Sight Restored

Celebrating three years of restored vision

Larry Mohr and his wife Nancy celebrate  his restored vision with Dr. Andrea Lora Kossler (top left), MJ Davey (top middle) and Dr. Charles Lin (top right). 


LARRY MOHR NEVER expected his eyesight to fail, until a tragic accident 20 years ago. The slow descent into blindness was, in his words, torture, made worse by the certainty that dark days were ahead.

“None of the doctors ever said, ‘You’re going to go blind,” he said. “But they didn’t need to—I knew it was going to happen.”

Mohr had a long-storied history of high achievements throughout his educational and professional career, receiving degrees in engineering from Cornell and Stanford and an MBA from the latter, before working in venture capital for more than five decades. He was used to solving tough problems, but his eyesight was his most important and perplexing challenge, until he connected with the doctors at the Byers Eye Institute at Stanford nearly 12 years ago.

Today, Mohr is celebrating three years of restored sight, and he’s using his experience to help others.

A long and winding road

In October 2003, Mohr took a commonly prescribed prescription to treat gout. Almost immediately, a severe reaction, called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, led to a two-week stay in the burn unit. The syndrome burned his eyes, starting an unstoppable cascade that would cause Mohr to go completely blind by 2018.

“It was a slow, spiraling down for 15 years,” he said.

As his sight diminished, so too did his and his wife Nancy’s plans for their future. The couple sold the dream home they had built in Woodside, California, to move into an apartment along Sand Hill Road, which would be closer to care and easier to maneuver around. Mohr, an avid cyclist, began limiting his trips on two wheels to the Pacific Coast and back, eventually halting his 100-mile journeys once and for all as his vision worsened.

“There wasn’t much we could do about it,” he said. “It seemed certain and inevitable.”

Mohr and his wife hired a young woman, Mary Jane “MJ” Davey to help part-time.  When he went blind, she started full-time and became an invaluable resource.  Among other things, Davey spent countless hours reading medical journals to Mohr, as he sought opinions from around the world.

Fighting to find answers, Mohr came to Stanford, hoping to find a like-minded doctor and care team with new ideas about how to help.

It was there, in 2011, that he first met Charles Lin, MD, clinical associate professor of ophthalmology, and found that his future may be clearer than he pictured before.

Searching for resolution

From the start, Lin and Mohr were in lockstep to find new options to restore his sight.

Still, there were times when Lin had to be straightforward with Mohr.

“Larry managed to do okay for a few years, with a combination of scleral contact lenses helping to keep the eyes stable, but unfortunately, he started to develop problems,” Lin said. “It was difficult to see him go through those complications.”

Mohr struggled with corneal abrasions, and ulcers on the cornea that would not heal, but he appreciated the care and honesty he got from his doctors.

“We had developed a very trusting, very honest relationship, and Charles Lin had warned me that my eye dryness would be a problem eventually,” Mohr said.

Lin brought in fellow ophthalmologist and Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, Andrea Kossler, MD, FACS, to help with the treatment plans.

To limit the eyes’ deterioration, Kossler performed a tarsorrhaphy procedure, sewing both of Mohr’s eyes partially shut in 2015. Two months later the right eye was opened but the left eye remained sewn shut.  Soon it became clear that Mohr’s condition was worsening; in January 2018, Mohr had a fungal infection in his right eye, leading the care team to replace the cornea with one from a donor.

Still, Mohr did not waiver in his quest for answers, and his persistence was rewarded when he learned about a rare, innovative procedure performed in India, where Stevens-Johnson Syndrome is more common. The procedure had only been performed a handful of times in the United States and involves moving a salivary gland from the mouth to the eye.

“Larry is a very thoughtful patient, he considered all his options and was steadfast in his decision to save his sight,” Kossler said. “He reminded me of the power of a patient’s will and determination. I knew I was on board.”

If successful, the surgery would provide Mohr’s eye enough lubrication for the first time in a decade to consider a prosthetic corneal transplant, called a KPro. It was an ambitious plan, but Mohr was ready for a second chance at sight, so he sent Kossler to India to learn the procedure from Sayan Basu, MBBS, MS an ophthalmologist and scientist at the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute.

“My entire business career has been in venture capital—high risk, high reward,” Mohr said. “The doctors all advised me these surgeries were high risk and the outcome was uncertain. I simply said, ‘I’m blind. There is no downside.’”

From plan to reality

Mohr’s determination pushed both himself and the doctors who cared for him at the Byers Eye Institute to think deeply and collaborate in creative ways, Lin says.

“He knew more could be done, and he wasn’t willing to accept where he was,” Lin said. “We were really challenged to think about innovative solutions, and a large part of that is because of his prompting of us to think about alternatives.”

In October 2019, Mohr underwent his first surgery, the salivary gland transplant by Kossler. Within a week, his eyes were moist, and it was clear the surgery was a success. “We were excited and, for the first time, cautiously optimistic,” Kossler said.

Mohr later traveled to the UC Davis Health Eye Center for the KPro implant, enlisting the help of Mark Mannis, MD, FACS, professor and chair of ophthalmology at UC Davis.

The day after the KPro surgery, Mohr was able to see for the first time in three years. The day after surgery, Mannis came into the exam room, and Mohr said, “Dr. Mannis, you’re bald, and you’re wearing a bow tie,’” Mohr remembered. “He was so excited, held onto my arm, and kept repeating, ‘This is why I do this.’ It was very emotional.”

Renewed life and hope

This September marked the three-year anniversary of Mohr’s successful surgeries in his right eye. His vision varies from day to day and depends on the lighting, but although it is sometimes cloudy, it is often good.

He is grateful for the life-changing vision the many surgeries gave him but isn’t planning on another set of operations in the left eye for now.

Since his surgery, Mohr and his wife have committed to helping others struggling with vision loss, and he voices his appreciation to his care team for restoring his vision anytime he gets the chance.

“I’m grateful for the amount of vision I’ve got—it’s impossible to overstate the improvement over being blind,” Mohr said.

His is a resounding example of innovation in care delivery and collaboration across institutions and even across continents. The Mohrs now support eye care and ongoing research at the Byers Eye Institute and other institutions, ensuring the next generation of patients have the same access to reliable, talented care that he had.

“Larry Mohr pretty much embodied all of the challenging external diseases that we see in the cornea,” Lin said. “But when I think about his case, I think about just how much persistence, determination, and belief he had in himself and his team. We couldn’t be happier to have contributed to his remarkable turnaround, and we couldn’t be more grateful for his ongoing support.”

Grace is a freelance writer for the Byers Eye Institute at Stanford.