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New treatment helps diabetic patient regain her sight

Barbara Llanes, a patient of Natural Vision, gathers with the staff she credits for improving her vision. From left are Ashton Gill, Jose Arzate, Llanes, Ashley Laymon, optometrist John G. Barron and Dr. David Kaye. (Wendy Alexander)


For many months after Barbara Llanes lost her vision, she sat at home in a deep depression. Then one day, inspired by loved ones, she decided it was time to make a change.

“I didn’t want to give up because of my family. In life, everything revolves around our vision,” she said. “Sometimes we get depressed and it’s tempting to want to give up, but I’m a fighter. I said ‘No you can’t give up, you have to continue and something’s got to give. Something is going to happen.’”

Llanes was an employee of Madera United School District from 1990 until 2002, when she had to quit because of her health.

When Llanes first came to see Dr. David Kaye, she was almost blind in her left eye. Although they tried several treatments in order to help Llanes regain her lost sight, none of the attempts proved successful.

It was then that Kaye suggested a new treatment, which involves injecting chemicals into the eye in order to cause stem cells to grow and heal the eye. The procedure uses a chemical that stimulates the stem cells, which are undifferentiated cells that live in tissues of the body. According to Kaye, “There are many new chemicals that are being used for this type of procedure; you have to select the correct one that matches with your patient’s condition.”

Llanes’ vision problems were caused by diabetes, which she battled for four years. Diabetes can cause bleeding and swelling in the back of the eye and is one of the most preventable causes of vision loss. Because the body wants oxygen it forms more blood vessels, but they’re weak and so they burst. This causes swelling, inflammation, and retinal detachment. All of these factors can lead to blindness.

”When I first came here I had a lot of problems with my vision, so they started me on treatments and injections,” Llanes said. “Although I kept coming back it was already coming to the point where I came in one day and said, ‘You know what? I just want to give up.’ Because I was tired, I needed my vision back. That’s my whole world.

“That day one of the nurses did the injection, and a month later I came back and they took my pictures again. It was like night and day. My heart was pounding and my eyes filled with tears because I was so used to the back of my eye being swollen that I didn’t think it was ever going to be possible to overcome that condition. I thought I was going to be blind, so when they told me the good news I was completely amazed.”

Llanes said she holds Kaye and staff in very high regard,

“Every doctor is like God’s angel because they have healing hands. The staff always made sure to come in and give me the right amount of drops to numb my eye for the shots, which I hated. They would take the time make to make me feel comfortable, and that’s one of the many reasons I continued to come here. I’m lost for words and can’t thank them enough.”

While Llane’s vision is still not perfect, the swelling that was interfering with her sight is completely gone. After the procedure Llanes, who originally needed glasses for everything, now only wears them to read fine print.

“It was a long journey and sad at times because I’d get discouraged. I felt like my vision was never going to come back and things would never be the same again but I’m happy now. I’m back.”

Llanes said there is hope for people who, like herself, are suffering with diabetes.

“Those with diabetes need to have their eyes checked and not give up because there is hope out there for everyone. What people need to do is read and get information on diabetes. Knowledge is power. A treatment may work for one person and not the other but those are the chances you have to take in life. Just go for it, you have nothing to lose.”

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