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SCIENCE & SPACE

Sight saved by stem cell surgery

By Edward Bailey for CNN

Edward Bailey
Edward Bailey: "I am very optimistic that my eyesight will improve even more."

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(CNN) -- Edward Bailey, 65, lost the sight in his left eye following a workplace accident. After two unsuccessful corneal transplants, he underwent a pioneering stem cell operation that restored his vision. Here is his story:

In May 1993 I had an accident at work. A drop of caustic soda found its way into my left eye resulting in blindness in that eye.

They managed to stabilize the eye at Worthing Eye Hospital and I then attended a fortnightly clinic at St. Richard's Hospital in Chichester. I was then referred to the Center for Sight at Queen Victoria hospital in Sussex, which is where my story really starts.

I was examined there by Sheraz Daya, a specialist eye surgeon. He decided I needed surgery and made all the necessary arrangements for me to be admitted into hospital at the appropriate time.

I had my first corneal transplant in July 1994 which failed due to a persistent defect. I had more operations without success, during which time Mr. Daya kept me up to date with all the new technology and treatments which were being introduced.

The time finally came when Mr. Daya and myself sat down together and he told me what they proposed doing in my next operation.

It involved transplanting stem cells grown in a laboratory into the eye, followed by another cornea transplant.

The cells are placed on the cornea to encourage growth and healing

I had the operation and, after the dressings came off, I found I could see some colors and blurred movement. Later, at home, I removed the dressing to bathe my eye, then I covered my good eye with my hand to measure what improvement, if any, had occurred.

I leave it to your imagination as to the emotion that I felt when I saw my image come into view in the mirror.

That was more than two-and-a-half years ago, and I still see colors and have vision. The vision, though blurred, is wonderful to have, and I consider myself a very lucky person to have met Mr. Daya and his great team.

As I still attend the eye clinic at the Queen Victoria Hospital at East Grinstead, and as the success rate increases and the technology moves further ahead, I am very optimistic that my eyesight will improve even more -- and more and more people will regain their sight.

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