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5 posts from May 2018

At eight days U-M ophthalmologist says my cornea transplant is fully-attached


Post-op exam at U-M.
See my wife Gladys sitting in the corner next to the computer monitor during second post-op exam after my cornea transplant eight days ago.



We celebrated after my second post-op exam today by going to Grand Traverse Pie Company near the U-M medical annex on the west side of Ann Arbor.  My cornea surgeon, Dr. Bradford Tannen, said the cornea transplant in my right eye was fully attached with no signs of problems.  Now it's up to the healing process.

Before the surgery, my vision was filled with fuzziness.  It was like watching a television with a lot of static from a cheap set of rabbit ears.  For more than a month, I was getting increasingly frustrated by the prospects of permanently impaired vision.  Now the fuzziness is gone completely.  

It's a waiting game to see how much the detailed part of my vision improves.  I feel optimistic.  I'm also very grateful for everybody who prayed for me during this whole process.


How do you keep your wires connected with your 34-year-old married son, a father of two, who lives out of state?


My son Justin Thorp and I started the tradition maybe five years ago.  We'd go out and have a craft beer together whether it was here in central Michigan or in St. Louis.  It turned into an occasion where we could sample some great beer and talk about our lives.  He's heavily invested into a really great job and into his family, especially his two kids.

Over the years, he has introduced me to some really beer and wine.  He understands the chemistry behind the making of both beverages and what gives them their distinctive tastes.  

In St. Louis, he's taken me several times to Urban Chestnut where I developed a taste for Schnickelfritz, one of my favorites.  Then he came back home to Michigan where we went to Horrocks Farm Market which has a vast selection of beer and wine.  I was introduced to Founders from Grand Rapids and its Backwoods series.

What do we talk about?  There's no set agenda.  There's how to get young kids to sleep through the night, dealing with the wonderful challenges of a job that you really like and everything in between.  

Last weekend, when he and his family came here, I had a chance to share about the challenges of having stressed vision caused by corneal swelling and about a cornea transplant that I had earlier this week.  I was going through in my mind the questions about what if it didn't work.

120 IPA

We also talked about where we got our strength.  Justin can articulate clearly his belief in Jesus Christ and what he means in his life.  

What did we order while at Horrocks?  He ordered a small glass of 120 Minute Dog Fish Head IPA for each of us as part of a flight.  

I walked away really impressed by the man my son has become.  He's a great husband, great dad and a great son.  I knew this, but a small glass of beer helped remind me in a very personal way.

Does this work for son-in-laws?  You bet.  My son-in-law Adam Jones is a high quality person who I am really proud of as the husband to my daughter and father to three of my grandkids.  For as long as they've been married, we explored our two worlds over coffee and over a glass of beer.

He's a pastor and a person who I'm really proud to have as part of our family.


I came home with a new cornea in my right eye


I am home from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor with the new cornea in my right eye.  I was the second patient to get surgery at the huge U-M Kellogg Eye Center  on Monday where Dr. Bradford Tannen did the transplant in a little under an hour.  At my first post-op appointment yesterday morning, he said the new cornea is attached firmly and showed no signs of having any problems.

Now the wonders of biology take over with the cells of the new cornea multiplying and forming new tissue.  If all goes according to plan, this should eventually be new corneal tissue giving me a new sight in that eye.  My right eye vision had deteriorated to the point where my sight was reduced to fuzz most of the time.

Right now, I see no fuzz, but I do have a big bubble in the repaired eye to hold the cornea in place.

I was awake during the procedure where they gave me "happy juice" as they called it.  I could hear the doctors talking about getting the tissue in the right position and that was about all I remember.

I was really impressed by the patient-oriented focus of the whole experience.  While awaiting my turn in pre-op, the nurses welcomed my wife, my daughter and two Ann Arbor-area friends to wait with me and to pray for me, the doctors and everybody else involved in the surgery.

Toughest part was having to lay on my back essentially the whole time from when the surgery was done on Monday mid-morning to this morning.  I've never been a back sleeper and that was a big challenge for me.  My wife helped to remind me to keep my head back and looking up.  


Gladys sits for yet one more eye exam.
Gladys sitting with me in the exam room at my post-op appointment.



What have I learned from this chapter of my "eye journey?" 

  • I have lots to be thankful for.  God has blessed me greatly.  Over the past few months, I started to worry about losing my vision.  During that time, I did a careful visual inventory of everything I could remember.  I came to the conclusion that I've had a full life and that my faith in God was coming full circle back to my early Sunday School days.
  • I've had some wrestling matches with God during my life where I doubted whether he was listening to me.  I've felt on the edge of losing the one capability that made it easier to get a handle on daily life--my sight.
  • Then I remembered a book by Kara Tippets, a young mom with cancer who struggled with her disease.  One night while alone in the hospital, she felt God asking her that with Jesus what else would she need.  I reminded frequently reminded myself of what she said.  If I have Jesus, what else do I need?


Gladys walking into the U-M Kellogg Eye Center
We were the first ones in the parking lot on Monday morning before surgery.



  • The human body is amazing and the people who fix are also amazing.  With a chronic case of glaucoma, I know that my eye journey is not over.  I thank God for giving me this body and for leading me to people who take care of it.
  • Family and friends were just amazing.  I pray with three other guys every week who live in different parts of the country.  We use a video tool from Oracle called Zoom.  I'm relearning how to talk to God.  One of the guys is Justin-my son; the other is my son-in-law Adam Jones and the third is my good friend Ken Alexander.
  • Facebook has served as a connecting point for me and lots of other people who have promised to pray for me.  I'm truly thankful for the response.
  • My wife Gladys have been truly supportive every step of the way.  Since my right eye started falling apart in 2012, she has probably been to 75-1000 ophthalmologist appointments.  She serves as another set of ears and as an encourager when I leave the eye doctor and want to kick the can or something else.

I know this is long, but I want to stay in touch. I also want to be an encourager to those who are being challenged physically.



As my vision worsens, here's an update on my cornea transplant at the U-M in Ann Arbor


My eyes in 2013
The arrow points to my problem eye in a picture taken in 2013. I've had nine surgeries in this eye for various things including a dislocated lens and a detached retina. Now a new cornea.



My faith in God is being tested big time as I wait for my cornea transplant surgery on May 21 at the U-M eye center in Ann Arbor.  My vision is getting fuzzier.  I can move my head and my eyes and see somewhat clearly for a few moments and then the fuzz returns.  I can see best at night during prime time on television.  

To get ready for recovery from the surgery, I bought a set of Apple's Air Pods, wireless ear pods that give audio a new portability and vitality.  This was suggested by my son Justin Thorp who also has turned me on to the accessibility features on my iPhone and my iPad Pro.  It can read back to me whatever's on the screen.  And it does this in an almost real voice.

What are some of the key takeaways for me from this whole eye experience; the eye is amazingly complex.  The surgeon doing the transplant is able to manipulate the donor cornea which has three layers.  If I recall right, he will take the middle layer and graft it on my eye.  And supposedly this could be done in less than an hour.  It's outpatient.

I'm hopeful, but realistic.  I know there's a drain in my right eye that was surgically implanted about a year ago.  That complicates this surgery.  

I'm counting on God's promise that he will meet me at this point of need.  I will report back.