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Robin Huebner Reports: Fargo man 'seeing a different world' after five-part surgery to save his vision

In this file photo, Jesse and Sherry Shirek pose with guide dog Millie Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, at his office in Fargo. Dave Wallis / The Forum1 / 2
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FARGO – A Fargo man who had a five-part surgery in late October to save his deteriorating vision – and hopefully improve it – is back at work.  

Jesse Shirek, 36, spent his first day back in the office Tuesday at North Dakota Vision Services/School for the Blind, and is very happy with improvements to his vision so far.

“Every day it seems like there’s a little more,” said Shirek.

Though his vision is still very blurry as the eye heals, Shirek said colors are more vivid and seem to “pop” more than before.

Prior to surgery, the paint color on the walls of his home looked “eggshell” to him.

Now, he describes it as “peachy beige.”

“It’s interesting how I’m kind of seeing a different world,” said Shirek.

Shirek’s wife, Sherry, is equally thrilled.

“Hugely pleased,” Sherry Shirek said, “He’s doing amazing.”

While Jesse has one prosthetic eye and is legally blind in his other eye, Sherry is completely blind, having lost her vision more than 20 years ago from complications of diabetes.

It was important to her, and Jesse, that he hang on to his vision, and get a chance to improve it.

So far, things are moving in that direction.

During his one-month checkup at Minnesota Eye Consultants in Bloomington last week, Jesse learned that a tiny shunt placed by surgeons is keeping pressure from building up in his eye.

It means that after 20 years, he no longer has to control his glaucoma with eyedrops, which were causing his cornea to deteriorate.

Jesse received a cornea transplant and lens implant during the surgery, which should eventually help him see more detail.

He also received an artificial iris implant, which wasn’t covered by insurance because it’s still in the FDA’s trial phase.

Sherry Shirek said a fundraiser in September, along with matching funds from Dakota Medical Foundation’s Lend A Hand, will cover that uninsured portion and related expenses.

She and Jesse are grateful for everyone’s help, including the Fargo Lions Club, whose members have taken turns driving the couple to Bloomington for appointments.

Now, it’s a waiting game to see what Jesse’s quality of vision will look like.

He has three-month and six-month checkups ahead, and after that, should have reached the point where his vision will be at maximum capacity.

“We don’t want to have expectations,” said Sherry.

“Just taking it one day at a time, being positive,” she said.

Meantime, doctors have cleared Jesse for all activities, including skiing, snow shoveling and weightlifting.

But he won’t stop noticing the little things – for example, a reflection on a dinner plate that’s coming in sharper than it did the day before.

“It puts a smile on my face when I notice things that have more dimension and vibrancy,” said Jesse.

“My vision was slipping away, so this is hugely meaningful,” he said.

Readers can reach Robin Huebner at Huebner is also a 5 p.m. news anchor