van Eberhart was adopted from Russia at age 9 by two loving parents who brought him back to America for a chance at a better life. His adoptive parents, Isabel and Dennis Eberhart of Freeport, Long Island, gave him this chance in more ways than one.
Ivan had a rare eye disorder known as Nystagmus, an involuntary movement of the eyes - usually from side to side, but sometimes causing the eyes to oscillate up and down or even in a circular motion. Nystagmus also results in poor vision. The Eberhart's are still not sure if Ivan was born with the problem, but are certain that an investigational surgery performed by Stephen Kronwith, MD, Ph.D., pediatric ophthalmologist at Winthrop-University Hospital gave Ivan a new perspective on life.
Unlike most people living with the eye disorder, Ivan could feel the constant shifting of his eyes, causing him
discomfort and making him self-conscious. When Ivan
started seeing Dr. Kronwith for his vision problems as a pre-teen, little research or surgical procedures existed to treat Nystagmus. But, by the time Ivan was 16 years old, new hope was on the horizon. In the summer of 2001,
Dr. Kronwith presented the family with a new alternative
to living with the disorder - an investigational surgical
treatment, not unlike surgery performed on those with "crossed-eyes" or "lazy eyes."
Pre-op (left): Nystagmus caused Ivan Eberhart's eyes to constantly shift side
Post-op (right): After
preformed by Dr. Kronwith, Ivan shows
little movement in his eyes and has experience improved
The procedure involved cutting the muscles and severing the nerves on either side of both eyes. The muscles are then reattached to the eye in almost the same position as opposed to previous procedures that required re-attaching the muscles to much more difficult to reach locations on the eye. By severing some of the small nerves in the
muscles that are thought to cause the rapid to and fro movement of the eyes, the problem can be alleviated.
Currently, there is no cure or other medical procedure that has the potential to mitigate the eye movement
associated with Nystagmus. Ongoing research into the
disorder continues, but some causes may include an inborn neurological problem, albinism (lack of pigment), the development of multiple sclerosis later in life, stroke and some disorders of the retina. In early childhood, Nystagmus can be caused by a defect in the eye or visual pathway to the brain.
"We thought about this procedure for a long time," explained Mrs. Eberhart. "It was scary for all of us because this surgery was so new, but Ivan couldn't be happier with the results. His eyes don't move much at all anymore and he has also experienced an improvement in his eyesight. Cosmetically, Ivan feels better about his appearance. The results are really amazing."
According to Dr. Kronwith, there has been great advancement in the surgical procedure to treat Nystagmus. "A few years ago, when the surgery was first developed,
it posed some risks. Today, with the improvement in the research and the procedure, the risk of injury to the eye
is almost none," stated Dr. Kronwith, who is one of the
few physicians in the region who successfully performs
"The worst case scenario is that the surgery doesn't work and there is no change in eye movement. More
common, however, is the best case scenario, as in Ivan's situation Ñ an overall improvement in the rapid eye
movement, vision and life."
For more information on Nystagmus or other disorders of the eye, call 866-WINTHROP.