Heading to base camp at Mount Everest, Sue Chapman was hampered by poor sight as she traversed exposed mountain passes and crossed suspension bridges over vast Himalayan gorges, shielding her eyes from flying debris which irritated her contact lenses. Now, Mrs Chapman, 53, has returned to Nepal to enjoy the spectacular views of the Himalayas after undergoing life-changing surgery, thanks to renowned eye surgeon Milind Pande.
“It’s not great when you’re hanging off a rock and you think you’ve lost a contact lens,” said Mrs Chapman. “It might just sound like a little thing but it’s made such a big difference to my life. In Nepal, it was incredible and I could see everything so clearly without the need for contact lenses. I could look from a map to looking up without that gap, waiting for my eyes to re-focus. If I’d known the difference it would make to my quality of life, I would have had it done much sooner.”
Mrs Chapman, a retired police officer with Humberside Police, had worn contact lenses to correct her short-sightedness since the age of 25, but as she grew older, she started wearing varifocals so she could read. Around five years ago, a friend in her 80s had visited Mr Pande, a world expert in the field of corrective eye surgery, at Vision Surgery and Research Centre in East Yorkshire. Mrs Chapman said: “She could see far better than me both for distance and near vision.”
After retiring from the force and moving north from Kirk Ella to Brough in Cumbria, best known for the breathtakingly beautiful Lake District National Park, with husband Clive, Mrs Chapman developed infections in her eyes which left her unable to wear her contact lenses and she decided to travel across the country for a consultation with Mr Pande.
She said: “We do a lot of outdoor walking, wild camping, skiing and kayaking and wearing contact lenses is very limiting because you need to make sure your hands are clean when you’re dealing with your lenses. I was at the stage where my vision for distance wasn’t good and neither was my close vision so I decided to do something about it,” she said. “And I knew it was Mr Pande I wanted to see for my treatment.”
After an expert consultation with Mr Pande, Mrs Chapman waited for her eye infections to clear up to ensure her eyes were in optimum condition for Lens Replacement Surgery.
“Once I’d made up my mind to have it done, I wanted it done there and then but it impressed me that Mr Pande insisted that I wait until my eyes were completely free from infection because he wanted to make sure I’d have the very best chance of success,” said Mrs Chapman. “If you’re going to have it done, it’s imperative that you give yourself the chance of achieving the very best results.”
Mrs Chapman underwent Lens Replacement Surgery on her first eye last autumn and was amazed by the almost-immediate results after having a bespoke lens fitted to correct her vision. “I am a quite calm person but my heart started thumping just before the operation,” she said. “I’d imagine seeing them coming at my eyes with sharp objects but it was nothing like that. All I could see were some coloured lights and it felt quite dream-like. It was done so quickly and efficiently, was completely pain-free, and I was quite astounded by the results. Where we live, we have a fabulous panoramic view and I could see everything so clearly.”
The operation on her second eye followed shortly afterwards and Mrs Chapman has achieved perfect vision without the need for glasses, even to read. Now, there’s no stopping her and she fills her days with mountain climbs, treks and walks, making the most of her vision to enjoy the spectacular scenery around her.
“I can just enjoy the outdoors so much more now,” she said. “I don’t have any discomfort, I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to clean my contact lenses and when I’m walking on narrow paths and have to look down, I don’t have to wait for my eyes to refocus when I look up. It might not be a massive thing to others but now I can see well and completely unaided, life is so much easier.”
Mr Pande, who has 30 years’ experience in the field of corrective eye surgery, uses complex mathematical calculations to ensure the lenses he selects for each patient gives them the best possible vision to suit their lifestyles. He said: “We assess that when the natural lens is removed, what is the strength of the new lens that is needed to replace it and what is the optical correction that is needed. Patients are usually in their 50s and 60s and they know that, by the time they are 65 or 70, they are going to need surgery for cataract removal. But, by that stage, their general health may not be as good as it is now. Rather than wait to enjoy the benefits of spectacle-free vision in their 70s, they would rather have Lens Replacement Surgery done now in their 50s and 60s when the rest of their health is good and they can enjoy it more.”
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