When Katheryn Mercer was 12 years old, her left iris was damaged when a fly-away tennis ball hit her in the face, according to CBS Miami.
“I was having fun with my friend and I was done with my set. I went to sit down and someone screamed, ‘Look out!’ And I turned to look to see what I was looking out for and I got nailed right in the eye with a tennis ball,” she told the news station.
The incident left Mercer with a reported “noticeably damage iris.”
“It was difficult,” she said. “I went through my entire childhood being ‘different.’”
But roughly two weeks ago, Mercer underwent a procedure to receive an artificial iris, or a “surgically implanted device to treat adults and children whose iris (the colored part of the eye around the pupil) is completely missing or damaged due to a congenital condition called aniridia or other damage to the eye,” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in May 2018 when the federal agency approved the first stand-alone prosthetic iris in the country.
“It’s amazing,” Mercer said of the results. “If you look at it, it looks natural. Nobody would know.”
In May, when the FDA announced its approval, the agency said the prosthetic iris — called the “CustomFlex Artificial Iris” — “is made of thin, foldable medical-grade silicone and is custom-sized and colored for each individual patient.”
“A surgeon makes a small incision, inserts the device under the incision, unfolds it and smooths out the edges using surgical instruments. The prosthetic iris is held in place by the anatomical structures of the eye or, if needed, by sutures,” the FDA explained at the time.
Andrew Shatz, the ophthalmologist who performed Mercer’s surgery, said he expects the procedure to soon become more commonplace.
“I think this is going to be the wave of the future for people who’ve been so stigmatized by this type of trauma and people who were born without irises in addition,” he told CBS Miami. “This will be fantastic.”
Shatz also noted Mercer is “doing terrific.”
“It is life changing,” Mercer, who noted her eye is less sensitive to sunlight following the surgery, added.