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Don't be afraid, you're not alone with keratoconus!

At 18, I got diagnosed with Keratoconus in my left eye when I had an eye test at Vision Express. As it was in the very early stages I got referred to an optician at my local hospital who would help me 'manage' the disease.

I can't remember when my right eye also developed Keratoconus I just remember him prescribing me these horrible rigid contact lenses which were unbearable to wear. They were so uncomfortable I gave up on them and carried on my late teens adapting to life as my eye sight started to get worse. I remember him saying to me I couldn't have laser surgery and at the time I didn't understand why.

I still led a normal life, I worked, I went to college and I still played a lot of sports. At the age of 21 my father told me to get a second opinion from a doctor at Moorfields Hospital in London. People were starting to notice how close I had to hold a mobile phone to my face or a piece of paper just so I could read what was on it.

I saw a consultant called Frank Larkin, he told me I would need to have a corneal transplant on each eye because the Keratoconus was developing so quickly, and although I would never go blind with it, by the time I got to 30 I would be depending on other people to help me with everything I do.

I felt emotionless when he told me about needing a transplant. I didn't feel scared or worried, I didn't know what to expect. Maybe that was better. That way I couldn't worry. The following week I was booked in for surgery to treat my left eye.

On the day of surgery I just remember the usual build up to an operation. No eating, no drinking, the waiting around, the nurses popping in and out to check on you and a chat with Frank himself. Then the team wheeled me down to theatre.

After coming round I was groggy and I could feel something heavy on the left side of my face. The nurse gave me water. I felt exhausted. Once I was back in my room and had fully come round I held a mirror up to my face and could see a huge bandage over my left eye. I didn't feel pain but the eye felt gritty inside. Like there was a grain of sand stuck inside it and it wouldn't come out. It was streaming constantly which was making my nose run. There was still no pain it was just uncomfortable at most. I had to stay in overnight

The next morning a nurse came in first thing and took the bandage off (eventually) I was very reluctant for her to do it. I didn't feel ready. When she got it off I wouldn't open up my left eye. This is the first memory I have of being scared. What if I couldn't see? The fear of being blind had set in my mind.

After a while I plucked up the courage to open up my eye. It was swollen so it wouldn't open up all the way but immediately I could tell that my vision had improved already. It wasn't perfect, it was quite glazy to look through but it was better than before the surgery. I smiled. The nurse put in a steroid eye drop them about 5 minutes later she put in an antibiotic eye drop. This was every 2 hours for 4 weeks!

A year passed with regular check ups to the hospital and about a million eye drops later and the stitches were ready to come out. I was awake whilst Frank took a tiny scalpel and plucked the stitches from my eye ball then using some tweezers he slithered them out in sections. Even though he used an anaesthetic eye drop I could definitely feel and hear the plucking. That was an awful experience. More so than surgery. At least I was asleep for the transplant.

At 22 I was ready for my right eye to be treated by Frank again. As I knew what to expect this time round I was more relaxed. Everything went well including post surgery check ups and the removal of the stitches.

I'm 27 now and everything is still ok. I have to wear glasses to be able to see perfectly. I get 20/20 vision in each eye now whilst wearing them. When I don't wear my glasses I can still see a whole lot better than before the surgery. Glasses wouldn't have worked with my Keratoconus hence the rigid contact lenses.

I even drive a lorry professionally as my career. I never thought that would happen so I'm grateful for having the transplants as they've made my life feel 'normal' again. I'm grateful for the donor too. I'm a registered donor now and so are my family. I don't about the corneas rejecting either. I refuse to.

I hope my story can be of help or comfort to someone who is dealing with Keratoconus. Don't be afraid, you're not alone and although there may not be a cure, there is a method of dealing with it and making your eye sight better. Good luck!

The above story was shared by Ricky Yates, one of our readers.

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