For the average high school sophomore, learning to drive is a big deal. For 16-year-old Macie Morse, who just earned her learner’s permit and is now quite proficient behind the wheel of a car, the achievement is one that neither she nor anyone else in her family had ever thought would be possible. According to Macie, “It was one of the most exciting times of my entire 16 years.”
Having been born blind, until the age of 15 Macie had 20/4,000 vision in one eye and only light perception in the other eye. A visual score of 20/4,000 means that at a distance of 20 feet the person can see objects with as much clarity and visual acuity as the average person can see from a distance of 4,000 feet. The particular visual defect from which Macie suffered was optic nerve hypoplasia, which is an underdevelopment of the nerve that transmits visual signals from the eye to the brain. Unable even to read unless the print was within inches of her eye, Macie could only dream of participating fully in the world around her. As Macie puts it, “I’ve always wondered what it would be like to lay on the couch and watch TV. I always wondered what it would be like to see my friends.” According to Dr. James Thompson, optometrist and owner of Advanced Eye Care in Fort Collins, “If the optic nerve isn’t healthy, glasses aren’t going to do anything for anybody.”
Now, after having received adult stem cell therapy, Maci has 20/80 vision in one eye and 20/400 vision in the other, which is improved to 20/30 vision with a monocle.
Prior to Macie, only 10 other people had ever undergone the adult stem cell procedure for optic nerve hypoplasia, which costs $40,000, not counting travel expenses to and from the clinic in China where the therapy is administered. Raising money through a variety of sources throughout their local community, Macie and her mother were able to travel to China together so that Macie could have the therapy. Almost immediately, Macie showed dramatic improvement.
Legally, in order to be allowed to drive, one must have a minimum of 20/40 vision, a requirement which Macie now meets. According to her mother, “Before, I was always one step behind her, keeping an eye on her. Now I can let her be free. She’s going to be fine.”