Late one night in my first year of studying Economics at the University of Sydney, I noticed that my right eye had much worse vision than my left. I held a hand over one eye, then the other, and realised that the difference was significant. I decided to go to bed and check again in the morning. When I woke, the first thing I did was check my eyes. The result was the same as the prior evening. I went to see an optometrist, then a specialist, and was diagnosed with Keratoconus. The year was 1986.
At the time of my diagnosis, treatments were far inferior to where they are today. I tried a hard lens that felt impossible to wear at first. But, after persistence and determination my eyes started to adjust. I got by for a number of years before deciding to have a corneal transplant in about 1999. The surgery took 3 hours and I was in hospital for 8 days. My eyesight didn’t improve as much as I had hoped. I had a number of follow on surgeries to adjust stitching, use lasers etc, but the vision never really got to a point at which I could stop wearing hard contact lenses. By this stage I was now also wearing a lens in my left eye.
Over the years, Jim Kokkinakis introduced me to hard lenses, and I have been wearing them ever since.
My left eye lens is every day and my right eye on and off depending on how I am feeling. But my vision is good enough to drive, work, play golf, and live a normal life without drugs, without more surgery, and without any real impact on my life. Eventually, I was offered a transplant for my left eye, but I declined.
For me, the good news was that my vision declined as I aged. I knew I could live with my eyes the way they were and didn’t want all the hassle and particularly the uncertainty of further surgery outcomes.
Now 54 years old, I have been married for 30 years, raised four wonderful children, traveled the world with them, watched them play sports, and have lived life to the fullest.
Throughout my career, I built, ran, and sold multiple technology companies. For seven years, I served as CEO of an ASX–listed company. I have had success in business, pleasure, family and friendships with absolutely no impact from my Keratoconus. None of my children have developed Keratoconus, but one has Type 1 Diabetes and one has rheumatoid arthritis. They are managing their conditions well and are getting on with life if the same way that I did when diagnosed with Keratoconus.
The diagnosis of Keratoconus was bad news. But it wasn’t the end of the world. If only I knew then what I do now. Life goes on and it is a condition that may have very little impact on the things that matter most in your life.