Objects most people with 20/20 vision can see from a distance of 400 feet, 2nd Lt. David Dean Jr. couldn’t see unless they were from a distance of 20 feet — at least until two Winn Army Community Hospital ophthalmologists improved his eyesight through Implantable Collamer Lens surgery Wednesday.
ICL surgery, like LASEK (laser-assisted sub-epithelial keratectomy) and PRK (photorefractive keratectomy), is a type of refractive surgery, meaning it corrects eyesight and eliminates or reduces a patient’s dependence on glasses or contact lenses.
However, unlike LASEK and PRK, which alter the cornea’s curvature using a laser, ICL involves making an incision in the eye to place a Collamer lens behind the iris and in front of the eye’s natural lens, according to Winn Ophthalmologist Lt. Col. Bruce Rivers. Rivers and his partner, Maj. Patrick Munson, performed ICL surgery on Dean this week.
“ICL is more invasive than LASEK or PRK,” Rivers explained. “It’s done in an operating room with the whole gown and gloves.”
He said it is a same-day surgery, but added that the patient is sedated and hooked to an IV.
Dean, a Fort Benning Ranger and West Point Academy graduate, had the worst vision of any patient Rivers or Munson ever had performed ICL surgery on.
The 23-year-old soldier’s prescription was a -13.5, evidenced by the thick, Coke-bottle glasses he used to wear, Winn eye technician Matthew Parker said.
“I haven’t weighed them yet,” Parker joked of Dean’s now-unnecessary eyewear.
Dean said he needed a waiver to enter West Point and the Army because of his severe nearsightedness.
“My vision has been bad my entire life. I’ve been wearing glasses since I was 5 years old,” he said.
Dean said he remembers when he first received eyeglasses. When he was asked to look at the large capital “E” on a vision examination chart, he said, he had to “keep walking toward it to see it.”
Dean is the oldest of seven children, according to his father, David Dean Sr. of Fairfax, Va. The elder Dean said his son didn’t let poor vision hold him back. Dean Sr. said his son always has played sports, primarily
“My wife and I are very excited for him,” Dean Sr. said. “It’s been a roller-coaster ride for David. He wasn’t a good candidate for the other surgeries (LASEK or PRK).”
Rivers said he and Munson began performing ICL surgeries at Winn in March. Both eye surgeons came to Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield a year ago. The majority of ICL surgeries on soldiers are conducted at Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Bragg, N.C., according to Winn spokesperson Michelle Gordon.
Rivers said the goal for the Winn eye clinic is to perform two refractive surgeries each week. The ophthalmologist said many of the eye surgeries performed at Winn are for retirees needing cataract surgery.
He said he would like to encourage more soldiers to have refractive surgery completed before the hectic pre-deployment pace begins again.
Only active-duty members may receive the refractive surgery at Winn, Rivers stressed. Family members must seek refractive surgery outside the military medical system because it is a form of elective surgery, he said.
“We’re trying to get those longest on the waiting list in first for ICL,” Rivers said. “Then it will be first come, first serve.”