When I started college I was an Ocean Lifeguard. At school, I found it harder to focus on textbooks. I thought it was just the chlorine from the pool. I had my eyes checked and I was diagnosed with astigmatism in one eye and I started wearing glasses while studying. As lifeguarding became my chosen profession, I found it hard to focus in the afternoon as the Southern California sun set lower in the sky.
When running out for a rescue, I would often lose my prescription sunglasses. I tried soft lenses, but sand got under them and that was uncomfortable. The lenses often slid up behind my eyes and even floated away when I swam. I often went without correction because of the irritation. By late afternoon I would see double images of objects far away, such as a boat on the horizon.
When laser eye surgery became available, I was excited. However, I was discouraged to learn that I had keratoconus in one eye and was not a candidate for LASIK. I came across an article and some studies by Dr. Boxer Wachler. I was optimistic after my first meeting with him in 1999. He explained a new procedure Intacs that would help correct my keratoconus and vision. Back then Intacs had not been reported on a patient with keratoconus in the United States, but he felt it was ready to be attempted. As I was a good candidate, I welcomed the opportunity. A week after surgery, the vision in that eye improved to a great degree. I was able to see nearly equally with both eyes and it was unnecessary to wear glasses or contacts at work. After a few months I noticed that I was relying more and more on the corrected eye!
It has now been about eight years since I had Intacs and I still do not wear corrective lenses. I am able to pick objects out of the glare on the horizon and street signs on the freeway well before I need to turn. The freedom I have gained and the confidence I now have in my vision has proven invaluable to me and my ability to continue in my profession.
The ability to see well in lifeguarding is critical, and I no longer have the worry that I might miss something that could result in someone’s pain, suffering or their life. I owe this self assuredness to Dr. Boxer Wachler and to Intacs.
I feel fortunate to have been at the right place at the right time in history. I can appreciate the saying, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” I am glad that my pioneering experience helped pave the way for the thousands of other patients who have subsequently benefited from innovative advancements for keratoconus. I am pleased to dedicate this book to the thousands of future patients who will benefit from these innovations.
– Kenny Atkins, first reported Intacs® for
keratoconus patient in the United States
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