A DAD who has had his vision restored after undergoing a revolutionary eye procedure today spoke of his joy at being able to see his children’s face properly for the first time.
Stephen Williams, 42, of Bamber Bridge, near Preston, was born with a condition which meant his corneas gradually deteriorated over the years.
As a child, he suffered a lot of allergies which led to further scar tissue on his eyes and he struggled at school.
By the time he was 21, Stephen’s eyesight was so poor, he was virtually blind.
Over the years, he saw numerous doctors about his condition and tried many visual aids, but no one seemed to have a solution.
However, after having a procedure using donated eye tissue at Royal Preston Hospital, Stephen has 20/20 vision in both eyes.
He said: “It is like going from looking through a really heavy fog that never clears to suddenly being able to see in HD vision.
“Being able to see my children’s faces for the first time was one of the best moments of my life.
“It is the little things that mean the most - like being able to see that they have freckles. I actually only realised I had freckles myself after getting my sight back.”
Stephen, who lives with fiancee Marianne Vickers, with who he has sons Lewis, five and Leighton, two, even had to ditch his dream of going to university as he felt he could not have coped and he ended up becoming a removal man instead.
Stephen said: “It was like I was constantly looking through frosted glass.
“School was a real struggle because I couldn’t read the writing on the black board, but I managed to get through by taking books out the library and learning at home holding them about two inches away from my face so I could read them.
“I really wanted to go to university but couldn’t have coped because of my eyesight, so I ended up doing manual jobs and became a removal man.
“I went to various specialists ovder the years, but no one was able to help me - until I went to see Mark Vose at Royal Preston Hospital.”
Mark Vose, a consultant ophthalmologist at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals used a combination of the latest medical techniques and eye tissue donations to correct Stephen’s vision.
He managed to operate and completely restore the vision in Stephen’s right eye and his left eye has been corrected with a special contact lens that combines hard and soft lenses.
Stephen said: “I now have perfect eyesight in both eyes and it is absolutely awesome.
“Day-to-day life is so much easier, from things like being able to play games on the computer, to being able to drive and seeing my children’s faces properly.
“One of the most important things for me is that I can now read books properly, so I can finally pursue the type career I have always wanted.
“I am now planning to apply to university to train as a nurse or occupational therapist.”
Marianne Vickers, 44, Stephen’s fiancee who has been with him for nine years, said: “When I met Stephen, his vision was terrible and he could hardly see anything and was like a blind person.
“He managed very well with life, but everything took him longer to do.
“Him being able to see has made such an amazing difference to our lives.
“He now has 20/20 vision which is better than me!”
Mark Vose, consultant ophthalmologist, said: ”I carry out around 30 of these procedures each year and it is very much a team effort between myself and our bereavement and donation team as they support the families who want to donate eye tissue.
“We are one of only 10 eye tissue centres in the country and it is thanks to these donations that I can carry out this procedure.”
In 2011, Lancashire Teaching Hospital’s bereavement and donation team supported more than 160 families whose loved ones donated eye tissue.
Helen Bradley, bereavement and donation co-ordinator at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, said: ”It can be really comforting at the time of bereavement for a family to know that their loved one has been able to help someone else, or even a number of people, by making the donation.
“Organ and tissue donation transforms lives and the people who receive donor organs or tissue feel huge gratitude to the donor and their families.”
Karen Partington, chief executive at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, said: ”I am delighted that this procedure has resulted in such a dramatic improvement in Mr Williams’ vision.
“His experience highlights not only how we are pioneering medical advances but also the range of work that goes on in our organisation.”