Dad's Sight Restored With Pioneering Treatment 25-Years After Being Blinded In Acid Attack
A man has had his eyesight restored 25-years after an acid attack left him blind thanks to pioneering stem-cell treatment.
Dad-of-four James O'Brien, 44, was blinded in his right eye aged just 18 when he was sprayed with ammonia in a random attack in London.
But, thanks to life-changing surgery from the NHS, James has his vision back.
James, the first person to undergo this treatment on the NHS, said: "Being able to see through both eyes after all these years means the world to me."
The incredible treatment involved doctors using stem-cells from his healthy left eye, which were grown in a lab in Modena, Italy, for six months.
Last year, surgeons from Moorfield Eye Hospital in London were able to cut the scar tissue from his damaged right eye and replace it with the stem cells.
Medics then left the cells for a year to allow the tissue to settle before inserting a donor cornea in June - leaving James with his sight restored.
For those in need of a brief biology lesson (like me), the NHS calls stem cells 'the building blocks of life' and explains that they are basic cells that can become any other cells in the body - so they're ideal for repairing lost or damaged cells.
Naturally, James is over-the-moon with the treatment, he said: said: "It's the little things I've appreciated the most, like being able to see my wife and children clearly for the first time.
"It's fantastic and has definitely improved my quality of life.
"Before I could barely see the chart with all the letters on, now I can see the third line down and it's only going to get much better.
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"When I go cycling now, I can look over my shoulder and see what's coming, which helps."
The pioneering op James underwent costs around £92,000 - but he received the treatment on the NHS after being told about it by consultant ophthalmic surgeon Dr Sajjad Ahmad, who performed the surgery.
James said: "He told me about this clinical trial that could help with my sight and I didn't think twice about it, I was well up for it. I felt like I had nothing to lose.
"It feels good to have been part of an important process like this in its earliest stages.
"I'm glad I could help."
As well as having his vision restored surgeons were also able to smooth the scarring in his eye.
"This has had a really positive impact in terms of how I feel about myself," James said.
"There were times before when children would look at my eye and recoil in horror. Obviously I didn't take it personally but it's nice for that not to be an issue anymore."
Dr Ahmad said: "James - in a crude sort of way - kindly accepted to be the guinea pig for this treatment.
"Because of what he's done, it will now enable us to offer it to everyone who needs it.
"This is going to have a huge impact. A lot of these patients are young men so it affects their work, their lives, those around them."
Dr Ahmed hopes the procedure can later be developed the procedure for people who have been blinded in both eyes.
Featured Image Credit: SWNS