Bobsled driver, Steve Holcomb, had a recent fight with Keratoconus – his story is one that is still radiating throughout the world. His story is one that sheds hope and light on patients with Keratoconus, as well as those not yet diagnosed. Steve Holcomb’s dreams of gaining a Gold Medal were almost brought to a screeching halt due to his severe and progressing condition, Keratoconus.
Keratoconus is a progressive condition that gradually takes away the sight of the patient. But unfortunately Steve learned this fact the hard way. His love for the bob sled was almost stopped by this frustrating and painful condition.
His care for his team mates prompted him to make the hardest decision he ever had to make, the decision to retire from the sport he loved so much. His team mates were saddened by this decisions and refused to give up on him.
In one last effort to restore his sight, Steve’s team doctor researched treatments for keratoconus and decided to send him to Dr. Brian S. Boxer Wachler. Steve learned about a new treatment that maybe able to restore his vision. With a bit of hope and in the hands of Dr. Brian, Steve received the C3-R ® or Collagen Cross-linking with Riboflavin a non-invasive procedure that strengthens and stabilizes the cornea.
The procedure only takes about 30 minutes and is done in the doctors office. The procedure involves placing drops of Riboflavin on the cornea and using a UV light to activate the medication. The drops help strengthen and stabilize the effects of Keratoconus.
About 3 months following Dr. Boxer-Wachler implanted the Visian ICL which corrected his Myopia. The success of the procedures prompted Steve to come out of retirement and go forward to win a Gold Medal for the US which hadn’t been done for 62 years! True teamwork and the help of the Boxer Wachler Vision Institute aided in an event that will forever be in the history of America for years to come.
The C3-R ® procedure is now named for Steven titled “Holcomb C3-R ®” another first for the history of medicine for a procedure to be named after a Gold Medalist. True inspiration for all who suffer from this debilitating condition.
Last Thursday I, Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler, was in Vancouver for the press conference with the U.S. Bobsled team. “Why would an eye surgeon be at a press conference?” is probably going through your mind. I didn’t give up my day job to join the U.S. Bobsled team. My patient Steven Holcomb and his story has become one of the most remarkable stories in this upcoming bobsled event this winter in Vancouver.
Steven is the driver of the U.S. Bobsled team’s top sled nicknamed “The Night Train”. Two years ago, he became legally blind due to a degenerative cornea condition called Keratoconus which just about forced him to retire and give up the sport. The team refused to let him give up. That’s when they found me. I had the honor of treating Steve’s condition with C3-R along with corrective lens implants. C3-R saved Steve’s eyesight.
He then went on to win Gold in the World Bobsled Championship – a U.S. first in 50 years.
Hence the reason for being part of the press conference last week. It was filled with TV crews and journalists.
Full details about Steve’s story can be read on EyeWorld.com
In just 10 more days, Steve and the Night Train will be going for Gold! I’ll be there personally rooting for Steve and I’ll be posting updates on this blog and tweeting at www.twitter.com/drboxerwachler
This year in January Steven Holcomb had undergone a vision correction treatment that restored is vision. With his uncanny talent in bobsledding few knew of the troubles Steve suffered out there on the track. However his sight had become such a problem the extraordinarily talented athlete thought of throwing in the towel and retiring. In one last effort to help himself a few organizations pitched in an assisted the athlete in getting the experimental procedures done. His response to the procedures?
Quote from USA Today:
“I could instantly see clearly. It’s an amazing feeling”
– Says a pleased Steve Holcomb
Now with the 2010 games coming up the athlete is back and stronger than ever. Holcomb entered the Bobsled World Championships on Friday in New York. His vision is almost perfect a far cry from his vision early last year at 20/1000 which for those of you that don’t know is quite poor -noted by doctors as profoundly poor in fact.
In further quotes Steve Holcomb states:
“Its life in high-definition”
His team was not aware of how bad Holcomb’s vision was until recently but says that he worked more off instinct than vision anyway. And Steve is more confident and amped about his vision than ever, no longer worrying about the constant hassle of his contacts and view life in a whole new way…as for the 2010 games will just have to wait and see!
