Corneal transplants save a rescue pilot’s career
Dave Simeur is a pilot for federal law enforcement. He’s rescued Boy Scouts on Mount Baker and chased a killer on Mount Rainier. He’s hauled blood for blood banks and swooped into hurricane zones.
So, when an eye specialist told him several years ago that he’d have to give up flying because of a degenerative corneal disease, he immediately worried about his wife and two young children, his career and his future.
“This is how I feed my family,” he says. “This is how I pay my mortgage. This is how I serve my country.”
But then a physician told him about Mark Terry, M.D., and Legacy Devers Eye Institute. Dr. Terry assured Simeur that he could repair his eyesight with a double cornea transplant.
Simeur suffered from Fuch’s dystrophy, a condition in which a layer of the cornea swells, causing cloudy vision and gradually diminishing a patient’s sight.
He learned of the condition about four years ago during a military flight physical and began researching possible treatments. But he couldn’t find any pilots who’d had the condition and returned to flying. The uncertainty about his future left him in unfamiliar territory. This wasn’t a problem he could fix on his own.
“My whole life,” Simeur says, “my whole career, I was always the person who was rescuing someone else. This was the first time in my life that I needed rescuing.”
Simeur developed an immediate bond with Dr. Terry, thanks to their shared military backgrounds, and drew comfort from his new doctor’s confidence.
They wasted little time scheduling the surgeries, a separate procedure for each eye in which a thin membrane from a deceased donor was transplanted.
It took a couple of days for recovery. But the difference was extraordinary, Simeur says, comparable to switching from an old television to a new high-definition model. The colors were so vivid; he was particularly moved by the sudden clarity he noticed in his young daughter’s eyes. He is deeply grateful to the anonymous donor.
Simeur returned to the cockpit within three months, far more quickly than he had imagined. He has since become a loyal donor to the Mark A. Terry , M.D., Endowment for Corneal Care and a committed supporter of Legacy Devers.
“Dr. Terry saved me,” he says. “He gave me my whole life back.”
To honor Dr. Terry and to sustain the success of corneal transplant surgery at Legacy Devers Eye Institute, the Mark A. Terry, M.D. Endowment for Corneal Services was established in 2013. To make a contribution, click here.