‘‘I lay flat on a pale hospital bed with my blurry right eye viciously peeled back and clamped open, kind of like the protagonist in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ as a shiny, yellow liquid was administered into it along with an anaesthetic drop to numb the inevitable pain as I squinted wildly, unable to blink. This was followed by having a bright green beam shone into it. The tension that rippled my face made me feel like Sean Connery in that James Bond film where’s he’s chained to a table about to have his nether region sliced in two by a laser. The only joy that contaminated me was that I was allowed to have my headphones in and my iPod on I admired the grim ceiling in despair and discomfort. While the doctor came to check up on me and ask about the soaring pain that slowly gripped my eye as the anaesthetic started to wear off, the only solace I had was sharing the distress with Alkaline Trio lyrics ‘tongue tied, bleeding from your eyes, even Christ himself would cringe at the sight of your scars’ which were pelted out in my ears. When the beam of light finally faded, so did the song, simultaneously, summing my feelings of the last 45 minutes – ‘while you’re counting sheep, I count my lucky stars, you were the last good thing I ever saw’…’’
Now, ‘keratoconus’…as you observe this word, confusingly trying to pronounce it, your mind is probably doused with an expression of bewilderment as to what on earth it actually means. Don’t worry; like a rabbit from a hat, all shall be revealed. Let me start with the definition as you’re probably eager to know. Well I hope you are. Because if you own a pair of eyes, you’ll be curiously examining them in the mirror once you ‘x’ this tab on your computer and continue checking your Twitter or Facebook page. Oh…and if you’re a South Asian male in your early 20’s then boy you better read the rest of this carefully because genetically you’re most likely to be affected by what I’m going to say.
According to random medical website definitions scouted from various Google searches you’ll find pretty much the same outline about what keratoconus means: it is a progressive and degenerative disorder of the eye which promotes the change of shape in your cornea, visibly morphing it from a football shape into a rugby ball shape over time. The condition usually begins in one eye and starts to kick into the other not long after therefore distorting your vision into a sea of constant blurriness over time. No amount of prescriptive glasses, even if they’re thicker than a chav with a dictionary, can assist the declining vision.
And you know what really sucks? The fact that there is a significant risk that it can eventually lead to severe visual impairment in later life and that there is NO CURE.
So why am I telling you all this?
Well…it’s because one of those victims sucker punched by this dogged handicap was ME.
BUT. Don’t fret or panic. The good news is that there IS treatment available that WILL stabilise this ailment before some specialist down the line says you need a corneal transplant. Glasses and contacts are only short term solutions and the condition won’t magically disappear. Back in 2012 I was referred to a private consultancy at St Thomas’ hospital by the NHS (who told me it wasn’t available at the time through them) and Dr David O’Brart provided the magical ingredient to tame the beast via an operation called ‘Cross Linking’ (although it should be renamed ‘Clockwork Linking’ because as I said, I felt like Alex Delarge).
All I can say is that this process saved my vision. It stabilised it. Whilst it won’t fix or cure the problem it has made me sleep easy knowing it will not progress anymore. Even though my right eye (and(left eye after the second procedure) have stabilised, their prescription numbers have slightly improved. In fact, my whole image has changed. Instead of looking like a number crunching office nerd, I feel cool and confident. I’m a whole new person. With specially prescribed gas permeable contacts, I’ve said hasta la vista to my glasses. In fact, 2013 was the first year I actually wore sunglasses properly and felt like Ryan Gosling in ‘Crazy Stupid Love’.
By being blessed with the most amazing parents and a bit of luck, the worst, most nerve racking thing that could’ve happened to me became the biggest case of silver lining syndrome I’ve forgone.
If you’re a sufferer like me, there is hope. I hope you benefit.
Over N’ Out
Follow me on Twitter – @FezSayed