News Releases

October 23, 2000

Patient With Eye Infection Deemed 'Miracle' After Emory Physicians At Grady Help Save His Sight

Earlier this year, Ellis Young of Royston, GA, was down on his luck. He had just returned to his trucking job after nursing a broken leg and elbow for six months when the unexpected happened: A fleck of dust flew into his right eye, causing a severe eye infection.

Young used eye drops and flushed his injured eye with water, hoping both would bring relief. But it did not help; his eye worsened.

Several days later after being refused medical attention elsewhere, a friend took Young to Grady Hospital, where he was admitted and diagnosed with a serious eye infection.

Now, after a special tissue graft and two cornea transplants, Young's vision has miraculously improved.

"I've never seen anything like it," said Dr. Geoffrey Broocker, associate professor of ophthalmology at Emory University and chief of ophthalmology at Grady Hospital. "Mr. Young's eye has gone through a tremendous amount of surgery. The fact that his eye could reform and see after what it endured makes it an amazing story. Nine hundred-ninety-nine times out of 1,000, he would have lost his eye."

Young, 53, underwent a series of operations after learning that Pseudomonas, a severe bacterial infection, had destroyed the front part of his eye. In fact, the bacteria had eaten the cornea - the transparent tissue forming the anterior of the outer wall of the eye - and some of the sclera (the white part) surrounding it.

Young remained in the hospital for two weeks, receiving potent antibiotic drops and systemic therapy before doctors performed a special procedure, known as a tectonic graft, to restore the globe's anatomy. However, following the first surgery, Dr. Broocker and Dr. Michael Collins performed an additional cornea transplant and reconstruction in hopes that would save Young's eye.

Within weeks, that graft failed and perforated after Young complained that a gush of fluid had escaped from his eye.

"His eye had shriveled like a raisin," said Dr. Paul Petelin, a fourth-year Emory University School of Medicine ophthalmology resident at Grady, who also joined in the treatment of Young. "I don't think I've seen a patient here (at Grady) where so much effort has been put into saving his eye."

Petelin performed the second and most recent cornea transplant surgery in September with Dr. Doyle Stulting. Prior to the transplant, the corneal perforation (hole) was sealed with a compound similar to "super glue" which was placed on the front of Young's eye. This successfully sealed the eye and allowed it to fill up again with fluid.

Since this transplant, the eye has good pressure, and Young, who before could only see light, now sees colors and shapes of objects. He is also no longer considered legally blind.

Young credits the Emory doctors and Grady Hospital for saving his vision.

"I think there's a bunch of good people here," Young said. "The people here have been really nice. And the doctors have been nice, professional, and they did a good job."

Broocker adds that Young's strong spiritual beliefs and willingness to take prescribed medications also aided in his recovery.

"He believed all along that he was going to get better," Broocker said. "And he never gave up. We were trying to prepare him for the high possibility of losing his eye, but he wouldn't hear it. He had the faith to persist and fight, and we were willing to support him with an equal effort."

Doctors like Broocker and Petelin are still keeping a vigilant watch on Young's eye. Peletin said there is still a reasonable risk that Young's vision may weaken.

"This is the best outcome we could have hoped for," Petelin said.

Media Contact: Joy H. Bell
jbell@emory.edu
404-778-3711

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