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Jean Baxter
"Vivid colours fascinate me"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 14 March, 2000, 14:39 GMT
'Unnecessarily blind for 18 years'
Jean Baxter
Jean Baxter can see more clearly now than ever before
A woman who went blind 18 years ago has discovered that her condition could have been treated.

Jean Baxter, from Warlingham, Surrey, was diagnosed as suffering from an hereditary condition in the early eighties.

Her mother, elder sister, and elder brother were all blind.

People have been telling me to sue and get compensation but I'm not interested

Jean Baxter
And after 39 years of wearing powerful glasses to rectify her failing vision, Mrs Baxter's sight had finally failed.

In 1992 she remarried, and her husband suggested she bought some more modern glasses - which Mrs Baxter wore for cosmetic reasons.

She was turned away by five opticians.

Finally, late last year she saw an optician without letting on she was blind.

After a thorough examination, the optician discovered that Mrs Baxter had cataracts - which can be easily treated through surgery.

She underwent surgery six weeks ago to remove the double cataracts blocking her vision.

No longer needs glasses

Such was the success of the operation at the East Surrey Hospital in Redhill that Mrs Baxter no longer even needs the spectacles she had worn before losing her sight.

She told the BBC: "The doctors warned me not to expect too much because my vision could have failed over the years anyway but when they took the dressing off all I could say was `My God'.

"I can see everything now. What I remember of colours, they were all pale, but now everything is so vivid, the colours, and they fascinate me."

A cataract is a cloudy or opaque area in the normally transparent lens of the eye.

As the opacity thickens, it prevents light rays from passing through the lens and focusing on the retina, the light sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye.

Cataracts can be removed by surgery and replaced with a lens implant.

Mrs Baxter said she had no intention of seeking redress from the unnamed hospital where she was told her sight had gone for ever.

She said: "People have been telling me to sue and get compensation but I'm not interested. I was angry when I first realised what had happened but it doesn't matter now - I'm delighted to have my vision back."

She added: "It is in many ways a whole new world. For example, I had assumed all my clothes would be dowdy beiges and blacks but when I opened by my wardrobe I literally cried with happiness at the colours that were mine."

It was a kind of dream case, the equivalent of someone seriously ill getting out of bed and walking again

Roger Wilson, consultant surgeon
Roger Wilson, the consultant surgeon who operated on Mrs Baxter, said it was likely that her condition would not have been operable with the techniques available at the time when she was first registered blind.

He said: "The surgical techniques available now could not have been dreamt of 20 years ago.

"It is entirely possible that her condition was diagnosed at that time but there was nothing that could be done about it."

Mr Wilson, who managed to operate on Mrs Baxter rapidly after her referral because of a cancellation, said the dramatic transformation of her vision had made her case particularly satisfying.

He said: "It was a kind of dream case, the equivalent of someone seriously ill getting out of bed and walking again.

"We achieved a very significant improvement and even managed to correct her shortsightedness. From that point of view, it was very satisfying indeed."

Jean Baxter's full story is broadcast on BBC Radio Four's In Touch programme on Tuesday 14 March at 20 40 GMT.
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Cataract surgery delayed
13 Oct 99 | Health
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