Blind Mother of US Serviceman Has Her Sight Restored

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Ophthalmologists Team Up to Give Back to the Community

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Ophthalmologists Vincent Hau, of the Retina Institute (RI), and Thomas LoBue, of LoBue Laser and Eye, have successfully treated a rare autoimmune disease to restore vision to an Ethiopian woman who had been nearly blind for over a year. A coordinated and pro bono effort between multiple parties tackled and triumphed over VKH (Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada) syndrome to help the mother of a US military serviceman see again.

“VKH is the kind of disease that’s talked about in training but hardly ever seen in private practice,” said Dr. Thomas LoBue. “It’s very rare in the US and the doctors in Ethiopia couldn’t help her at all.”

Masho Weildeslassie, 61, had run out of options in her native Ethopia, which is when her son, Weldkiros Aregawi, a US Navy petty officer with five tours of duty including Afghanistan, contacted Dr. LoBue. LoBue, a cataract specialist, could not treat her cataracts due to the large amount of inflammation and so he contacted colleague Dr. Vincent Hau to help. Hau diagnosed VKH, a condition where the body attacks its own mucus membranes, especially the retina, and treated the ensuing uveitis with steroid injections. Hau reduced the inflammation to then make cataract surgery possible.

“This was a real team effort,” said Brett Braun, CEO of Retina Institute. “Dr. Hau was able to diagnose the VKH and his treatments made the surgery possible, Dr. LoBue performed the surgery that gave a blind patient better than 20/70 vision, Alcon donated equipment and the anesthesiologist donated his time.”

Unable to even see the eye chart before, Weildeslassie is now seeing 20/30 with new glasses and likened the return of her vision to “being born again.” Though still in the US continuing treatment, she expects to be reunited with her husband and four other children in Ethiopia, once she has stabilized. Her son will bring her back to the US for follow-up medical visits.

“Given the circumstances of the case, that this was such a rare diagnosis and that it was for the mother of a Navy serviceman, we are all happy we could give back and make this possible,” added LoBue. “It was the right thing to do.”

About Retina Institute
The Retina Institute was founded on a model of exceptional patient care and clinical excellence and is recognized as one of the nation’s leading practices specializing in vitreoretinal diseases. With 15 highly trained retina surgeons in 24 centers, Retina Institute is committed to innovation, compassion and superior results, and works in close partnership with each other and with referring doctors to achieve the best possible outcome for every patient. For more information visit retina2020.com.

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Brett Braun
Retina Institute
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