Local man talks surgery that saved his sight

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Jackson Rainbow laughs during a hunting trip. Rainbow is speaking out about a eye condition that could have cost him his vision.

Treatment that saved him from cancer, increased eyesight degradation

For many, the ability to wake up in the morning and see the world in clear focus is a given and can be taken for granted. However, for a Sherman man, a recent surgery is helping him continue see the world.

Jackson Rainbow recently corrected a condition called keratoconus which affects the cornea of the eye. If left untreated, the condition can lead deformation of the cornea and it can cause increasing visual impairment throughout life.

Rainbow knew at a young age that there was a good chance that his eyesight could diminish over time. As a multi-time cancer survivor, who survived bouts with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Stage 3, Jackson was told that the same treatment that saved him may also hinder his eyesight as he ages.

"They (doctors) had mentioned that I would possibly have issues with eyesight later in life," he said.

That trouble came earlier than expected when Rainbow started noticing problems with his eyes about six years later. Rainbow noticed he had begun squinting.

Eye chart

"Once I started seeing these alarming signs in my vision, the thoughts did across my head that it could get to the point that it gets worse," he said.

As he continued to grow older, the issues progressed, and Rainbow started noticing it affect his daily life and hobbies, including his love of hunting and potential career in ranching.

"I love to hunt deer, duck. When you hunt a duck you can shoot with a shotgun," Rainbow said. "When you go to shoot the duck, I would have to squint my eyes to get a clear picture."

The issues with his vision also impacted his work as a commercial driver as he often had to strain to see clearly.

"I would get a headache every day. It wasn't from sinuses or anything, it was because I had to squint all day," he said.

Rainbow approached his cousin, who is a therapeutic optometrist, in hopes of finding out what was wrong with his vision. The cousin diagnosed Rainbow with keratoconus and recommended that he meet with Dr. Jerry Hu and the Texas Eye and Laser Center in Hurst.

"The cornea is like the window of the eye," said Hu. "Ideally, it should be shaped like a basketball. It should be circular, it should be spherical, it should be round."

However, keratoconus can cause weakness in the cornea that allow it to bulge, often forming a teardrop or football-shaped cornea.

Many different eye diseases can affect vision.

Johns Hopkins Medicine estimates that about one in 2,000 people are affected by the condition.

Generally, the condition is often diagnosed in the late teens and early 20s, Hu said. However, what makes it difficult is its slow progress, which makes it hard to diagnose. Because of this trait, Hu advocates for increased awareness of the the disease.

One of the more common treatments for keratoconus is a cornea transplant, but finding an appropriate donor can be difficult, Hu said. In Rainbow's case, Hu recommended a procedure known as crosslinking that increased the bonds and strengthened the collagen in the cornea.

The procedure, which was done in 2019, wasn't aimed at repairing the existing damage. Instead, it was aimed at preventing future degradation.

"It is unrealistic to improve the vision. It is unrealistic to cure the condition," Hu said. "The realistic goal is to stabilize the condition."

Despite this, Rainbow said he believes his eyesight has improved, if only slightly. However, the biggest change is that he now no longer has to worry about the condition progressing and can continue his life and hobbies.