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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 June 2007, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
'The results have been brilliant'
Don Kane
Don Kane could not recognise people's faces

Don Kane was one of a handful of patients to receive the early stage of a surgical treatment to cure age-related macular degeneration

For an ardent football fan, watching a match on television was a huge frustration for Don.

He has aged-related macular degeneration (AMD), a common cause of blindness and sight problems, particularly among the elderly, and he found it very difficult to follow the game.

"I really used to get annoyed," he said. "I had to rely on one team wearing white shorts, and the other team black shorts."

Don, 75, from Lancing, West Sussex, developed the wet form of AMD first in his left eye, but because the condition, which knocks out central vision, developed gradually, he was unaware that his sight had deteriorated.

The horizon where the sea meets the sky was wavy
Don Kane

When he finally went for an eye test he was told the condition was so advanced in his left eye that there was nothing that could be done.

Worse, the optician warned him that there was a 50:50 chance that he would develop similar problems in his right eye too.

"I looked at it that there was a 50:50 chance that nothing would happen, and it didn't for 18 months, but then my right eye started to go," he said.

Deteriorating vision

Eventually, Don's eyesight deteriorated to the point where he had to give up driving, he could no longer make sense of the print in the newspaper, and he could not recognise people's faces.

"My sight became blurred, and any straight edge looked wobbly, lampposts looked wobbly, and the horizon where the sea meets the sky was wavy," he said.

Don even had to enlist the help of his wife, Pat, to tell him where the food was on his dinner plate.

"I really used to get frustrated. It was really was guesswork as to what was on my plate," he said.

The couple heard that specialists were testing a new experimental procedure to treat severe cases of wet AMD.

After making inquiries they were signed up to a trial at London's Moorfields Eye Hospital, and Don was chosen as one of 12 volunteers to undergo a technique known as a patch graft.

This involves taking cells from a corner of the eye which are unaffected by AMD, and transferring them into the central area where the disease has taken hold. The cells then seed, and begin to replace the affected tissue.

Following the treatment in August 2004, Don had to spend a week face down, because his eye was filled with a stabilising oil.

Big improvements

But over the course of several months Don found that the sight in his right eye improved considerably - and the improvements gathered pace once the oil was drained out after six months.

I went in with a 100% attitude
Don Kane

He can now read the newspaper with a magnifying glass, has taken up cycling again, and he is back on his computer.

His sight is far from perfect. He still needs some help at mealtimes - distinguishing between cauliflower and boiled potatoes is a problem because they are the same colour, and he has to be told if his meal is accompanied by a glass of water, or else it is a certainty that he will knock it over.

Bright days also pose more of a problem.

But Don describes the effect of the treatment as "brilliant"

"I went in with a 100% attitude, and I had great faith in the surgeon, Mr Da Cruz. They have told me that there is no guarantee the treatment will last because it is something new.

"But it was either waiting for my right eye to get as bad as the left one, or taking a gamble, so I went for it."


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