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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 February 2007, 17:44 GMT
Grandfather's replica 'eye' joy
Montage
Prosthetic experts created an acrylic replica of his eye
A 77-year-old man from Somerset who lost his eye after developing a rare cancer has been given an acrylic replica which fits onto his glasses.

Eric Saffin from Taunton was not able to have a glass eye fitted because surgeons had to rebuild his face.

"It was so realistic that when I saw it on the doctor's bench I picked it out straight away and said 'that's my eye'", the grandfather-of-three said.

It was created by prosthetics experts at London's Moorfields Eye Hospital.

Mr Saffin was first diagnosed with bowel cancer four years ago and was told a lump in his lower eyelid meant the disease had spread and radiotherapy was the only option.

The treatment was a success, but the cancer returned.

It was diagnosed as histiocytoid eccrine sweat gland carcinoma, an extremely rare form of cancer.

Surgeon Nick Kalavrezos at University College London had no option but to remove the eye and surrounding tissue and then rebuilt his face during a 12-hour operation.

They make a big difference to the patient. If only we could make them blink
Nigel Sapp, prosthetics expert

He removed Mr Saffin's eye and most of the left hand side of his face and replaced it with skin from his back and ribs.

Nigel Sapp, a prosthetic eye expert at Moorfields created an almost exact acrylic replica of his eye on a slender sheet of plastic attached to his glasses.

"When I had it fitted last month I noticed the effect it had straightaway," Mr Saffin said.

'Party trick'

"People on the train home were not looking at me anymore. They stare when you have a disfigurement, but now I've got two eyes again and don't stand out."

His wife, Sonja, 77, and grandchildren have been delighted to see him looking like his old self again and Mr Saffin has already started using his eye as a new party trick.

"When someone's been talking to me for about 10 minutes I suddenly take my glasses off - and it stops them dead," he said.

Mr Sapp said creating an eye which also incorporated part of the face was relatively rare, with only about 12 patients a year receiving the treatment.

"They're pretty effective and can flex with the eye. They take about two or three days to do and takes many years of practice.

"They make a big difference to the patient. If only we could make them blink," he said.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Eric Saffin describes how the replica works



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