Cornea Transplant Restores Young Boy’s Sight After Fishing Accident

Posted 7/25/18 (Wed)

Colton Thompson had his vision restored thanks to a cornea transplant after a serious fishhook injury.


Written By: Beatrice Shelton


Colton Thompson, pictured in an edited image with Shahzad I Mian, MD, the ophthalmologist who performed a cornea transplant to save Colton's vision after a fishhook injury

At age 7, Colton Thompson received the best gift ever – sight. Colton's vision began to dim not long after he suffered a gruesome fishing accident. In eager anticipation of a big catch with a new lure, his older brother sent a hasty cast into Colton’s left eye. After emergency surgery to remove the lure, it appeared he might escape lasting damage. But then the pain started, and he was unable to see well, even with glasses. Colton would need a new cornea, the clear, dome­-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye. Thanks to the generosity of a cornea donor and a talented ophthalmologist, Colton’s vision was restored.

Colton Thompson wears eye patch after being injured by a fish hook in the eye.

7-year-old Colton wears an eye patch after a fishhook injury.

After emergency surgery to remove the lure from his eyelid, the surgeons had good news. Instead of digging deep into his eye, one of the three hooks on the lure embedded in his eyelid, while another hook scratched his cornea. It was possible the eye would heal on its own after surgery.

Colton went home with a pair of prescription glasses and a good prognosis. The sutures were removed from his eyelid a few weeks later. It appeared he was on his way to a full recovery.

A few weeks after the fishhook was removed from his eyelid, Colton began to lose vision as a significant scar formed on his cornea. He started to squint to shield his eye from bright light. Eventually, he kept his left eye closed all the time. It was too painful and he couldn't see well. He was frustrated and so were his parents. Katelyn got a referral to see an ophthalmologist, a physician who specializes in medical and surgical eye care.

It was about three months after the injury when they went to see Shahzad Mian, MD, at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center in Ann Arbor. The scar was large, dense and it caused the cornea to change shape – significantly reducing his vision.

After careful discussion with Colton's parents, Dr. Mian recommended a cornea transplant, which is a surgical procedure to replace part of the damaged cornea with corneal tissue from a donor. The transplant would restore Colton's vision, while reducing his pain and improving the appearance of his damaged cornea. In a delicate, hour-long procedure, Dr. Mian removed 80 percent of Colton's cornea and then sutured in the healthy donor cornea.

Six months after transplant surgery, Colton has nearly 20/20 vision, and there are no signs of rejection, which is a risk factor for any organ transplantation. While the risk of rejection reduces over time, it doesn’t completely go away. Colton needs to take precautions with his eyes and must be followed by an ophthalmologist for the rest of his life.

Corneas are the most commonly transplanted tissue worldwide. Doctors perform about 50,000 corneal transplants each year in the United States. The corneal tissue comes from a recently deceased, registered tissue donor. Because almost everyone can donate their corneas after they die, there is generally no waiting list, unlike other major organ transplants.

While donors are anonymous, that didn't stop Colton from wondering about the donor who helped restore his sight: What was the person like? How old were they? What kinds of things had they seen during their life?

One thing he knows for sure, the donor gave him a priceless gift.

Learn more.