Parents often attach their own dreams, fantasies, and hopes for a better future to their children. Children are a second chance, a reflection and extension of themselves. How then do you overcome an irreversible chronic disease that will make realizing dreams of a better future for a child much more difficult? Do you let adversity make you better or worse? These are the questions Austin Seedman’s parents faced when their son was diagnosed with Wolfram syndrome, a rare genetic disorder, at the age of five.
Wolfram syndrome is a group of four symptoms characterized by hearing loss, diabetes, optic atrophy or damage to the optic nerve, and renal problems. Austin was diagnosed as deaf at two years old. By five years old Austin’s had type 1 diabetes, optic atrophy, and cataracts which left him unable to see clearly and struggle for a normal life.
School was always hard for Austin; he was bullied and teased for having cochlear implants, which he is completely deaf without, and felt prisoner to his insulin pump and glasses. His parents made sure he lived as normal life as possible by participating in sports and attending regular school. Austin deserved a childhood free from restrictions, free from prejudice, and free from complications. He had to shine through his hardest times as a child.
Austin will always be bound by his diabetes and hearing loss. He will take insulin, check his blood sugar, and live with “highs and lows” for the rest of his life. He will always need implants to hear and understand speech. These are conditions that are difficult, life changing in fact, but manageable with modern technologies like his pump and implants. However, the cataracts threatened his vision. Losing his eye sight would further remove him from the world and from his dreams of one day living a normal life.
The older he got, the more advanced his cataracts became limiting the amount of independence Austin had. Now at 22 years old, Austin could not get a drivers license, couldn’t see the board in his college classes, and was unable to pursue career opportunities. Losing his vision was not an option. He wanted to be able to follow his dreams; the same dreams, hopes, and wishes his parents had for him when he was a little boy and how his life would become. He did not want Wolfram syndrome to hold him back from accomplishing his life goals. He knew he was a fighter and could overcome cataracts. He could accept his diabetes and hearing loss. He could fight these aliments but he could not let vision loss take over.
When Austin made the decision to have cataract surgery, he found one of the top ophthalmologists in the United States and cataract surgery specialist Dr. Gregg Feinerman in Newport Beach, CA. Dr. Feinerman wanted to give Austin the most natural eye vision possible by using a new revolutionary lens technology, Crystalens, which is an artificial lens implant that not only clears cataracts but gives the patient a fuller range of vision. The lens implant will bend as the eye muscle bends so Austin will be able to read his text messages, complete his school work and sit at his computer without glasses.
The Seedman family struggled to figure out how to pay for Austin’s eye surgery. His insurance only covered traditional cataract surgery and not the new Crystalens implants that Dr. Feinerman knew would help Austin have near perfect vision. Austin was a perfect candidate for Crystalens and Dr. Feinerman wanted to share his craft by giving Austin the life and independence he dreamed of. In order to remove the financial burden from the Austin’s parents, Dr. Feinerman performed the surgery for free through his nonprofit Operation Insight, founded in 2005 to provide vision correction procedures for less fortunate patients and public servants who need clear vision to perform their daily tasks at work.
The surgeries on Austin’s eyes were successful, and days after surgery Austin had 20/20 vision near and far. Austin has better vision now then he has had since he was 5 years old. Dr. Feinerman gave Austin his independence back by giving him back his vision. Austin can now prepare himself for the life his parents had envisioned for him in spite of his diabetes and hearing loss – because he has his vision – because Dr. Feinerman changed his life as he knows it forever. Maybe Austin’s life isn’t everything his parents imagined it would be, but with his new eyesight and pending independence, it is possible to imagine a new life. This life can be just as amazing as the first. It may be a bit more complicated, but nothing can hold Austin back now, thanks to Dr. Feinerman and his new eyes.
Dr. Gregg Feinerman is a board certified and fellowship trained ophthalmologist. He is one of the top eye surgeons in the country and has performed the most Crystalens and LASIK surgeries in CA. Gregg believes in giving back to the community and is passionate about assisting individuals’ vision that do not have the means for vision correction surgery so they can better perform their jobs and provide for their families.
Dr. Gregg Feinerman founded Operation Insight when he learned how difficult it is for many public servants to wear eyeglasses on the job. As a way to give back to the community, Dr. Feinerman offers his eye surgical services to these individuals as well as train existing staff at third world countries that do not have the latest technology to perform optimal eye care. His work has become internationally known and has been appreciated by many that he has helped, including Austin Seedman and his family.