Bobsledder- Steven Holcomb has a lot to say in this article from USA Today Written by Tim Reynolds…
Bobsledder Steven Holcomb was speeding down the icy track for a preseason training run a few weeks ago, when a piece of duct tape tore off the chassis and whizzed past his helmet. His teammates weren’t bothered. They’d seen it happen dozens of times. Holcomb, though, was spooked. Until then, he’d never seen that before.
In a sport that demands razor-sharp hand-eye coordination, Holcomb excels even with a degenerative eye disease called keratoconus that makes reading a challenge – say nothing for steering a bobsled in a snowstorm. “Sometimes, I really didn’t see all that much out there,” he said.
Given his success, that’s hard to believe. Holcomb is a national champion, a World Cup star and was the top American driver at the 2006 Turin games. He navigates slippery tracks at 80 mph in a sport where tiny mistakes can lead to disaster. Yet he did all that with vision so blurry that he couldn’t read the big “E” atop an eye chart from more than 6 feet away. A $15,000 procedure may have saved Holcomb’s vision – plus could nudge him closer to gold in Vancouver in 2010.
“If he was in the top five in the world before, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s soon to be the top in the world,” said Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler of Beverly Hills, Calif., the corneal surgeon who developed the procedure that Holcomb underwent, Holcomb would love to see that.
Keratoconus causes the cornea to bulge outward, causing blurred vision. In some mild cases, glasses or contacts can be the answer. In Holcomb’s case, neither did the trick. Lasik didn’t work, either; Holcomb tried that in 2000, but was back in glasses within a year. So after last season, he decided he’d either find a solution or retire.
“They couldn’t make contacts strong enough for me anymore,” Holcomb said. “And since it’s a progressive disease, I had to get a new prescription, a stronger prescription, every three months. Finally they said, ‘You know, we can’t make them any stronger.’ So it was the end. For a while, I thought it was the end.”
U.S. bobsled coach Brian Shimer didn’t want to see that happen. He researched options, found Boxer Wachler, and sent Holcomb to California to meet the doctor. Holcomb was deemed a candidate for Visian ICL, or Implantable Collamer Lens, a 9-minute surgery where a contact is embedded behind the iris. It’s permanent, and so far, it’s worked for Holcomb.
His vision, once as bad as 20-1000 – which gets defined as “profound visual impairment” – is now close to perfect. He sees things on tracks that he never knew were there before.
“I was part of the FDA approval study for it,” Holcomb said. “I couldn’t wear contacts the day of the surgery, so they literally had to walk me around the room. And then they did it, I got up, and just like that, I was 20-20. It’s incredible. I call it an eye-opening experience.” Pun intended, of course.
Holcomb didn’t just suffer from keratoconus, but also was extremely nearsighted. So Boxer Wachler – who has performed similar procedures before live on national television, plus has worked with other athletes, most notably Los Angeles Lakers’ guard Derek Fisher – began the process by having Holcomb undergo what’s called C3-R, something that strengthens the anchors within the cornea and minimizes the bulging effect.
It’s relatively new technology and isn’t offered by many eye doctors yet. Boxer Wachler is considered the pioneer in this sort of work. “We’ve been doing this for five years,”Boxer Wachler said. “It’s not experimental for us. We call it an off-label procedure.”
But because of the costs involved, Holcomb almost decided not to undergo any procedure. Holcomb isn’t a rich man, by any stretch of the imagination. Bobsledders don’t get into their sport for money; it’s rare to find a sled that turns a profit at the end of a season, no matter how many races a team wins in a given year. The technology is costly, the perks are few, and when Holcomb was told how much Visian ICL would cost, he initially balked at going forward.
“It was every amount of prize money I’d ever won,” Holcomb said. “So the U.S. Bobsled Federation stepped up and donated and now I hope they can collect on it.” That shouldn’t be a problem.
When the World Cup season starts in Germany in a few weeks, Holcomb will be among the favorites once again. He ended last season ranked fourth among drivers in two- and four-man bobsled, and now with his vision no longer a stressful issue, he can’t see any reason why he shouldn’t improve on the track.
“Now that I can see, things are starting to click,” Holcomb said. “I already could feel out there on the track. It’s like putting a face to a name now. My eyes don’t hurt. My head doesn’t hurt. Before, I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even play catch before. Someone would throw me something and it’d hit me in the face. Now I can focus on what’s important out there.”