, Dr. Keith became an amateur artist. Since 2006, he’s been enjoying watercolor painting, curating portraits, ink drawings and more. While his vision was gradually improving after the surgeries, Dr. Keith was eager to return to his work.
Dr. Keith and his wife, Sandra, continue to honor the gift of sight through nearly a decade of generous contributions to Eversight.
“Words cannot properly convey the debt that I owe my donor,” he said. “All I can do is pledge to the memory of that person that every day I will use all of my abilities to honor the gift of sight that I have been so fortunate to receive.”