My failing eyesight made me a recluse

I’d been wearing thick glasses since the age of five, and, after a pair shattered in my face when I was 11, playing piggy-back, they had to be made of plastic. I hated them and couldn’t wait to have contact lenses when I was 16.

Prima-Jan06They were a real confidence-saver, and for 14 years I wore them from the time I woke up, until the time I went to bed, not realising how I was pushing my eyes to the limit.

Finally, in May 2004, after a string of nasty eye infections, my optician told me I had to go back to glasses. I’d worn lenses so much that they’d suffocated and dried my eyes, and would only cause further irritation.

By now, my glasses prescription was about as bad as it could be. Beyond the end of my nose everything was a blur. The lenses were huge, thick things that did the opposite to magnifying glass, making my eyes look so spookily tiny that my children, Cara, 14, and Rachel, 10, wouldn’t look at me. By day I could hide behind dark shades, which I wore even when it was raining. I could cope with looking eccentric, but not with the thought of people seeing me in my hideous glasses. After dusk, when I had to take off the shades, I refused to go out. I became a recluse, and no fun as a mum, because I even gave up my family activities, such as bowling, so I wouldn’t be seen in my specs.

More worryingly, I knew my sight was getting worse and feared I could go blind within a few years. I thought I was beyond help, but in desperation I asked my optician if there was anything that could be done, and he told me about a nearby private consultant.

By the time I saw him, in October 2004, I’d taken sick leave from my job as a school dinner lady, because I felt so depressed about my sight. But the surgeon had fantastic news for me. Although I couldn’t wear contact lenses, I could have artificial lenses implanted in my eyes, at a cost of £2200 per eye. I was determined to have this operation, even though the surgeon couldn’t predict how much of a success it would be. Though he didn’t tell me at the time, my vision was about the worst he’d ever witnessed.

I had my eyes operated on a week apart from each other, under local anaesthetic – which horrifies a lot of people. I had to remain very calm while the eye was snipped and the lens was slipped in. Each operation took only 15 minutes, and after the first one I was back at home a few hours later – watching EastEnders with my partner Paul, 31, and no specs!

Four days after the second one, I was driving my car and, nearly a year on, I literally have a new life. I am even training for my dream career as a dog groomer – something that was out of the question all those years I was a contact-lens wearer, when flying fur would have driven my eyes mad.

Prima – January 2006