Fargo man undergoing life-altering surgery today
Andrew Diederick has been trying not to think about it. During the past week, the 23-year-old Fargo man dallied on his computer, read the newspaper, listened to Twins games -- anything to keep his mind off today's life-altering surgery. At 6:30 a.m.
Andrew Diederick has been trying not to think about it.
During the past week, the 23-year-old Fargo man dallied on his computer, read the newspaper, listened to Twins games -- anything to keep his mind off today's life-altering surgery.
At 6:30 a.m. CST in Cincinnati, one of the world's top ophthalmologists will transplant a cornea from a cadaver to Diederick's left eye.
A chemical accident at a Fargo food processing plant in August 2001 left Diederick completely blind in his right eye. His left eye perceives only red, green and blue.
If the surgery goes well, he'll have 20/200 to 20/400 vision in his left eye -- good enough to read the big "E" on an eye doctor's chart.
"I'm thinking real positively, but at the same time I can't get carried away," Diederick said. "You've got to kind of stay neutral and hope for the best."
Dr. Edward Holland, who will perform the surgery and has treated more than 200 patients with chemical eye injuries, has said that "far and away, Andrew's are the worst."
A year ago, Holland transplanted stem cells onto Diederick's eye to protect the old cornea and support the new one. Another surgeon reconstructed his left eyelid, which was melted in the chemical accident.
On May 6, Diederick had a spacer removed from between his eye and eyelid, which now closes completely. An exam showed his eye was holding its size and shape -- in other words, it was ready for surgery.
Today's procedure is expected to last 2 to 3½ hours.
Three things could go wrong during the surgery: Diederick's retina could detach, he could lose the eye to infection or the eye could hemorrhage.
"But he (Holland) said in all cases that he's done, those risks are all less than 1 percent," Diederick said.
The surgery has a "very high" degree of difficulty, his local opthamologist said.
"It's essentially rebuilding an eye," said Dr. Steven Thom of MeritCare Hospital. "The front of the eye is much easier to build than the back of the eye, because the retina is so fragile.
"At this point, we're assuming he has some retinal damage, but since he can distinguish colors ... we know his retina is functioning somewhat, and we're hoping it will continue to do so."
Besides the Twins games and doing chores around the apartment, Diederick has kept busy preparing for his wedding with Hollie Klaman. The two were married in March, but they're planning a formal ceremony for Aug. 18 at St. Mary's Cathedral in Fargo.
By then, Diederick hopes to be able to watch his bride walk down the aisle. Depending on how things go today, he may see her much sooner than that.
"They expect that because my case is so severe and the eye is so damaged, that removing this cornea and putting a new one on, I've been told that an expectation would be to see something instantly," he said.
At best, Diederick will see shadows and shapes the first day, such as being able to tell if a hand waves across his face, Thom said.
At worst, he won't see at all.
"This is one shot here," Thom said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528