Saving the Sight of Music Ace Vanessa Headley
Keratoconus (Cone-Shaped Cornea) Procedures
The lifelong music passion of Vanessa Headley has been the centered on (but not limited to), the sounds of steel via the national instrument of her native Trinidad & Tobago, the steelpan. But for now, her focus has had to shift from steel to saving her eyesight.
Vanessa is one of the Caribbean’s young musical gems, and she has been pursuing her path of professional and personal success. At the same time, the current challenge of maintaining a healthy quality of life so she may continue to be a source of joy and inspiration via musical endeavors, means immediately addressing her visual status.
Read on for a full synopsis by Vanessa herself, and LINK to help fulfill the financial goal to facilitate the necessary medical procedures. “Time is of the essence.”
Trinidad & Tobago, W.I. - “My name is Vanessa. I am a Composer, Musician, Steelpan Arranger and Hostess of Steelpan City on WACK 90.1 FM. Some of you may better know me as the Musical Director/Vice President of Golden Hands. I have been a musician since I was 4 years old. My love for the Steelpan has taken me on a life-long musical journey of truly unique experiences and opportunities. I really have been blessed to touch many lives through music and to have mine touched in return.
“Writing music is my specialty and I have forged a career of it. I have a serious malady that makes it extremely difficult to see or to be exposed to bright light for a long period of time (like my computer screen or on-coming traffic). I cannot see unless I am squinting and even then my vision is fair at best. I know you are probably wondering “How did this happen? How did you let it get to this point?” Well the answer is heartbreaking, but unfortunately true. Let me explain.
“Keratoconus is a progressive eye disease in which the normally round cornea (the clear part covering your iris) thins and begins to bulge into a cone-like shape. This cone shape deflects light as it enters the eye on its way to the light-sensitive retina, causing distorted vision, and in my case, it is causing extreme vision loss in both eyes (the left is significantly worse than the right). There is no cure and doctors are still not sure what causes it.
“During my teenage years I wore glasses for short-sightedness. But the eye specialist I visited routinely every month never diagnosed me with Keratoconus. It wasn’t until I started to attend UWI that I realised that my glasses would work only for a few months and then the lenses would have to be strengthened again. All the while it was becoming increasingly difficult to read sheet music or the whiteboards in class. By the time I visited that certain “designer” optometrist chain and actually got a diagnosis, I was in my late 20s and they said that there was nothing that they could do for me because my eyes were “too far gone”- No hard contacts, no soft contacts, no glasses (because I would have to change them too often).
“On top of that, there were and still are only a few eye specialists in Trinidad and Tobago who are familiar with the disease and offer treatment options. I got neck-deep in research and decided that my eyes were too important to risk an experimental surgery by a doctor who had only performed it “a couple of times.” So I began to look for treatment solutions and clinics abroad. Since then I have found a number of revolutionary treatment/management options for Keratoconus victims. Most recently I found Dr. Gemoules a.k.a. Dr. G at Laserfit in Dallas, Texas. The treatment is the first 100% Digitally Made and Non-Invasive Scleral lens system available. These are highly effective for complex vision issues such as Keratoconus.
“In a personal email, Dr. G said that there is no assurance that my results will be as good as someone else’s, but that Laserfit scleral lenses can improve the higher order aberrations “on average” 50% over the standard lens. This means that some may experience less improvement, and some will improve by more than 50%. He feels strongly that MOST patients will see an improvement over the standard lens. This is because they measure the aberrations, and they correct them. Unfortunately, the KC corneas can be more complicated and there can be scar tissue that can interfere with the results. I have to admit, I cried when I read his first email. Hope.
“At this point no contacts or glasses will help me see. The disease is progressive and sadly many have lost their sight entirely. So, Dr. G suggested that I look into Cross-linking surgery (CXL). This is a procedure which should stop the progression. That procedure is minimally invasive and Dr. David Maharaj of Advanced Vision Technologies of Trinidad & Tobago (AVTT) is well capable. When this is completed, after 6 months, I can visit Dr. G in Texas to be fitted for Scleral Lenses (once the borders reopen!) Short of corneal transplant, this is my best option. I’ve done the research and I am convinced that this will give me my musical life back!”
“Peace, Love and Music”
Vanessa Headley BA (Hons.) Musical Arts, MA Psychology for Musicians
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