Blind World

Surgeons restore woman's sight using her tooth.

August 18, 2004.

By Judith Duffy,
The Daily Record (Scotland).

A WOMAN who was blind for nearly 30 years has seen her grandchildren for the first time after surgeons restored her sight using a tooth.

Judith Smith was left blind after suffering a rare reaction to epilepsy medication at 15.

But the 42-year-old can now see through a tiny hole in her right eyelid after a piece of her tooth was used to create a new 'eye'.

After the op, she was delighted to see her four grandchildren, including little Brooklyn, who was just days old when she had the first part of the surgery.

She said: 'I had forgotten how beautiful the world can be. The most wonderful thing has been to be able to see my family and grandchildren.

'Before the operation, I could just see light and dark, now I can see light, shades, colours, shapes - almost everything.

'I met my grandchild, Bryoni, in town and I saw her hair for the first time.

'She came running up to me shouting, 'Nanna, Nanna.' And I could see what she was wearing and her very, very blonde hair.' Judith, of Redcar, Teesside, had the operation last week at Brighton's Sussex Eye Hospital. It was performed by renowned surgeon Christopher Liu.

The first stage, which had been carried out in advance, involved removing a tooth and carving it into a disc.

This was implanted in her cheek, to allow it to grow tissue, which was used to stitch it into place in the eye socket.

The patient's damaged cornea was then replaced by the tooth disc. Following the seven-and-ahalf hour operation, her eyelids were permanently sealed to prevent infection.

Judith, who lives with partner Tom Ellison, said: 'I couldn't believe it when they told me what they were planning to do.

'They put a hole in the eyelid and I see through that. The operation means my eye now works like a pinhole camera.'

Although Mr Liu warned her not to expect miracles, Judith is delighted with the operation.

She said: 'I panicked when I came round, because everything was completely black.

'But when they took the padding off, I could see a cotton bud going across the optic.

'I started to cry. The doctor thought he was hurting me, but it was because I could see it.

'They asked me to read the first letter on the optician's chart - it was an 'O'. I hadn't been able to do that in 27 years. I wanted to dance about.

'I wanted to scream and shout to the world to tell everyone it had worked - I could see again.

'My body could still reject it but I am hopeful.'

And the delighted gran is planning to make the most of her newly restored sight.

She said: 'I've got three aims - to learn to drive in a Bentley, to do a parachute jump and get on the computer to educate myself.'


FIRST STAGE: A tooth and part of Judith's jawbone are removed in a preparatory operation

STAGE TWO: Scarred corneal tissue is removed and skin from her cheek is grafted over Judith's eye

ALMOST THERE: The optical cylinder is fitted into the disc cut from the tooth and inserted under eye socket

SEE IT THROUGH: Soft tissue forms on tooth, which creates lens and iris. Eyelids are sealed to prevent infection

Copyright The Daily Record 2004.

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