Doug Oliver is a very grateful man.
He's gotten his eyesight back after years of being almost completely blind.
Doug started losing his eyesight when he was just 32. He describes his vision then as like “a honeycomb of blind spots.” It affected every aspect of his life. He couldn't even see his wife Ann’s face clearly when walking right beside her; he couldn't read under normal lighting; he couldn't exercise. One day while driving into town he almost hit two pedestrians in a crosswalk. Needless to say, that shook him up.
Shortly after that alarming incident, he was declared legally blind. He had to stop working, and of course had to stop driving. "That was a major shock," he says, that threw him into a "near lethal depression." His sight loss was not only an inconvenience but something that greatly affected him both mentally and emotionally. Doug suffered from a severe form of macular degeneration called maculopathy, which his doctors said has no known treatment, much less a cure.
Feeling like a burden to his family and with no hope of getting his sight back, he thought about taking his own life. He got as close to suicide as standing on a bridge in Nashville, ready to jump. "I was within 30 seconds of jumping off a bridge." At the last second, he took a step back, and reconsidered.
Doug decided to live, and realized he had to find a way to live with his blindness. One of the doctors who had said there was no treatment or cure had mentioned, "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." That sounded like a long shot, and a long way off. But Doug learned that there are more and more new and effective treatments for a wide range of diseases and disorders using adult stem cells, including heart disease, stroke, spinal cord injury, and multiple sclerosis. This is in contrast to fetal stem cell therapy, in which an aborted baby is used, and which has had no such success.
Doug was treated with adult stem cells taken from his own bone marrow. In a fairly simple 90-minute procedure, an orthopedic surgeon withdrew marrow from his hip bone. From that marrow, stem cells were isolated and injected into his eyes. The spots faded away gradually, and his vision was restored.
Many others like Doug are currently being treated using ethically-derived, non-controversial adult stem cell transplants, which do not require the destruction of young human life. Already over a million people have been treated using adult stem cell transplants. In 2014 alone, nearly 20,000 bone marrow and umbilical cord blood transplants were performed in the U.S.
Doug says he can now see the "beautiful sparkle" in his wife's eyes. "I feel gratitude, I feel thankfulness, I feel amazement," says Doug today. His wife Ann calls it a "miracle."