Doug Oliver started losing his eyesight when he was 32. When he went to an ophthalmologist, the doctor told him he had the eyes of a 70-year-old man. Doug was diagnosed with Macular Degeneration.
He says it was like looking at life through a honeycomb of gray spots. “I couldn't read a book under normal lighting. I couldn't drive a car. The hardest part, though, was not being able to see the faces of my grandchildren,” said Oliver.
When his eyes got so bad his driver’s license was taken away, Doug fell into what he calls a near fatal depression. “I suffered a lot of emotional and mental problems after the diagnosis. I moved to Nashville with the express purpose of jumping off of a bridge. At the last minute, I stepped backward instead of forward and decided to get some help.”
Doug was considered legally blind and doctors told him there was no treatment, no cure and no hope on the horizon. But Doug refused to give up. “The first I actually heard about stem cell therapy was at the same doctor's office that had previously told me there was no hope. The doctor said if there's going to be a solution to your problem it's not going to be in genetic therapy. It's going to be in stem cells."
Armed with new hope, Doug researched the clinics in the U.S. and abroad that offered adult stem cell therapy. He found one in Florida and was chosen to participate in a clinical trial.
The surgery actually consists of a one-and-a-half-hour procedure. An orthopedic surgeon withdrew bone marrow from his hip bone, isolated and concentrated the adult stem cells and then injected them into the damaged areas of his eyes.
Doug says, “The spots faded away gradually. My doctor at Vanderbilt has documented the clearing of the disease around my macula. He's documented the field of vision going from 40% occluded to near normal. I had gone from 20/2,000 to about 20/60 in my left eye, and even better in my right.”
Within months of the procedure, Doug had his driver’s license back and he was looking at the world through new eyes. His wife, Ann, calls the adult stem cell therapy ‘miraculous.'
Doug is just happy he can see her face again. “I think that since I've regained my sight, one of the most satisfying things is being able to pay more attention to who she is by knowing how she looks. I can see her blue eyes very clearly and she might not like me saying this, but even the occasional wrinkle on her face, she has no idea how precious that is for me to see. I can read the emotion on her face and I don't have to just depend on her tone of voice to figure out where she is,” Doug said.
Today, Doug is making up for lost time. He’s writing a book about his experience and he’s created a consulting firm designed to help adult stem cell clinics to understand what their patients are going through and how to communicate with them. “I want to help the clinics understand what a patient needs at the very beginning and how they can improve the patient's outcome at the end.”