So after a few months of waiting I received a letter from Worthing Hospital to see Mr Teimory at the eye clinic in early 2007. Mr Levy’s letter and the letter from my GP had worked! I saw Mr Teimory and his team at the eye clinic and he agreed with Mr Levy’s assessment that for my left eye the only option was a corneal graft (remember I hadn’t worn lens in this eye for years). However he was keen for me to continue trying lens in my right eye and referred me to Mr Roger Dunbar, also in Worthing at his own practice- but these lens were to be paid for via the NHS on the HES scheme, costing me £53 per lens. Progress at last!
Mr Dunbar is a very experienced contact lens fitter with great understanding of keratoconus, and he tried several lens- eventually a RGP lens was fitted, and this is what I still have in this eye. It has been tweaked along the way, but topographies show that the KC in my right eye is more or less stable and there has been no progression for about 4 years now. I am really happy with the RGP lens as I get great vision from it and very little discomfort, so for now i am sticking with this option. I have discussed CXL collagen cross linking as it became available at Worthing Hospital in 2011/12, however there ‘s little point as its purpose is to stop KC progressing and mine appears to have done that naturally (which at 44 years old is excepted) I didn’t want to add to the cxl success rates artificially.
My graft date came- November 29th 2007. As luck would have it I was leaving my current job the day before and I negotiated not starting my new role until January 15th the next year (2008) leaving me a good recovery time. I was well used to only ‘seeing’ with one eye at that point, working and driving and so on, so the left eye being out of action so to speak wasn’t really a cause for concern.
It is really important to point out here that for me a graft was not about restoring my eyesight- I have APPALLING eyesight and it is wildly different in each eye. The graft for me was to allow me to correct my crappy vision in my left eye with lens. I already knew that glasses still would be a highly unlikely for me, and that was OK. I just wanted a chance to wear a lens again in the left eye, if that was possible, and I reckoned I had nothing to lose.
I wasn’t worried about the general anaesthetic having had a few before and i had total trust in my surgeon Mr Teimory, knowing he had done many grafts before mine. So really i was quite excited and keen to get it over with, to see what the future would bring! I had in essence, nothing to lose.
On the day of the operation I arrived at the clinic, chatted to the staff and the anaesthetist and before long it was my turn. I had watched a few corneal graft ops on YouTube, and as I am not squeamish I wasn’t really that nervous. First up was the eye drops to get the cornea ready for the operation itself.
Mr Teimory carried out the operation with the help of a microscope. For a full thickness graft, a central piece of the diseased cornea is cut through and removed from the eye. It is replaced by clear cornea removed in the same manner from a donor eye. This is then sewn in place with very fine stitches which are removed 1-2 years later. The operation took about an hour, and I woke up in recovery in some discomfort but no real pain, as drugs were administered to help me.
I wish I knew more about the donor as I am forever grateful. I would like to have thanked their family (as they often do in the USA). All I know is that it was ‘old tissue’ i.e. someone who had passed away who was older than me- but the graft was, and remains, very clear- in fact Mr Teimory says it was ‘textbook’ and I have been sat in front of med students on a few occasions to demonstrate this in the clinic!
After the operation, the eye was covered with an eye pad and protective plastic eye shield (how glamorous!) As the anaesthetic wore off, I remember some discomfort in and around the eye, but I had plenty of painkillers to hand. I also had anti rejection and antibiotic eye drops to put in. The day after the operation the eye pad was removed. My sight was pretty blurry but this was no different to before. My eye did water and was uncomfortable in bright light. I had 16 stitches in the graft, and these were to remain for a long time afterwards.
Before I went back to work I went to my favourite city New York for a weekend, less than two months after the graft op, flying was ok, I had drops and all was well. Then I went back to work. Tried to look after my eye (no lifting at first) and avoid air con and bright light and so on. After a few months I began to notice that even though I couldn’t see well enough to drive with it alone, that the left eye vision had in fact improved quite a bit, uncorrected by lens and this was a really positive development. So far, so good……..