‘New eyes’ for award-winning local artist

A Colchester artist felt her passion for drawing was at risk due to her deteriorating vision.  Having relied on contact lenses, glasses AND a magnifying glass to complete her work, she has now had an operation and can see clearly, without glasses, for the first time in three decades.

Janie Pirie is a botanical artist whose work has been exhibited local in Aldeburgh every second year, as well as all over Great Britain, Europe and the USA and particularly in London with the Society of Botanical Artists.

Janie’s work has been recognized by the RHS with two gold medals and a silver-gilt and she has also been awarded Certificates of Botanical Merit by the SBA.   

Her love for nature began as a child when she helped her father grow flowers, fruit and vegetables.  She went on to study at Northampton School of Art and later at Colchester Art College. She runs regular workshops at Ipswich Institute, Tindall’s Art Shop in Colchester, Cambridge University Botanic Gardens, Flatford Mill, Dedham and Higham Hall in The Lake District.

However, all of this was at risk.  As for so many people, her eyesight had deteriorated over the years as the lens of the eye naturally begin to stiffen and change into a cataract and so focusing power and clarity of vision reduced. She began needing glasses in her 40’s to create the fine detail in her work but over the past 10 years Janie was even struggling to obtain the fine details she needs to create, even when wearing contact lenses and glasses at the same time.

However, her brother had recently had a procedure at Optegra Eye Hospital Central London which freed him from glasses.  Janie realized if he was brave enough, she should be too, especially as her work depends on excellent vision.

She booked in with the same consultant that her brother had used, Mr Wisam Muen, saying: “I was so envious of my brother’s fantastic vision – I wanted ‘new eyes’ too!  I had a thorough consultation with Mr Muen who told me he could make a dramatic difference to my eyes – and he certainly has!”

The treatment that both Janie and her brother had was Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE).  The natural lens of the eye is permanently replaced with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) which meets the individual prescription requirements of each patient.  The proven procedure has been performed thousands of times and typically takes just 20 minutes per eye.

Janie added: “In my line of work I really need my eyes to work hard because I need to capture great detail.  They are perfect now so my work is even more enjoyable than ever.  I don’t have to reach for the right strength glasses to enhance what I am trying to draw because I can see everything clearly. I am thrilled and feel liberated.

“We all take our senses for granted and so I regularly remind myself that just months ago I struggled to see my work with the clarity I wanted – I am so lucky now.”

Mr Muen, Optegra consultant eye surgeon, said: “It was a pleasure to treat Mrs Pirie who is a talented artist and had become heavily reliant on visual aides to do her work. We had a detailed and honest discussion about the best treatment; and though she was nervous at first I’m pleased we were able to reassure her that she was in the best place to have this done.

“I was delighted with the result and she can now see distance and near without the need for glasses or magnifiers.

“Mrs Pirie showed me one of her drawings that she had done after the surgery and I was totally amazed! It was very detailed and intricate work. I am delighted we have helped her to continue this rare talent and I look forward to seeing her work in the future. The lenses are for life and do not need to be replaced.”

Janie, who has lived in the area for over 30 years maintains a very full and active lifestyle.  As well as her art which she creates every day, she has run the London Marathon five times since she was 50, and enjoys running twice a week as well as regular aerobics.

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