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Giving the Gift of Vision at Dean McGee Eye Institute

As a mother of three grown boys, Stacy Williams finally had the time to start painting again. Just as she found her rhythm again, Stacy suffered from a terrible eye accident and her perspective on art changed forever.

During a late-night drive home from Kansas with her family, Stacy was in the passenger seat reading her e-reader when a car suddenly pulled out into traffic and hit them straight on. When the airbags deployed, the force plunged the corner of her e-reader into her eye. Stacy was the only one injured and knew right away that something was wrong.

“I was sitting in the car with my hand over my eye that felt like mush,” Stacy says. “The first thought that came into my head was, ‘I still have one eye left, at least I can still paint.’”

That’s when she realized painting meant so much to her and she wanted to fight for her eyesight and for her passion for art.

Police responded quickly, and an EMT made several phone calls to find the best place to take her for her eye injury. Stacy was driven straight to OU Medical Center, located across the street from Dean McGee Eye Institute (DMEI), so surgeons could immediately exam her.

“My eye was torn up pretty bad and I had a large gouge in my eye,” Stacy explains. “They told me that there was a high chance I was going to lose it and that I had to make a decision. I told them if there is any chance to please save my eye.”

Stacy was in surgery for more than four hours while a team of DMEI surgeons stitched her eye back together. After she had some time to recover, they carefully removed the eye patch to see the results. Not only had DMEI saved Stacy’s eye, but she was still able to see out of it.

“I could make out small, shadowed movements out of my eye and was astonished that my vision had been saved,” Stacy says.

Although this was a successful surgery, there was still a long road of recovery ahead of her. A month later, Stacy experienced complications when her retina started to detach. Normal eye pressure should be between four and 20. Anything below that is dangerous. Stacy’s eye was at a two.

“I was seeing fireworks in my eye and knew that there was a chance it couldn’t be saved. I met with Dr. Shah, a retinal specialist at DMEI, and he told me they would do everything they could to try and save it.”

Stacy then proceeded to have six more surgeries on her eye over the next seven years. This included a corneal transplant, retinal surgery, scar tissue removal, and eyelid cosmetic surgery.

“Dr. Shah always tells me how much of a miracle it was that I still have my eye. I am super grateful to everyone at DMEI who helped me through this entire process.”

Over the years, Stacy’s vision improved and was strong enough to be fitted for contact lenses. That’s when she decided to pick up a paintbrush again.

“When I decided to start painting again, I wanted to see what things looked like when I covered my good eye (with 20/20 vision), with my eye patch and painted with my recovered eye,” Stacy says. “I didn’t want to peak. I really wanted to complete a full painting and I knew if I lifted the eye patch off my good eye once, I couldn’t touch it again.”

Once she was finished with the painting and saw it with both eyes for the first time, she was surprised by the new, impressionistic style of painting she was able to achieve.

painting of two dead trees in the woods

“Two Dead Trees in a Field.” June 10, 2017, Right Eye.

“It looked so different with my good eye and it was totally not what I thought it was. It was like I had a new, impressionistic style with my bad eye and a more realistic style with my good eye,” Stacy says. “The more I painted, the more I was able to feel the painting and let the brush flow naturally.

“When I paint, it brings out a gratitude in me that is so powerful. I am able to look on my walls and see paintings I was able to paint with an eye that no one thought would make it, and that has meant so much to me. “

There were several times throughout this journey that Stacy and her doctors at DMEI could have given up, but they didn’t. With the DMEI team’s hard work and Stacy’s endurance through recovery, she was able to keep her eye, her vision, and her art.

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