Army surgeon makes history with corneal transplant
September 16, 2006
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (Army News Service, Sept. 15, 2006)- Ophthalmologist Dr. (Maj.) Buck Rogers made history Aug. 21 when he performed the first corneal transplant in Afghanistan on an Afghan soldier at the 14th Combat Support Hospital on Bagram Airfield.<br/><br/>Rogers, one of 10 Army surgeons who specialize in corneal transplants, performed the surgery on an Afghan officer who had lost vision in both eyes when he and other Afghan soldiers suffered a direct blast from a cache of weapons and explosives they discovered.<br/><br/>Initial surgeries helped the soldier regain normal vision in his left eye, but his right eye had been punctured and was useless. A coalition surgeon suggested a corneal specialist be brought in.<br/><br/>Rogers had just completed a fellowship and was readying himself for an assignment in South Korea when he received word his cornea surgery expertise was needed.<br/><br/>The day after arriving in Afghanistan, Rogers met with the officer and determined him to be a good candidate for the transplant, though it would be a complicated procedure.<br/><br/>"It's going to be a very hard surgery," Rogers said prior to the event. "The injury is 13 months old and we have no records from the initial surgery."<br/><br/>A cornea from an Ohio donor bank was hand-delivered on ice, and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., provided special medical tools needed for the surgery.<br/><br/>The next morning, the Afghan patient arrived at the hospital. Rogers, Dr. (Maj.) Ron Allen, and the assisting staff scrubbed in and several hours later, history was written.<br/><br/>"The surgery went well, better than I expected," said Allen, who assisted Rogers. "Typically, these surgeries are tedious, long and complicated, but I thought it went smoothly."<br/><br/>For the patient, the surgery and hope of regaining vision in his right eye already signify success.<br/><br/>"I had nothing to lose," he said. "I am so thankful to everyone who made this possible. I believe my eye will get better."