Natalie Rance was doing well in her career, she was a graduate in Zoology and started studying for a Masters in Wildlife Filmmaking at the University of the West of England in Bristol. The course runs in partnership with the world renowned BBC Natural History Unit, and coupled with the support of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, has enabled her to experience the most exciting and rewarding opportunities she has faced to date.
In March 2017, it all changed. During her preparations to begin studying the course, she began experiencing severe problems with her left eye. Agonising pain, intense light sensitivity, and after a few weeks, a rapid decline in vision ensued, the cause of which continued to elude opticians and doctors. Her eye was unresponsive to treatments for a number of conditions she was exhibiting symptoms of, and continued to quickly deteriorate. Doctors then discovered that she was suffering from an incredibly rare parasitic eye condition, caused by a waterborne amoeba, which had likely contaminated her contact lenses.
Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) affects just 125 people in the UK a year, though sadly cases are on the increase. 80% of cases occur in contact lens wearers, and can arise from incorrect lens care, including showering or swimming in lenses, or even just from touching them with wet hands. Unfortunately, the condition is little known about, and many contact lens wearers do not realise they are at risk. There are no licensed medicines to treat AK, and the strain of the parasite that had invaded her eye was exceptionally resistant to treatment. In December 2017, Natalie underwent an emergency full thickness cornea transplant, lens removal, and iris surgery in an attempt to restore her sight.
The outcome of her operation is yet to be determined, but she is optimistic of the prospect of sight returning. Given everything this waterborne parasite has put her through, she is sure you would think she was mad if she said she wanted to go back into the water but that is exactly what she intends to do. Second Sight will see her travel to the stunning Isles of Scilly to confront the water once more, in order to swim with a local colony of grey seals. She now knows only too well the importance of enjoying the water responsibly, but just as much the paramountcy of appreciating good health and living life to the fullest! She has loved the water since a young age, and never wants her condition to steal this passion from her.
Natalie’s experience of AK has provided her with an overwhelming new appreciation for her sight, as well as the doctors who have fought so hard to try and save it and the donor who gifted her with a second chance at sight. Now, she wants to give something back.
Natalie plans to produce a film called ‘Second Sight’ to raise awareness of AK, the impacts of sight loss, and the undeniable importance of organ donation. As part of her Masters degree, Natalie will be producing this 10-12 minute documentary which will be screened to industry professionals from the BBC and other internationally renowned production companies this coming November. Support Natalie's journey to overcome the condition that changed her life by donating towards the production of her Second Sight Film. Any leftover proceeds will be donated to Moorfields Eye Charity to continue funding vital research and equipment. Learn more, or donate towards the film at: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/second-sight-water-women#/