Alex’s story: saving a detached retina
7 January 2020
Alex’s retina detached during a self defence class. She came to Moorfields for treatment, and since then she has taken part in our Eye to Eye annual fundraising walk four times to say thank you.
Alex had been attending her self defence class for over 18 years when she was hit on the head. She was used to sparring, but she knew something wasn’t right a week later when her cheekbone swelled up.
She went to her optician, who referred her to Moorfields Eye Hospital. There, a specialist told Alex that she had a detached retina in her right eye.
What is a detached retina?
The retina is the thin, light-sensitive lining at the back of your eye. Sometimes, the retina can begin to pull away (or ‘detach’) from the blood vessels that supply it. If left untreated, a detached retina can cause blindness.
Retinas detach when they have one or more holes in them. These holes allow fluid to pass below the retina, causing it to become separated from the supporting and nourishing tissues underneath.
This can occur as a natural part of ageing, but also anyone can develop a retinal detachment at any time.
Certain people are at higher risk than others, including those who:
- are short-sighted;
- have had cataract surgery in the past;
- have recently suffered a severe, direct blow to the eye.
Some types of retinal detachments can run in families, but these are rare.
If you suffer from a detached retina, you will need surgery to fix it. During this operation, your eye doctor will seal the retinal holes and reattach your retina.
Treatment and recovery
Alex’s doctor told her that she needed surgery immediately and booked her in for her operation the next morning.
Her surgery went well, but there were unexpected complications. This meant that as part of her recovery, Alex had to sit still and avoid moving her head for as long as possible to give her eye the chance to heal.
For someone who never stays still, it was the biggest challenge so far. I was allowed 10 minutes every hour where I could choose to either eat or go to the bathroom – tough call!
Alex’s eye healed well, but later that year she suffered two more retinal detachments – this time in her left eye.
She returned to Moorfields on both occasions for surgery, which restored her sight and allowed her to return to normal life. Now, her eyesight is good enough that she can drive a car once again!
Although she had a difficult recovery, Alex says that her experience was made better by the team at Moorfields.
The staff were always happy to see me… I will be forever grateful to all of the staff at Moorfields for saving my sight.
“Your sight is precious” she explains. “Who knows what the future holds, but it could have been very different.”
After finishing her treatment, Alex discovered our annual Eye to Eye fundraising walk.
“That’s when I decided to say thank you to Moorfields through the Eye to Eye walk, run by Moorfields Eye Charity,” she says.
Since then, she’s taken on the challenge four times (and counting!)
I hope my story shows that through adversity there is light at the end of the tunnel and no one is ever on their own.
Our Eye to Eye Walk
- An annual walk from Moorfields Eye Hospital to the London Eye
- Two routes – 4 or 14 miles
- 350 walkers in 2019
- On average, we raise £100,000 each year