When Remo Caputo, Esq.’s vision began to deteriorate in the 1980s, his greatest frustration wasn’t the threat to his career or the loss of his hobbies. It was that, although he struggled to see, every doctor he visited told him he had 20/20 vision.
Caputo could read the exam chart in his doctors’ offices if he angled his head a certain way, but double vision and distortion prevented him from being able to actually see.
”Things were so bad, I thought I couldn’t practice law anymore,” he said. ”I was a pilot, but there was not a plane that I could fly anymore. I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
He tried wearing specialty lenses to reshape the cornea into the correct curve, which worked, but only for a while. Soon, even the lenses were not an option. He began to consider a cornea transplant, and his brother, a doctor, referred him to Dr. William Constad. ”Dr. Constad was the first doctor who recognized that even though I had 20/20 vision, I couldn’t see anything,” Caputo said.
”It was an incredible relief when he said he would perform [a cornea] transplant.” Constad diagnosed Caputo with keratoconus, a degenerative condition that causes the cornea to thin and change shape. Keratoconus currently accounts for almost a quarter of all corneal transplants done in the U.S., Constad said. ”Although the success rates of corneal transplants for all conditions is very high, keratoconus has the highest overall rate of success for the various diseases and conditions that necessitate cornea transplant surgery,” Constad said.
Once he found a surgeon who would perform a transplant, Caputo had to continue to be patient. Although there is virtually no waiting list for a cornea transplant today – thanks to the amazing number of generous eye, organ and tissue donors – patients in the 1980s could wait months for a cornea transplant. Caputo was in the middle of an intense case at work when a cornea first became available for his transplant; he had to pass on the cornea and start the waiting process all over again. He finally received his first transplant in his right eye several months later, in 1989.
The transplant was performed on a Friday; Caputo was back to work and able to see the following Monday. ”THE VERY NEXT DAY, I DIDN’T HAVE DOUBLE VISION ANYMORE,“ HE SAID. He received a transplant in his left eye the following year.
No longer plagued by double vision and distortion, Caputo’s life returned to normal. He could drive and read. His career was no longer in jeopardy. He returned to the pilot’s seat and began flying again. ”It was very, very freeing,“ he said. Caputo received another transplant in his right eye in 2013 and was struck by how much the experience had changed. He had struggled with scheduling issues and long wait times during his first surgery, but this time he was able to plan the surgery on his schedule, with almost no wait time.
And, as a patient, Caputo was much more at ease for the third surgery. ”I had used general anesthesia in my previous surgeries, but I used local anesthesia this time and it was fine,“ he said. ”The thought of being awake for the surgery was something I couldn’t handle the first time, but there was no pain or discomfort.
I was out of the recovery room in 30 minutes.“ Caputo said his transplants have made a ”night and day“ difference in his life. ”WHEN I WAS STRUGGLING WITH KERATOCONUS, TRYING TO FIND A DOCTOR WHO WOULD TREAT ME, I WAS AFRAID,“ HE SAID. ”EVERYTHING SEEMED SO UNCERTAIN, AND I WASN’T SURE I WOULD FIND A SOLUTION. … MY TRANSPLANTS GAVE ME MY LIFE BACK.“