Brad Stevens has had his share of health-related ups and downs through the years. The 37-year-old Boyceville, Wisconsin, man has Type 1 diabetes. Often diagnosed in childhood, the disease is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. A common complication is diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease caused by damage to the blood vessels in the tissue at the back of the eye, and Brad developed it.
He also developed one of the most severe complications of diabetes retinopathy, called vitreous hemorrhage, or bleeding in the eye, and retinal detachment. He was experiencing severe vision loss in his right eye and was at risk of total vision loss if not aggressively treated.
SEEING A BLUR
“I was seeing a big blur spot in my vision. It was getting darker and darker and harder to see,” says Brad, a father of two who enjoys hunting, fishing and “anything outdoors.” He was promptly referred to Wayne Wu, M.D., an ophthalmologist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire who specializes in vitreoretinal surgery.
When Dr. Wu first examined Brad in August 2016, Brad had reasonable 20/30 vision in his left eye but next-to-no vision and a total retinal detachment in his right eye. He also had advanced proliferative diabetic retinopathy in his better eye, and was on the brink of bleeding and developing a similar situation in the left eye.
A week later, Dr. Wu performed a type of eye surgery known as a vitrectomy on Brad’s right eye, along with a laser treatment to repair the detached retina. The left eye was stabilized with laser treatment to avoid future complications similar to what was being treated in Brad’s right eye.
“Basically, we removed the blood and fixed the retinal detachment, and then performed laser treatment on the outside. We also put a gas bubble in the eye, which remained in the eye for several weeks to help the retina heal,” says Dr. Wu.
Brad’s surgery went well and, now more than a year later, he says he’s doing well and is highly satisfied with his visual function.
“I’ve seen a lot of improvement,” says Brad, who has resumed all normal activities, such as reading and driving. “It seems like it always gets clearer and clearer.”
In Brad’s most recent follow-up appointment, he had 20/30 vision in his right eye and 20/25 vision in his left. And, because of the treatment, his damaged retina has stabilized. As long as he continues to control his diabetes, Dr. Wu believes Brad’s condition will remain stable long term.
Brad says he can’t thank Dr. Wu and his medical team enough for the high level of care they provided him.
“I rate their care a 10 out of 10, and Dr. Wu is excellent,” Brad says, noting that Dr. Wu provided a thorough explanation of everything he was going to do, which he found comforting.
“At the same time, he didn’t overshoot the expectation,” Brad continues. “When I became better than what he told me I should expect, that was even better.”