Thomas Samuels: A Second Chance at Sight

Despite the successes of corneal transplantation, there are some people for which this surgery will never be successful. In such cases, many patients could be candidates for an artificial cornea, the most popular of which is the Boston Keratoprosthesis Type I, with more than 12,000 devices implanted to date worldwide. Unfortunately, some patients with severe ocular surface disease are even not candidates for this procedure. In this circumstance, a Boston Keratoprosthesis Type II could be an option. While this procedure changes the cosmetic appearance of patients, it can be a viable last resort for restoration of some sight in patients with end stage disease.

Tom Samuels was one of these patients. The 88-year-old gentleman had a long ocular history prior to presenting to the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. He had severe ocular surface disease resulting in foreshortened fornices, no tear production, and a keratinized ocular surface in his right eye. His left eye was lost to glaucoma and retinal diseases years ago. With bare hand motions vision, Mr. Samuels had limited ability to care for himself, and he relied on his wife of 60 some years to help him with everything. Given the condition of his right eye, he was not a candidate for either a corneal transplant or a Boston Keratoprosthesis Type I. As such, after an extensive discussion, Mr. Samuels opted to have the Type II device placed.

A 4-surgeon team consisting of Bennie Jeng, MD (Cornea), Lisa Schocket, MD (Retina), Osamah Saeedi, MD (Glaucoma), and Lawson Grumbine, MD (Oculoplastics) performed the first Boston Keratoprosthesis Type II at the University of Maryland on April 7, 2016 for Mr. Samuels. Three months after surgery, Mr. Samuels is extremely satisfied with having had the procedure. He states that it is “such an improvement” to be able to see his food to feed himself, to be able to see himself in the mirror, to be able to sit outside and watch people, and to watch TV.

Longtime Annapolis resident Thomas can answer just about any question you may have about transmissions and airbags. He was an automotive engineer who began his career in the 1950’s after all. He will be the first to admit he didn’t know much about retinas or corneas until he began having eye troubles in 2004. It started he says when “blood was leaking over his retina. Blood vessels were shut off and that left eye went blind.” Then four years later he was told to have the cataract in the right eye removed which set into motion eight years of serious problems including losing his sight.  

Now in 2016 at the age of 88, he is finally getting some relief and some vision after switching his care to the University of Maryland and the capable hands of Dr. Bennie Jeng. In the spring, Mr. Samuels underwent an 8-hour operation to implant a unique, artificial cornea. “I could see immediately. I can’t use my computer yet or get back in the garden, but I can see more every day,” he explains. He jokes how he can see the phone numbers on a TV screen while his wife and son can’t even see that!

“Dr. Jeng is more than fantastic,” says Mr. Samuels who had his operation on a Friday. “Dr. Jeng insisted on seeing me on Saturday so he opened the office just for me.” The personalized, innovative care Mr. Samuels received is a prime example of how this Department does focus on patients.


For more information or to make an appointment with a eye care physician at the University of Maryland, please call our dedicated appointment line at 1-667-214-1111.