Artist experiences high point of career following corneal transplant

When glaucoma and an autoimmune disorder caused severe, painful blisters in his right eye, artist Charlie Busler was in danger of losing his eyesight.
Written by: Candice Lee
Media Contact: Adam Pope

Busler2Art is “in my blood,” said Charlie Busler. He has been exhibiting and selling his paintings for more than 40 years. His passion for art began many years ago.

“I had lots of art supplies as a teenager. I still have an oil painting I painted in my teen years on a piece of scrap plywood from a construction site,” Busler recalled.

When glaucoma and an autoimmune disorder caused severe, painful blisters in his right eye, Busler was in danger of losing his eyesight. That would be a devastating loss for anyone, especially an artist.

Priscilla Fowler, M.D., assistant professor and director of Cornea Services with the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, told Busler he would need a corneal transplant to relieve the pain and restore his eyesight.

“Charlie has been my patient for six years. I have watched him lose time and productivity as an artist as his corneal condition worsened,” Fowler said. “It became clear that surgical intervention was our only option.”

“I did not have any concerns about the surgery because the blisters in my eye were so terribly painful,” Busler remembered. “I have full confidence in Dr. Fowler and the Callahan Eye Hospital staff.”

Fowler serves on the board of Advancing Sight Network, the nonprofit eye bank that provided corneal tissue for Busler’s successful surgery.

“Through the gift of a cornea donor, Charlie was able to receive a cornea transplant that restored his sight, and he is as productive as ever as an artist,” she said. “His journey truly highlights the great impact that cornea transplantation and the restoration of sight can have on a person’s life.”

Advancing Sight Network is dedicated to the restoration of eyesight and works in partnership with Callahan Eye Hospital to provide corneal tissue for transplants, research and training opportunities for ophthalmic residents. Advancing Sight Network is the only eye bank serving the state of Alabama.

Busler3Priscilla Fowler, M.D.Following his transplant, Busler created brand-new paintings for an exhibit at Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. He describes it as the high point of his painting career.

“I was honored and humbled by the invitation to produce this show, and I worked for 10 months creating never-before-seen paintings designed specifically for this gallery,” Busler said. “It was a wonderful experience since I had great vision, seeing clearly, to produce the work.”

At the age of 70, Busler has no intention of slowing down anytime soon, and he continues to create beautiful art. The experience did prompt Busler to register as an organ, eye and tissue donor, something he had not done before his transplant.

“Becoming a donor is simple. Register when you renew your driver’s license, use the Health app in your iPhone, or go to for more information,” said Teresa Ham, chief administrative officer for Advancing Sight Network. “Taking a couple minutes to register is life-changing for those you will help.”