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SUNRISE (CBSMiami) — A South Florida woman has a new outlook on life thanks to an innovative surgery. It is a change roughly 40 years in the making.
Katheryn Mercer’s blue eyes shine bright now, but that was not always the case.
Until a couple weeks ago, a childhood injury had her hiding her left eye.
“I was playing tennis,” she explained. “I was about 12 and I was having fun with my friend and I was done with my set. I went to sit down and someone screamed ‘look out!’ And I turned to look to see what I was looking out for and I got nailed right in the eye with a tennis ball.”
The resulting injury left her with a noticeably damaged iris.
“It was difficult. I went through my entire childhood being ‘different’,” she said.
She says she tried every contact lens on the market to try to disguise the damage, but nothing worked, until now.
She is one of the first recipients of an artificial iris transplant.
“It’s amazing,” Mercer said. “If you look at it, it looks natural. Nobody would know.”
“The technology for doing this is brand new. This is something that’s been around only in the last few years. And it just got approved by the FDA last summer,” explained Ophthalmologist Dr. Andrew Shatz.
Shatz, the Medical Director and CEO of Sight Trust Eye Institute, performed Mercer’s surgery in his Sunrise office.
With Mercer’s approval, he allowed our CBS4 cameras in the operating room take a peek.
“She is the first patient in Florida and one of the first in the entire country to get this implant,” he said. “She’s doing terrific. She loves it. And I think this is going to be the wave of the future for people who’ve been so stigmatized by this type of a trauma and people who were born without irises in addition. This will be fantastic.”
She says it is not just her eye that has changed since the procedure.
“I cannot begin to thank Dr. Shatz and his team for making this a reality. Because, it is life changing.”
While her eye definitely looks different, Mercer says it feels different, too.
She says she can now go out in the sun without squinting or feeling pain.