Alex Bright from Surrey is walking the Eye to Eye for the fourth time. Alex has been kind enough to share her story on why she keeps taking on the walk for Moorfields each year, to raise important funds and awareness for the hospital.
Life was progressing as it does, and seeming to pass by more quickly the older I got! I had a job where I felt as if I was part of the furniture and had participated in self-defence classes on a weekly basis for over 18 years.
On the 28th of December 2010 that all changed. I had sustained a light blow to my brow from a rebounded focus mitt during a self-defence class. Thinking nothing of it, I went to my independent optician for a routine eye test a week later. Strangely, I was met with “What are you doing here? Did you not get our message that your appointment had been cancelled?” “No” I cried. It was almost a wasted journey until I explained that I might have a problem and my cheekbone felt double its size, I was asked to go to another opticians immediately.
At this point I was diagnosed with a detached retina and was told I would need immediate surgery. It was booked in for the next monring, “What no work tomorrow?” I asked, “Certainly not” came the stern reply.
Sunday morning came and I was up before the birds on my way to possibly the most famous hospital in the world. Not my usual Sunday I can tell you,just as well the seriousness of my condition had not yet dawned on me. I bypassed A&E and went straight to the 4th floor emergencies. All of the staff on duty were beyond calm andby this point I could read some of the eye chart, before a cloud desended and the operation began.
The next morning it was back to Moorfields for a post-op check and removal of my eye patch. All seemed ok, and my retina was still in place but my macular had come away when the surgeons gained entry. I had avery bloodshot eye that had been filled with gas, which I was assured would naturally disappear in about 2 weeks. It was now time for posturing, which, for some one who never stays still was the biggest challenge so far. I had to sit upright without moving my head for the majority of the day. I was allowed 10 minutes every hour where I could choose to either eat or go to the bathroom – tough call!
The year came to an end and 2011 began with even more appointments at Moorfields. I saw the same faces and the staff always seems happy to see me. I was sent for ultrasound scans and photoshoots, the closest I’ve been to being a supermodel. It was noticed that my body had tried to heal itself by producing scar tissue over my macular (often called an epiretinal membrane or ERM). It was stable for now but I was told I’d form a cataract quicker than usual due to the topical medication. I felt far too young for that at 39! I went back to work as if nothing had happened, but knowing I would return to Moorfields in due course.
At the start of July that year I was out with friends at a fundraising eventand had a feeling that something was not right over the weekend with my left eye. By the Monday, despite my usual depleted vision it was as if I was unable to see anything as a whole.
After work I contacted Moorfields Eye Hospital and went the following day. My retina had detached, there was a tear at the top. My left eye wanted to join the ‘exclusive’ club. I had already given up my beloved self defence hobby, so there was no explanation for this situation.
Work was understanding and I was signed off for another two weeks. I had the surgery and went back to work, but started tonotice I could only see things above an imaginary spirt level in my eye. Could it be possible? I went back to Moorfields A&E and was told in a most unlikely event that my retina had detached itself again, the tear at the bottom would be operated on first thing in the morning.
I was relieved to see the end of 2011, after three lots of surgery in 6 months.
The epiretinal membrane (ERM) was still very much present but my consultant was reluctant to carry out yet more surgery as this was perhaps the most delicate of all and seemed to be causing no harm despite knowing that it may tighten over time.
Check-ups had become the norm at Moorfields, but the time had now come for the powers that be to say ‘one day we will have to discharge you’. What, no, my safety blanket would be taken away. That day did come on March 4th 2015 with mixed emotions, but the ‘powers that be’ could do no more.
That iswhen I decided that I had to say thank you to Moorfields and discovered the innovative Eye to Eye walk, run by the Moorfields Eye Charity. Now, a very successful annual walk from Moorfields at City Road to the London Eye. I will be forever grateful to all of the staff at Moorfields for saving my sight.
I began to dread eye tests on the high street, as I was always told I couldn’t drive. All I wanted now was to have my independence back and regain my licence after voluntary surrender. Just being able to choose the way I get from A to B will be a revelation, finally just two months ago the optometrist said my sight meets the standard required. It was one of those times where you are not sure how to digest the information that you have just heard.
I hope my story shows that though adversity there is light at the end of the tunnel and no one is ever on their own.
My one piece of advice is to use your optician, your sight is precious. Who knows what the future holds, but it could have been very different.
Alex will be joining us for the 14 mile Eye to Eye walk on 4 March 2018. To sign-up for the walk yourself, register on our website.