It all started about five years ago when I would occasionally notice annoying little grey specks
    floating in one of my eyes. I didn't think much of it, at the time as they usually disappeared
    after a few days.  Months later I observed a thick black dot, smack in the center of my right
    eye!   It didn't hurt but it was very irritating, as it was darting around attempting to follow my
    pupils.  It was there for days, and by the time I decided to consult a Doctor, it had
    disappeared. So I didn't bother.  Some months later, I woke up one morning and there was a
    small cobweb-like structure floating right in front of my face. I brushed it off with my hands, it
    would not go away.  I kept asking members of my family to blow it away, but they could not
    see anything.  It did not take long for me to realize that these floating particles were in my left
    eye and only visible to me alone.  That was the beginning of my eye predicament, known as
    sickle cell retinopathy. It is caused by the sickle cells bleeding internally or hemorrhaging at the
    back of the eye. The retina tears and the blood seeps through, as floaters, obstructing the view.
    With time, the blood may drain away gradually and the eyesight is restored temporarily until it
    happens again.  But with each sickling episode, the holes are enlarged and the eyes are damaged
    further.

    I experienced this ordeal often, about every three to four months. This loss of vision would
    happen simultaneously.  As the sickling is over in one eye, it would re-emerge in the other eye
    a few months later.  My vision would appear dark and cloudy or full of cobwebs, not visible
    to the naked eye.  I would not be able to see properly and can only make out silhouettes. This
    situation would prevail for two to four weeks depending on the severity. My prayer, during
    all that time, was that both eyes would not be affected at the same time. One eye, I thought,
    was better than none.

I remember one incident that really scared me.  I was at a restaurant celebrating with friends over a good meal and all of a sudden, as I
looked up from my plate, I discovered that my eyesight was gone! I could see nothing from one eye. No cobweb. No cloud. No
silhouette. Just total darkness. I waved my hand in my face to test my vision: I could not see my hand… except with my other eye.  I
said nothing. I continued my meal in silence, and cried into my pillow when I got home that night.  It took up to 2 months for the blood
to drain away before I gradually regained sight in the eye.

Meanwhile, the other eye was waiting for its turn…

I underwent several laser eye surgeries in the UK to try to correct the condition, but the loss of vision would always re-occur.  After
some time, the UK eye specialists would not subscribe to any more lasers, so as not to destroy my eyes. Moreover, I was told that not
much could be done, as this was a genetic problem, I would have to adjust to the inevitable  the journey towards the invariable loss of
my eyesight.  I was completely shattered and became distraught at this pronouncement.  This only meant one thing….. I would become
blind eventually.   Oh! I was devastated and in despair!

In Nigeria I consulted an eye specialist for a second opinion. On examination the ophthalmologist recognized the condition and was quite
familiar with it, due to the high incidence of sickle cell patients with eye problems presenting at his clinic. The doctor told me experience
counts: Nigerian eye doctors see more cases of sickle cell retinopathy than do their UK counterparts and know what to do to save the
situation. The solution was to apply aggressive laser treatment to seal the holes at the back of the eyes where the blood was seeping
through. Although I had been warned by doctors in the UK against further laser treatment, I was desperate for anything to correct the
situation.

So I underwent two intensive laser surgeries in Nigeria, with three months interval apiece, and I am happy to say that my vision has
been clear since the procedure, and I have not experienced any more eye problems for the past two years.

In the UK, in obedience to their treatment model, they said I had to learn to live with gradual loss of vision; in Nigeria, in obedience to
yet another model, my sight was restored!
Visual Impairment: 'Doctors in the UK said there was no
hope, Doctors in Nigeria Restored My Sight!'
By 'Dotun Williams
‘Dotun Williams recalls how she nearly lost her sight to sickle cell crises; explores her feelings
as a result thereof - and recounts her delightful re-emergence to the world of light
Williams
ISSN 2141-1093
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