The Patient Perspective: Sandy O’Brien

Sandy O

"I'm anxiously waiting for Professor Watson and her colleagues to continue their research. It has such potential to restore vision!

My name is Sandy, and I was born with aniridia, an absence of the iris (the coloured part of the eye). The iris is a muscle which sits in front of the pupil, particularly important because it controls the amount of light that reaches the retina.

Aniridia can be genetic, but not for me, I’m a one off! I’ve also had cataracts and glaucoma.

I could previously read three lines down the eye chart with both eyes, but after Professor Watson trialled the new corneal stem cell method on my right eye I was able to read another line down. It was very exciting and made a big difference in my day-to-day life!

This improved vision lasted around two and a half years, but has recently begun to deteriorate again because the stem cells were taken from my own left eye. I can no longer read print or any of the eye chart.

Over the years, I’ve had three failed cornea transplants because my damaged stem cells are unable to sustain the cornea.

I am very scared because I’m now losing sight in my left eye too. I can’t see my reflection in the mirror any more, which is probably a good thing at my age and I save on makeup!!

I'm really hoping that the next phase of research will progress quickly, so that I can have sight for the rest of my life. The next step for me will probably involve transferring donor stem cells (a family member with healthy eyes has volunteered as it is not a very invasive procedure) although there are other emerging ways to stimulate healthy cell growth as well.

I often get frustrated because I know they are very close to being able to restore vision for me and for many other people. What I didn’t know until recently though, is that all of this research completely relies on grants, donations and bequests."