Full steam ahead for sports enthusiast

There’s not much that can stop sports enthusiast Keith Whitehead, from Solihull. He has
completed eleven triathlons since 2012, including two at half-Ironman distance, and has
even qualified to represent Great Britain in his age group at the European Championships, in
Austria in September 2016. But his life has significantly improved since an operation in 2012
to improve his vision.
Keith has been wearing glasses since junior school. Through adult life, he dealt with the
annoyances that glasses can sometimes present and just accepted that they were a part of
his life and here to stay. His strong prescription meant that he qualified for free eye tests,
putting him at the high end of the visual impairment spectrum.
Having retired from his job as a Pensions Manager in 2007, Keith, 62, and his wife kept
active with a combination of walking, running, cycling, skiing and, more recently, triathlons.
His trademark cap shielded his eyes from the sun and his glasses from the rain.
Whilst his glasses didn’t hold him back from his sporting pursuits, they certainly posed
challenges. When open water swimming in his first open-water triathlon, he struggled to see
the safety canoes and the other swimmers. His wife even had to wait for him at the swim exit
with glasses at the ready so he could slip them on before the cycling and running elements.
Thinking that prescription goggles could be the answer, Keith found himself in a
conversation with a friend whose wife who recently had lens replacement surgery at
Optegra.
Keith says, “Having previously glossed over the adverts I’d seen in magazines, I had a
‘eureka’ moment when I heard my friend’s story and thought, I could do that! I attended an
Open Evening at Optegra Eye Hospital Birmingham where I chatted to consultant surgeon
Mark Wevill. I gained the reassurance I needed and signed up there and then for a
consultation.
“My consultation and resulting surgery was also with Mark so I felt that Optegra provided a
really personal service from start to finish.”
Optegra consultant eye surgeon Mr Mark Wevill says, “I remembered Keith from the open
evening and was thrilled that he decided to go ahead with the consultation. I was able to
confirm that, despite his strong prescription, he was an ideal candidate for lens replacement
surgery (Clarivu). To achieve the best possible results, we fitted Keith with a monocular lens
in both eyes and he is now free of glasses, which is a fabulous outcome.”

Even Keith admits that he thought being glasses free was a long shot. He says, “I thought I
would have to at least wear glasses for reading or driving, but no! I don’t need them at all!”
The first thing Keith noticed after surgery was the colour – so vibrant and clear. The second
was that he could see objects so clearly from quite a distance. For example, on a ramble
with friends, he remembers crossing a field and someone pointing out a fox in the distance.
“I looked over and saw that in fact there were two foxes – some people in the group couldn’t
even see one fox let alone two!” says Keith.
Post-surgery, Keith is leading an active life full of the sports he loves. He finds the previously
unknown sensation of wind and rain on his face exhilarating and no longer has to wear a cap
for running – just off the rack sunglasses.
Keith says, “Whilst I might have carried on with triathlons wearing my glasses, I doubt I
would have performed to the level I have achieved without the help of Optegra. My wife and I
are members of a running club and a triathlon club – it’s something we both love and can
enjoy together. And it’s not just my sporting ability that has improved; my night driving vision
is excellent, as is my peripheral vision.
“On a recent trip to Madeira, I was thrilled to be able to see crabs, fish and sea urchins when
swimming underwater – it was all so exciting. I now want to try snorkelling! My vision means
that there is nothing holding me back from pursuing everything life has to offer, and I fully
intend to!”

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