Our patients’ stories: Dr. David Hunter’s unique vision saved mine

Zackery Harper is a 26-year-old registered nurse from Knoxville, Tenn. There was a time when he thought he’d spend his whole life dealing with a mysterious case of double vision that baffled every doctor who attempted to treat him. Unable to accept that no one could fix his vision, Zack devoted himself to searching the Internet for answers. It was a journey that took many late nights, ending in more than a few dead ends and eventually landed him more than 900 miles from Knoxville to Boston.

By Zackery Harper

At one point, I truly believed I’d have to live with double vision for the rest of my life. After developing strabismus at age 3, an eye condition that occurs when the eyes are not aligned properly, I had two surgeries to correct the problem. But not only were the surgeries unsuccessful, the second left me with an unexplained case of double vision. My doctors were mystified, and after multiple surgeries to realign my vision, I still saw the world very differently than most people. Eventually, my doctors told me there was nothing else they could do; I’d inevitably have to learn how to live with this visual disturbance and try to make the best of it.

I spent four years trying to come to terms with the fact that I would never have “normal” vision again, but it’s a hard fact to accept when you’re a young adult with your entire life ahead of you. I just couldn’t bring myself to give up so I kept researching my condition, hoping that there was someone out there who could help me. My search took me to David Hunter, MD, PhD, ophthalmologist-in-chief of Boston Children’s Department of Ophthalmology.

The more I read about Dr. Hunter, the more I allowed myself to believe he might be the doctor I’d been searching for. I emailed him my story, and the next day I received a response from Dr. Hunter saying he had reviewed my case and thought he could help. In a few days time, my parents and I were on a Boston-bound plane.

After my initial meeting with Dr. Hunter, I was struck by two things: his down-to-earth, friendly attitude and his confidence. Having spent years hearing, “I’m sorry there’s nothing more we can do,” Dr. Hunter’s assertion that my double vision was treatable was like a dream come true.

He explained that I had a complication of strabismus that didn’t present in the usual fashion, which is why so many other doctors had failed to recognize the underlying problem with my eyes. To correct my

Dr. Hunter and Zack after his vision was restored

sight, I would need to undergo another realignment surgery, but this time utilizing a surgical technique that left two adjustable sutures in my eyes. These adjustable sutures allow the ophthalmologist to readjust the position of my eye the day of surgery or even a few days later, but without the need for additional surgery. If my eye alignment drifted in the days after surgery, I could see Dr. Hunter who could readjust my vision manually, without having to readmit me to the hospital. (Something he did on more than one occasion.)

Because I had such a complex case of strabismus I did need two more surgeries over the next year to fully correct my double vision, but they were successful. Now, I am fully healed and working as a nurse—something I never could have continued if I still suffered from extremely distorted vision. Dr. Hunter’s ability to look at a problem differently means I no longer have to see everything that way. I have him to thank for giving me my life back.

To learn more about Dr. Hunter’s work, or to make an appointment with a member of our Ophthalmology team, visit the Department of Ophthalmology website.