In July 2016, Alec Patarino, 29, the older of my two sons, went in for a routine eye exam, concerned that his vision kept getting worse. Rather than needing a new pair of glasses, he was diagnosed with Keratoconus , a relatively rare corneal disease that has severely damaged his vision and could potential leave him blind unless he receives treatment. Keratoconus is incurable and irreversible. About 27 percent of people diagnosed with it eventually need corneal transplants to prevent blindness.
Fortunately, Alec isn't in that position yet. In his right eye, the disease has already progressed to the point where hard contacts can't help him. (His left eye is less severe.) In order to improve the vision in his right eye and prevent or forestall the need for corneal transplants, he needs to have surgery on his right eye for the placement of corneal ring implants, or "intacts" — little rings that reshape the cornea. This is a surgical alternative to corneal transplants.
But before that, he needs to undergo Corneal Collagen Cross Linking (CXL) to strengthen his corneas in both eyes. Although CXL has been a common medical procedure for Keratoconus in Germany and elsewhere since the 1990s, it was only approved by the FDA this year. Alec's insurance simply refuses to cover it. It's not on their list of approved procedures.
The cost for CXL in both eyes is $5,800. Although insurance will probably pay for the "intacts," there will be a copay for that (as yet undetermined). Also, he will need to buy certain prescription drugs for his eyes and take time off work. The amount we are hoping to raise will cover this, as well as the GoFundMe fees, freeing him from financial worries. Any extra will go to ongoing medical care for his eyes.
Alec is the head of a household of five; his wife Angela is a stay-at-home mother of their three children, ages almost 10, almost 8, and almost 1. (They all have August birthdays.) Alec works long hours providing for his family and just finished paying off the medical bills relating to the birth of their youngest child. To work and provide for his family, he needs to be able to see.
Like any mother, I want my son to be safe and healthy. I cannot imagine him losing his sight or having such poor vision that he can't drive or work. I want my grandchildren to have a father who can continue to provide for them and do the activities they love to do together.
I would love to be able to write him a check, but I can't. I fought breast cancer in 2014 and used up every financial resource I had on that. I still haven't recovered from the financial impact of that. I would deeply appreciate whatever support you can give so that Alec can get the surgery quickly.
Keratoconus will likely require future treatments and possible additional surgeries, but we'll take that as it comes. A month ago, we'd never even heard of Keratoconus. Now, it's turned my son's life upside down.
- Kathy Pine Dennis
- Shang Wu
Organizer and beneficiary
Fort Collins, CO
Angela Jane Paschall