Well, I went in for my (approximately) one-month check-up with the eye surgeon today, and came out with some great news!
1) The primary goal of this procedure was, quite simply, to halt the progression of a disease for which there is currently no cure. This clinical trial is the next best thing, though, as halting the process at least means it won't get worse.
That goal has succeeded! The doctor said in my right eye, the progression has been halted! What's even better, the hoped-for corollary benefit, that the procedure strengthens and re-builds some of the bonds linking the layers of the cornea, thus flattening it a bit (from the steepness caused by the keratoconus) is happening too! The doctor can see a decrease in steepness in my right cornea!
2) What's even cooler, another hoped-for corollary result, that the vision improve a bit, is happening as well! (In connection with the above-mentioned regression in steepness.) The doctor tells me that when I came in, my uncorrected vision in the right eye was 20/400. (To give you a reference, if vision is uncorrectable from 20/200 or worse, a person is considered legally blind. Of course mine was somewhat (though not entirely) correctable, but still - that at least gives a benchmark.) Now, it's...DUN DUN DUN...20/70 to 20/80!! Which, while my vision is still very, very bad, is a great improvement! Even though to the naked eye, I still can literally only bring my hand into sharp focus about two inches from my right eye, and everything after that gets blurry, from the tests that were done today I could definitely tell that I was able to focus on more than I have in a long time, and read several lines further down the chart! What this means is that when they do re-fit me for contacts, it will be a lot easier for them to correct my vision to close to 20/20; the increasing failure to be able to do so because of the steepness of the cornea having been one of the impetuses for this procedure in the first place (the other being the discomfort of the lenses). It's expected that the lenses may be more comfortable too with the less-steep cornea.
I asked the doctor whether, now that the cornea is getting less steep and vision is improving, there was a possibility of that reversing (i.e. the cornea getting steeper again due to the disease), and he said that (although it's not guaranteed, as this is a clinical study) they had not seen that happen in cases where the procedure was successful, and that the expectation is that my cornea will either plateau (i.e. stop getting better but not get worse), or (and this is very possible in my case, since this is only a month out) will continue to improve somewhat over at least the next few months to a year. I hope it's the latter! And am eating lots of carrots and antioxidants and getting lots of sleep and putting in lots of eye drops in the hopes of helping my cornea along. :)
Thanks to the fact that the procedure is working in my right eye, the next step is to have it done in my left eye, which of course also has the keratoconus. To that end, I am actually going right back to the doctor on Wednesday to have the free evaluation (as I had done for the right eye) to ensure that the left eye is a candidate for the procedure, and talk about setting that up (I am 99.99% sure the left eye will be a candidate, as the disease is not as far along in it as in the right). Assuming all goes well there, I think the earliest I could have the procedure done on the left eye (though I'll have to check with them) would be soon after Christmas; but due to holidays and traveling and the like, I think it more likely I will try to see if I can get it done around or after January 10th/15th-ish.
Thanks to you all in this community (donators and bidders alike!) I have $1,500 put away already of the $4,000 I will need for the next surgery, and I likely have until mid-January or a bit after to try to get the rest together (along with some money to cover the corollary expenses). I am so, so grateful for what I have put away, and for the money that was given to me for the first surgery and covering some of the costs associated with all of this (a lot of missed work, medications, etc.), and most of all:
I AM SO HAPPY IT'S WORKING!!!!! *excited flail* Everyone cheer!!!
WOOOOOOOOO!!!!! :D :D :D :D :D :D :D