Health Team

Man's wish for prosthetic eye comes true

Posted May 24, 2011 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated May 26, 2011 6:42 a.m. EDT

— Most eye injuries don't result in the loss of the eye, but when they do, a prosthetic or false eye is an option. Those with false eyes need to replace them every few years, and the cost can be beyond their means.

Ryan Ange knows about the cost. He lost his left eye in a BB gun accident 19 years ago at the age of 13.

A prosthetic costing up to $3,000 was beyond his family's means, but a company made it for him free of charge. After 13 years, he came up with the money for a replacement, but it wasn't a good fit or match to his natural eye.

Again, the money was a problem, so he sent out a plea for help through an organization called “Wish Upon a Hero.”

Kim DaHill, a wish ambassador in Boston, began looking for a prosthetic eye businesses willing to donate its services, and Carolina Eye Prosthetics in Burlington stepped forward.

Ryan's parents recognized the company's name.

“They actually told me that they were the ones that gave me my first eye, which was the best one,” Ange said.

Ocularist Anna Jefferson says her family's business normally charges about $2,500 for the work.

“We’ve had people who've had hard times the last couple of years, so we've been very flexible on the price,” she said.

The prosthetic is made of a hard plastic acrylic and takes hours of detailed painting, trying to match the color of the natural eye, complete with tiny blood vessels.

Ange's story to Wish Upon A Hero included his graduation with a master's degree in English this month. He plans to teach, but he didn't want students distracted by a mismatched eye.

“It's like you want to look as normal as possible, to put them at their ease and, of course, myself also,” he said.

With one eye, Ange has less peripheral vision and less depth perception, but he's able to safely drive and do most other things. He wears non-prescription glasses in order to protect his good eye.