A Visual Home Run for the Real McCoy



Dr. Michael Snyder, Hal McCoy and Nadine McCoy

Photography by Daniel Smyth

 

Eyesight is invaluable, especially if your career is based around keeping your eye on the ball. That was debilitating for baseball Hall of Fame sportswriter Hal McCoy, who became legally blind in 2003. 

Strokes in both of McCoy’s optic nerves left him with dark and cloudy vision, making it difficult to spot people in close proximity, let alone on the baseball field. 

“As I was sitting in the (press) box, I couldn’t even read the numbers on the back of the players’ uniforms. I was having difficulty doing everything, even accidentally walking into people and walls,” says McCoy. 

But he didn’t let his vision – or lack of it – stop him from covering the Cincinnati Reds. McCoy, who has covered the team since 1972 for the Dayton Daily News and now FoxSportsOhio.com, hired a driver to take him from Dayton to games at Great American Ball Park and home again. He utilized a big-screen TV in the pressbox to see the action on the field. 

Eventually, McCoy realized he needed to seek new options. His ophthalmologist in Dayton strongly advised against having cataract surgery, citing the damage caused by the optic nerve strokes could make McCoy totally blind as a result. 

“Of course that frightened the heck out of me, so I changed ophthal mologists and was referred to Cincinnati Eye Institute,” says McCoy. Michael E. Snyder, MD, whose specialties include diseases and surgery of the front of the eye, examined McCoy and presented a drastically different prognosis – a 99 percent chance for successful cataract surgery.
During the exam, McCoy’s wife, Nadine, mentioned her husband’s upcoming carotid artery surgery, a detail that could have been catastrophic if forgotten. 

“Some of the medicines given during carotid surgery and during the healing process can potentially cause an acute glaucoma attack to the iris blocking the drains in the fluid-filled front chamber of the eye,” says Dr. Snyder. “This can potentially cause severe damage over a few hours if an attack should occur. We squeezed him in to get a prophylactic laser treatment to preempt the risk of an angle closure attack before, during or in recovery of his carotid surgery.” 

Fortunately, McCoy’s carotid surgery went well, and after recovering, Dr. Snyder scheduled cataract surgery, which requires incredible precision on the surgeon’s part. 

“The space within which we are working is roughly one-third of a sphere with a height of about four millimeters and a diameter of about 10 millimeters,” says Dr. Snyder. “ The cataract is located between the inside lining of the cornea, the endothelium and the posterior capsule. Both layers are delicate, so the tolerances of surgery must be exact.” 

The cloudy cataract lens is removed and replaced with a man- made lens. Dr. Snyder gave McCoy the option of seeing better close up or far away. McCoy chose distance, the better to watch action on the baseball field. He now has 20/20 vision in his left eye. The optic nerve stroke severely affected his right eye, so the left has become the dominant one. 

“I can look off into the horizon now and see everything just as plain as day,” says McCoy. “I’ve worn glasses for the last 35 years but I don’t have to anymore and that has meant a lot to me. I know it’s pretty routine for Dr. Snyder, but for me this outcome is a miracle.” 

Last year, he wrote “The Real McCoy: My Half-Century with the Cincinnati Reds,” detailing his inside-the-clubhouse view of his career.

Cincinnati Eye Institute’s main campus is located at 1945 CEI Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45242. For more information, call 513.984.5133 or visit www.cincinnatieye.com.