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Surgeon helps woman get fresh start after severe motorcycle accident

After a near-fatal motorcycle crash left her with facial and eye injuries, Diane McComesky lost hope that her vision would ever return to normal. Then she met Oculoplastic Surgeon Andrew Harrison, MD.
After a near-fatal motorcycle crash, Diane McComesky had lost hope that her vision would ever return to normal. Then she met Andrew Harrison, MD. “I’m a success story,” she said. “It’s unbelievable how much he changed my life.”

Diane McComesky had lost hope.

In April 2016, her friend’s motorcycle struck a deer in northern Minnesota while she was riding on the back without a helmet. The accident left her with facial wounds and a traumatic brain injury. Even after surgery to fix the issues, Diane struggled with blurry vision and vertigo. As a result of her injuries, her left eye was a centimeter lower than her right, leaving her self-conscious.

“Small children would stare at me. It was depressing me,” Diane said. “I thought this was the way things would be for the rest of my life.”

Then Diane’s ophthalmologist, Bridget Sundell, MD, referred her to Andrew Harrison, MD, a University of Minnesota Health oculoplastic surgeon. At their initial consultation, Harrison took one look at her and told her that he’d be able to help. Thanks to his handiwork and new advanced intraoperative navigation technology at the University of Minnesota’s Clinics and Surgery Center, McComesky’s injuries have almost entirely been corrected—all less than a year after she was airlifted from a rural highway near Ely, Minnesota.

“After the surgery, I finally felt normal again. The vertigo was gone. The blurred vision was gone. It just gave me so much relief, so much fantastic hope,” she said. “I didn’t realize that it was going to be such a steamroller of good things.”

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During the accident, Diane had sustained an orbital fracture. The tear duct for her left eye had also become disrupted, and her medial canthus—the point where her inner upper and lower eyelids meet—was also out of place.

While fixing any one of these injuries would have been routine, correcting them all at once was a little more complicated, Harrison said. In the end, however, Harrison felt confident that he could address the issues with only a single surgery.

 “She’s done remarkably well. I always tell people after an extensive trauma like hers to expect more than one procedure, as we never know how the body is going to heal,” Harrison said.

To increase precision during surgery, Harrison used a state-of-the-art intraoperative navigation system that allowed him to place several implants around Diane’s eye more accurately.

“We use this navigation for other procedures, but using it to repair orbital fractures is pretty unique,” he said.

McComesky’s quality of life improved greatly after surgery, but it’s still not perfect. She lost 20 percent of her hearing in her left ear during the accident. Diane is also seeing a therapist as the details of the crash come back to her. But because of Harrison’s expertise—she calls him a “rock star”—her injuries and her resulting anger and frustration have subsided, giving her back her normal life.

“I’m a success story,” she said. “It’s unbelievable how much he changed my life.”