The Miracle Starts Here
Imagine you've been blind for 40 years, reliant on hearing, touch and smell to understand and appreciate the world. Then imagine that what must have seemed like an impossible dream actually comes true: surgeons operate on your cornea and return to you some of your lost vision.
Into the Light
Mike lost his sight when he was three, in a chemical explosion. But he didn't let that hold him back. He's a successful businessman, husband and father. He's now developing a portable GPS (Global Positioning System) device to give visually impaired people information on local landmarks and amenities. He's the sort of man you'd want on your side, with or without vision. "Life was fantastic as a non-seeing person, and life is still amazing now I have vision," Mike says. "That's been consistent between not seeing and seeing. Experiencing life to its fullest doesn't depend on having sight."
The Big Moment
Mike says his expectations were quite low on the day surgeons carefully removed the dressings. To his surprise, though, he had some usable vision straight away: "Probably the number one question that comes up is, 'What was it like when you took the bandages off and you could see your wife?' And I would say it was incredible, but the truth is I knew exactly what she looked like, so it wasn't all that dramatic to see her; the same with my kids. Now, seeing other women or people that I can't touch. Well, that's interesting because I couldn't see them before."
Life was fantastic as a non-seeing person, and life is still amazing now I have vision.
Mike still regards himself as visually impaired but his level of vision has improved radically. Early days with his new vision provided some pretty hairy moments. Mike found the experience of moving at speed in a car particularly scary. Vehicles coming in the other direction appeared to pass just inches from him. Seeing a marching band in his home town for the first time proved to be an emotional moment: he found himself with tears running down his face as he watched the musicians perform. There were lighter moments, too. Mike finds it perilously easy to become distracted by a woman wearing a low-cut top, for example. Of course, Mike's not the only man with that particular problem.
Statistics in Perspective
Many of us think of "blindness" as a relatively rare condition affecting only a small proportion of the population. In fact, this is far from true. According to the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB), there are 359,000 people who are registered as blind or partially sighted in the UK. But this is only part of the story. The organisation says that a further 750,000 people are eligible to register but have not done so. It also believes that as many as 2 million Britons have some kind of sight problem, serious enough to mean they cannot recognise a friend across the street, even if they are wearing glasses. One in 12 of us will become blind or partially sighted by the time we are 60. By the time we reach 75, this rises to one in six. The RNIB estimates that, each day, around 100 people in this country begin to lose their sight.