14 February 2024

For World Powerlifting Champion and world record holder Alan Turner, from Consett in County Durham, his appointment for cataract surgery led to a special reunion.

Despite his strength and muscle, Alan was one of the first critical Covid patients, and was nursed him back to health after a life-threatening experience. One of the medics on his specialist team, Stephanie Routledge, who at the time was a theatre practitioner in ICU in University Hospital of North Durham, now works at a local specialist eye clinic.  So Steph had a chance second meeting with Alan at Optegra Eye Clinic Newcastle when he attended for cataract surgery.

“I recognized his name and thought, he’s the guy that had Covid in Durham,” recalls Steph. “He was several months in hospital in a very serious condition, and I cared for him for around four weeks before he went on to a different hospital.   It was lovely to see him looking so well.”

World undefeated bodybuilding champion and gym owner (Big Al’s Coaching) Alan, 66, has been weightlifting and bodybuilding for many years. Ex-Royal Navy, he has accrued a string of titles during his over 40 year long career.  His titles include Britain’s Strongest Man, finalist in Mr Universe, North East Bodybuilding Champion and World Bodybuilding Champion. Then, in 2019, Covid hit.

“I was very ill and hospitalized for a long time,” said Alan. “Nine weeks in the ICU in Durham followed by six months at the Freeman hospital in Newcastle during which time I experienced pneumonia, sepsis and total organ failure.

“I could not swallow or eat and had to learn to walk again. Twice, the hospital team called my wife to say that I wasn’t going to make the next 24 hours. Death was very close several times, but thanks to the medical teams who cared for me and I feel I was literally brought me back to life. It was wonderful to meet with Steph, as one part of the team, and be able to thank her for her contribution to my care.”

Fast forward four years and Alan has fully recovered. “I felt like a frail old man, I couldn’t lift anything – it was horrendous and so soul destroying. I was so fit before, lifting weights of 400 kilos, about to represent GB in the World Championships, and then it was all gone. But I persevered and was determined to make it back to where I was pre-Covid.”

Last year, however, having regained his fitness Alan started to notice that his vision was blurry. “I wondered if it was something to do with the weightlifting, as there is a lot of pressure on the head and eyes, which are often red and bloodshot. I had been told a few years ago that I had cataracts but they weren’t really bothering me, so I left it.”

However, his cataracts had progressed to the point that Alan had been advised not to drive, and so he knew it was time for surgery. He was referred to Optegra Eye Clinic Newcastle and attended for his first appointment just a few weeks later. It was here that he was reunited with Steph.

“I was blown away when I saw that Steph was working at Optegra and once again looking after me,” said Alan. “I never expected to see her again, let alone at the eye clinic! It has been so lovely to personally thank her for caring for me then, I am forever in debt to her and her colleagues and will never forget what the whole team have done for me.

“I also want to thank everyone at Optegra, the staff are all fantastic and have looked after me from the second I walked in to the second I left. What an amazing place.

“And my vision? Well, it’s like looking at an old 70s black and white tv with one eye which is not yet treated and then in the eye that has been treated it is 4k vision – it is bizarre, so good, it is unreal!”

Thanks to his cataract surgery, Alan can now drive without glasses and feels like a different person. “I am so happy – it has given me a huge lift and is the best thing I’ve ever done, alongside recovering from Covid!”

Steph said: “It was such a surprise and a pleasure to see Mr Turner – and looking so healthy now, compared to when I was part of the team caring for him during Covid.  He was so appreciative of the support he had received, as he really was very poorly.  It is great to be able to care for him again now, and restore his vision through cataract surgery. He has had excellent outcomes and we are all so pleased to care for him.”

Optegra Eye Clinic Newcastle is part of Optegra Eye Health Care and is a specialist provider of ophthalmic services. Established in 2007, with its first hospital opening in 2008, it has completed over one million eye procedures from its 31 eye hospitals and over 60 locations across the UK, Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia.

Optegra brings together leading-edge research, medical expertise and state-of-the-art surgical equipment.  It performs more than 140,000 treatments annually, both private and publicly funded. Its top ophthalmic surgeons are renowned for their areas of expertise, offering excellent clinical outcomes and great patient service.


Download a free infopack

Not ready for a consultation? Learn more about our range of treatments, doctors and hospitals

Information pack

Free Virtual Consultation

Book your virtual consultation with our top rated eye hospitals

Book Now
phone icon

Call us free

We'll answer any questions you may have about treatment.

Private Patients - 0800 086 1064
NHS Patients - 0207 509 4186

Private: Mon-Thu: 8am-7pm, Fri: 8am - 5.30pm NHS: Mon-Fri: 8am - 6pm