12th November 2021
4 minute read
Categorised under:
Patient Stories

Cataract surgery allows John to get back behind the wheel

A 73-year-old from Kent can enjoy driving his beloved cars again after undergoing successful surgery to remove cataracts.  

Retiree John Shelley, who lives alone near Marden, underwent the procedure as an NHS patient at SpaMedica’s new Sittingbourne hospital in October, and says the surgery has helped him maintain his independence. “I noticed I was struggling with night driving, which was becoming a hazard and seriously impacting my lifestyle,” he explains. “It’s quite remote where I live, so being able to drive and get out and about is really important to me.” 

John is sharing his experience to coincide with Road Safety Week (15-21 November 2021), which is the UK’s biggest annual road safety event, organised by charity Brake. 

While John says he’s not really a ‘collector’ of cars, he confesses he never gets around to selling any of them. He currently owns a MGF, a MX5 Mk1 and a Jaguar X Type.  

He was diagnosed with cataracts in his right eye following a routine eye test in 2018. “It wasn’t affecting my sight too badly,” he says, “but the optician said it would get worse with time. During the pandemic, I wasn’t really going out much so didn’t notice the deterioration as quickly as I might have. It was only when I started socialising again that I realised how driving at night had become quite an issue.” 

Poor eyesight at night is, quite simply, a road hazard,” he explains. “Oncoming lights, especially in wet weather, are a big issue when navigating the narrow winding country roads where I live. As you get older, it takes your pupils longer to adjust to sudden light so, on a very dark road, when you’re suddenly confronted with bright headlights coming towards you, it’s a real danger. I knew if I didn’t get help, I’d be stuck at home this winter and that was unthinkable.” 

John chose SpaMedica, a UK-leading provider of NHS cataract surgery, to carry out the surgery, as the waiting time to treatment was less than 8 weeks. “It was a quick and easy procedure,” he says. “There was no injection, just eye drops as a local anesthetic, and I had to be still while it was done, which took around 15 minutes. It’s not a big deal and I would encourage anyone who needs surgery to get it done, as it can really improve the quality of your life. In fact, I was back behind the wheel within a few days!” 

Another of John’s passions is clay pigeon shooting and he is club secretary of the Horsmonden Shoot. A right-handed shooter, he was struggling because of his left eye dominance. “I’ve been shooting for about 40 years”, he explains, “but recently my aim has been off as my right eye deteriorated, and my left eye began compensating for it. A clay pigeon can travel at around 50 miles an hour, so accuracy is key. My average score was an unimpressive 19 out of 50 during the summer, but at the shoot which took place on 17th October, just ten days after my surgery, my binocular vision was fully restored, and I scored 32 out of 50! Great result! Top gun!”    

About 30% of adults aged 65-plus will have a cataract that is affecting their vision and requires treatment – and cataract surgery is the most common operation today in the UK, with about 450,000 surgeries performed each year. 

Cataracts Symptoms 

You may experience one or more of the following cataracts symptoms: 

  • A decrease in vision clarity that can’t be corrected with glasses 
  • Colours appear faded or washed out, sometimes with a yellow haze 
  • Sensitivity to light, glare, and seeing halos around lights 
  • Frequent changes to glasses or contact lens prescriptions 

 It’s best to see an optician if you think you have cataracts. They will perform a thorough eye check and will be able refer you for treatment if needed. 

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