“A Whole New World”

Surgery combination produces 20/10 vision for longtime glasses wearer.

Gary Northrup was born and raised in Dubuque, Iowa, a small industrial town on the Mississippi River. Dubuque is 25 miles east of the Field of Dreams, the baseball park and tourist attraction built for the eponymous 1989 sports fantasy movie.

Greg regularly travels in his RV with Kathy Reid and their three dogs, from left, Ginger, Joy and Chase.

Once Gary became an adult, he left Iowa to pursue his own dreams.

“When I got married and started my family, we lived in the Chicago area, in Naperville, Illinois,” recounts Gary, 61. “We moved to Florida in 2000. We moved for the sunshine and the beaches, and so we wouldn’t have to shovel snow anymore.”

In Florida, Gary got a job as a store manager for The Home Depot®. He started in Sarasota, moved to Venice, then Sun City Center and eventually to Lakeland. He retired from The Home Depot after 16 years and now sells real estate part time. Gary spends the rest of his time traveling the country in his 38-foot Class A motor home.

“We mostly use the RV to go back and forth to Michigan, Iowa and Ohio visiting family,” Gary elaborates. “We got it so we could travel with our three dogs because my son was no longer available to stay at the house and watch them. We had the choice of not going anywhere or getting the RV and taking the dogs with us everywhere, so that’s what we did. The RV has seating for eight, dining for four and sleeps two. It’s perfect for our needs.”

Gary has other needs as well, especially where his vision is concerned. He’s had vision problems since he was very young and has worn glasses since his early years in elementary school. As Gary’s aged, his eye problems have multiplied.

In recent years, he developed iritis, an inflammation of the iris that spontaneously occurs in otherwise healthy people, and was diagnosed with a corneal disease that prompted his eye doctor to issue a stark warning.

“He said that if I didn’t have it treated I would be blind in five years,” Gary remembers. “He immediately referred me to a specialist, whom I visited a few years ago. But then the specialist moved. While looking for a new eye doctor covered by my insurance, my agent said, You need to see Dr. Berger.”

Craig E. Berger, MD, is a board-certified, fellowship-trained ophthalmic surgeon at Bay Area Eye Institute in Tampa. In addition to his practice, Dr. Berger spent 15 years working as an adjunct assistant professor of ophthalmology at the University of South Florida Eye Institute.

During his initial visit with Gary, Dr. Berger discovered that Gary also had cataracts in both eyes. The diagnosis came as a surprise to Gary, who was not experiencing any of the obvious symptoms of cataracts, including glare, loss of color intensity and seeing halos around lights. All he noticed was a slight drop in the clarity of his vision.

“I saw fine in general, but I couldn’t see sharp detail,” he expounds. “It was like someone was taking a picture but dialed out the camera’s focus just a little bit. I thought the distortion was due to the corneal disease.”

Selective Replacement

Cataracts develop as a result of protein buildup in the natural lens of the eye. This buildup prevents light from passing through the lens, makes the vision look cloudy and can sometimes cause double vision.

Cataracts are a common problem typically related to aging. More than half of all Americans will develop a cataract by age 80. But other factors, such as diabetes, sun exposure, smoking and family history can cause the condition to develop at a younger age.

“Generally, cataracts become a problem later in life, but they actually start around the age of 40 and progress at different rates in different people,” Dr. Berger educates. “For this reason, they can occur in younger people as well.”

Treatment for cataracts involves the surgical removal of the affected natural lens and its replacement with a clear, synthetic intraocular lens, or IOL. Cataract surgery is generally performed on an outpatient basis on one eye at a time, typically a few weeks apart.

“In addition to cataracts, Gary also had a condition that affects the innermost layers of the cornea and causes blurred vision,” Dr. Berger reports. “It was necessary to treat the corneal condition with separate procedures before we removed his cataracts and implanted the IOLs.”

The treatment for Gary’s corneal condition was an advanced partial corneal transplant called Descemet membrane endothelial keratoplasty, or DMEK, Dr. Berger reveals. The Descemet membrane is the basement membrane deep within the cornea. The endothelium is the lining tissue.

“During DMEK, the patient’s Descemet membrane and endothelium are selectively removed and replaced with donor tissue,” the ophthalmic surgeon describes. “I am one of only three doctors in the area offering this procedure.”

It was necessary for Gary to have DMEK if he wanted to be free of glasses after cataract surgery. Without the DMEK procedure, he would not be a candidate for multifocal IOLs, which can reduce the need for glasses after surgery.

“If Gary did not undergo DMEK, he would have had to settle for standard monofocal IOLs,” Dr. Berger elaborates. “With monofocal lenses, Gary would need to use glasses for distance and up-close vision for the rest of his life.

“But Gary was very motivated to be glasses-independent after surgery, so I performed DMEK and recommended a new trifocal IOL called the PanOptix®. This lens provides clear vision at all three focal points: near, far and intermediate. It virtually eliminates the need for glasses following cataract surgery.”

“Absolutely the Best”

“Dr. Berger performed four surgeries on me in four months,” Gary recalls. “He performed two corneal transplants, first on the left eye and then on the right. Then he performed cataract surgery, again on my left eye first and then on the right.”

Just as Dr. Berger intended, Gary achieved excellent vision after DMEK and cataract surgery with the PanOptix. He is now out of glasses after more than 50 years of dependence on spectacles.

“The PanOptix lens is absolutely the best,” Gary enthuses. “It’s added a whole new aspect to my life because I can run around without glasses. I use cheaters occasionally if I’m looking at something small, like fine detail, or if I need to look at something close. Otherwise, everything is crystal clear. This is a whole new world for me because I’ve always worn glasses.

“Dr. Berger says my vision is 20/10, so it’s better than 20/20 without glasses. I’m very happy with the procedures and my results. I wish I could’ve had the surgery sooner.”

Gary is happy with the eye doctor that performed those procedures as well.

“Dr. Berger is awesome,” he raves. “I wanted the most qualified doctor available so I can be confident in his abilities. Dr. Berger is absolutely the most qualified, if not the best, eye doctor in this area.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photo courtesy of Gary Northrup. mkb
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    • Bay Area Eye Institute

      Bay Area Eye Institute understands that there are many ophthalmologists and optometrists in the Tampa bay area to choose from. Dr. Berger’s practice focuses on patient satisfaction. His philosophy is to put the patient first, provide phys... Read More

    • Craig E. Berger, MD

      Craig E. Berger, MD, is a board-certified, fellowship-trained ophthalmic surgeon. After receiving his undergraduate degree in chemistry from the University of Florida, he received his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of South Fl... Read More