Ten-year-old Sheldon Forman went to three different eye doctors. Three different times he couldn’t see the “E” at the top of the eye chart. And three different times, the doctor told him he was faking and there was nothing wrong with his eyes.
It was 1942. “I was not in good shape,” the New York native recalls. Finally, his parents took him to a doctor who correctly diagnosed his keratoconus and prescribed contact lenses.
“I was wearing scleral contact lenses, and I wasn’t even 11 years old,” Forman says. The contact lenses did the trick. His vision with the lenses was nearly 20/20, and he says his KC had no additional impact on his life: “I was out there functioning just like a teenage boy, playing ball and doing everything.”
While there was no effect on his vision, his corneas grew dangerously thin. “When I was 19, the corneas were so thin that, in one eye, I popped holes in my cornea,” Forman says. He had developed hydrops, which is a split or tear in the back layer of the cornea.
It was 1951. “My doctor sent me to one of the two doctors — in the world, I think — who were doing corneal transplants, and I had a transplant in my left eye,” he says. “It went so well, that the following year, they did my right eye in front of the World Congress of Ophthalmologists.”
Fast forward 60 years to 2013, and Forman has had no issues or complications from either original transplant. Recently, his right eye has been bothering him, and his doctor told him, “The cornea may need a scraping, and I may have a cataract in that eye. I’m going in a few weeks to have that checked out.”
Forman and his wife, Miriam, keep a close eye on keratoconus developments through various organizations, including NKCF. They are members of KC Link; “I like to read about what everybody’s situation is, and what is being done, and how they’re handling it,” Miriam says.
Two of their three children were diagnosed with KC 20 years ago, when they were in their 30s. “Their vision is just fine and stable with regular glasses,” Forman says.
“Things are different today. When I had my corneas done, I laid in the hospital for three weeks. Now you do it in the morning and go home in the afternoon.”
To people being diagnosed with KC for the first time, Forman has some words of wisdom: “Don’t despair. Particularly today, they do wonderful things, and you’ll have a fine and perfect life. I never let it stop me. You have to persevere with any shortcoming you have. I had a shortcoming. I persevered. I was fine. Don’t despair. Whatever it is, there is something out there that will help you and make you as good as new.”