The future’s bright for ex-tailoress who can see clearly again

March 23, 2017 9:53 am By In:

A former tailoress who has struggled with poor vision since childhood can now read, complete jigsaws, garden and knit, thanks to a revolutionary eye operation at the London Eye Hospital (LEH), ( Margaret Davis, 83 – from Manchester has suffered with astigmatism since childhood and despite her mother’s disapproval, has worn glasses ever since. After being diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in her early 50s she decided to have the renowned EyeMax Mono lens to help restore her sight.

Margaret’s vision has been poor since childhood but with no frame of reference the blurry school blackboard looked normal to her. At 12 she was responsible for all the household chores – filling in the ration books, cooking roasts, looking after her siblings and doing a daily paper round. At 14, she started a 7-year apprenticeship to become a tailoress, learning dressmaking, tailoring and invisible repairs skills, which put further strain on her eyes because she was working by nightlight. However, this came to a halt just a few weeks into the job when her boss called her in for uneven stitching and told her to go to the opticians. She knew she was seeing two lines instead of one, but wasn’t aware that it was affecting the quality of her work, so this was a real blow.

“My vision problems became apparent as soon as I started work as a tailoress – dressmaking, tailoring, invisible repairs, which are all really bad on the eyes. I’d not been at work for long when my boss said I’d need glasses as my stitching was uneven and sent me off to the optician. I was told I had astigmatism in both eyes and would need to wear glasses. It was during the war so there weren’t many opticians and medical treatment was expensive. It was a battle of wills because my mother disapproved of me wearing them – there was a stigma around needing glasses, but I won! I’ve worn them since as they made such a difference. After that I went into gents’ tailoring, which is even harder on the eyes because it’s all hand work and black fabric! Years of that put further strain on my eyes.”

For years Margaret relied on two pairs of bifocals with differing strengths to suit a range of activities. Varifocals are not an option because she is in an electric wheelchair following a work accident which damaged her spine and they wouldn’t adapt quickly enough for her movements. In her early 50s she was diagnosed with AMD and has been using eye drops to help ease dry eyes ever since.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a deterioration in central vision caused when the part of the retina responsible for central vision, the macula, is unable to function as effectively as it used to. It is a progressive condition that will continue to get worse over time and can lead to blindness. Currently there is no cure. It is believed that there are more than 600,000 people with AMD in the UK alone. It is estimated that by 2020, there will be 700,000 cases of late-stage AMD in Britain, due to the rising number of people living to an older age.

Determined to find a solution to her failing vision and angry about how she was treated “without dignity” on the NHS because of her age and health issues, she started searching for a solution for her AMD. After reading an article about LEH treatments she booked in for a consultation and was delighted to be told that she was a suitable candidate for the EyeMax Mono lens. She was advised to have the lens in both eyes.

The EyeMax Mono, is the world’s first single lens implant (all previous versions required two lenses, which could be difficult to align depending on the size and shape of patients’ eyes). The procedure takes 15-20 minutes to insert in a blade-less procedure.

Unlike the ‘Galilean’ miniature telescopes that came before which involved two separate lenses, the EyeMax Mono is a single lens that sends a ‘widescreen’ image to the entire macula. Overtime the brain will pick up light made available by the new lens from remaining healthy parts of the macula, ignoring areas damaged by the eye condition. As the condition continues to damage the macula, the brain can adapt to make use of healthy parts made available by the new lens, maximising central vision now, and in the future.

Margaret had her left eye operated on in April 2016 followed by her right eye in November and is due her final check-up at LEH in March 2017. She can now see objects rather than a blur – which was caused by a blocked blood vessel. The new lens has also improved the vision in her right eye and LEH have removed her cataracts. Overall, she is delighted with the results and says the operation has given her the energy to throw herself into new projects. She is currently organising a big charity plant sale for the second week of May and is furiously knitting 30 jumpers to raise funds for a local charity that supports children in Nepal.

“I don’t like people touching my eyes, but I knew I needed to do something. I said to myself: you do this, it’s your sight and it’s everything. I still can’t believe what a difference it’s made and am so pleased I can do things I couldn’t do before. LEH have almost got rid of all the astigmatism in my eyes. I don’t know how they have given me so much vision in my left eye – it was a blur, but they have sorted it.

“I can see things I haven’t been able to for years! All the bungalows in my street look like they’ve been whitewashed – that’s how bright my vision is. I had to have new glasses and the optician said it’s a completely different prescription so I can’t wear my old glasses anymore. I can also see how dodgy some of my DIY has been! It’s hard to do practical jobs when you are relying on one eye.

“I do a lot of charity work for water projects in Nepal. We raised £500 for them last year and I’m trying to knit 30 jumpers for their children – currently up to number 15! I also have to knit every day because I have arthritis in my hands and it helps to keep them supple. I really do need my eyesight!

According to the London Eye Hospital Medical team,

“We are delighted that Margaret is so happy with the results. It’s wonderful to be able to challenge conventional thinking around eye health, and to be able to offer treatment that helps people maintain their quality of life and independence”.

Read more about Margaret’s lens procedure >

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