Dr. Chu joins WCCO 4 to talk about a new technology that gave Jake his sight back and renewed hope to pursue his dream to teach music.
Host 1: Imagine having an eye disease that is robbing you of your sight.
Host 2: This happened to Jake Matheson when he was just 20 years old, but there’s some new technology that gave Jake his sight back and renewed his hope to pursue his dream of teaching music. He’s now the band director at Southwest Junior High in Columbus Elementary in Forest Lake. Jake Matheson and Dr. Ralph Chu from Chu Vision Institute join us now. Thank you guys for being here. We appreciate it.
Dr. Ralph Chu: Thanks for having us.
Host 2: Jake, let’s start with you. Tell us how the condition you have… What was it called?
Jake Matheson: Oh, it’s called keratoconus.
Host 2: And how did that affect you? What happened?
Jake Matheson: When I was 19, it affected me to the point where I actually dropped out of school.
Host 1: Wow.
Jake Matheson: My eyes had got bad enough that I couldn’t really read books or textbooks. I couldn’t drive. And it was a quick progression that it’s just… my vision declined to the point where I was struggling to-
Host 2: And you went from full sight before that.
Jake Matheson: Yeah. I didn’t actually start wearing glasses at all until I was 16.
Host 2: Wow.
Host 1: Wow. That’s amazing. Dr. Chu, you actually have this procedure. You’re one of few doctors across the country that will perform it. Can you tell us what it is and how that helped Jake?
Dr. Ralph Chu: Yup. Keratoconus is a progressive condition where the cornea loses its natural curvature, and so it gets to the point where patients can’t wear glasses or contacts and still see. So Jake, before the procedure, could only see 20/80. Now he can see 20/20 with his glasses.
Host 1: Amazing.
Dr. Ralph Chu: What the procedure does is we just put a drop of riboflavin on the eye and use an ultraviolet light to strengthen the corneal bonds.
Host 1: That’s it?
Dr. Ralph Chu: Yup. It stops the progression of disease, and then in some patients, like Jake, helps bring back the quality of their vision.
Host 2: Jake, this has been a life changer, I imagine?
Jake Matheson: A complete life changer. At that point-
Host 2: Yeah. So tell me, you’re wearing glasses now, but you can see just fine?
Jake Matheson: Yup. Yup.
Host 1: That is amazing.
Host 2: Wow.
Host 1: You’re one of only handful of doctors, like I mentioned, approved to do this. Why is that the case? Is it that extra training? What are those extra steps that you had to do?
Dr. Ralph Chu: Well, what’s been exciting is it’s taken over 10 years to get this through the FDA clinical trial process.
Host 1: Wow.
Dr. Ralph Chu: Just within the last month, this became available through the FDA approval process. So, we’ll be the first clinic to offer this FDA-approved process in the state, but it will be widely available throughout the United States now for patients like Jake to help improve their vision.
Host 1: Is that pretty rare? I can’t remember the exact name, but say it again?
Dr. Ralph Chu: Yeah. Keratoconus, it affects about one in every 2,000 patients, so that’s about 170,000 patients in the US. But what this really means for patients, it’s life changing. Before this, patients like Jake needed a corneal transplant to get a cure. Now you can take a 12-year-old or a 13-year-old and stop their need for having a corneal transplant. It’s a paradigm shift.
Host 2: Jake, tell us about the future for you that this has unlocked. You have a new job now?
Jake Matheson: I have a brand new band directing job, which has been my kind of life dream. And at the point when this disease started progressing, I didn’t know if I could even do that. I couldn’t read music. I couldn’t drive. I dropped out of school. It’s been a complete change.
Host 2: Wow. Well, congratulations. It must be fantastic for you, and exciting opportunity for many other patients out there who will get the chance to have a similar procedure.
Dr. Ralph Chu: It’s an exciting time.
Host 2: Jake, Dr. Chu, thanks so much for coming in.
Jake Matheson: Thank you.
Dr. Ralph Chu: Thank you for having us.