A 76-year-old grandmother registered blind for 18 years has had her sight restored after she was found to have cataracts.
Jean Baxter was told by doctors in 1982 that she had permanently lost her sight through an inherited condition after 39 years of wearing powerful glasses to rectify her failing vision. But a visit to an optician late last year showed she had needlessly been left blind.
Mrs Baxter, from Warlingham, Surrey, who has four children, had surgery six weeks ago to remove the double cataracts blocking her vision. Such was the success of the operation at East Surrey Hospital in Redhill that she no longer needs the spectacles she wore before losing her sight.
"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'," she said. "My husband thought it was because I was still blind, but it was the brilliance of the colours. It was like I had been returned to this new, rich world of colour and shape - a wonderful, wonderful moment."
Mrs Baxter said the fact that she had continued to wear her glasses despite her blindness and the persistence of her husband, Arthur, 73, proved the crucial factor in restoring her sight. "I kept on wearing my glasses because I thought people might not recognise me after having them for so long. But my husband wanted me to have some new, more modern frames. He tried to make me appointments at several opticians but they all turned him down until he found one last November. She gave me a thorough examination and asked me if I knew I had cataracts - I was flabbergasted."
Mrs Baxter said she did not intend to seek redress from the unnamed hospital where she was told her sight had gone for ever. "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 said doctors had told her in 1982 that she had inherited a progressive condition, which had also been passed on to her brother and sister. She began a new career after learning an alternative form of Braille, and becoming an instructor at a nearby centre for the blind.
Mrs Baxter said her restored vision had led to series of new joys, including being able to see her three grandchildren for the first time. "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."