Cycle For Sight - Dublin To Abbey Co. Galway
My name is Rachel Keon. I’m from Galway, I’m 26 years old and currently living with an acquired, and significant visual impairment to both of my eyes. I used to work as a child minder and as a qualified make-up artist, both of which I loved. I’m currently waiting to travel to Brighton, UK for an invasive eye surgery which will hopefully restore vision to one of my eyes.
In December 2016 when I was 24, I was diagnosed with High Grade Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (Stage 4), it was present in my bone marrow and kidneys. I underwent intense chemotherapy for a number of months which thankfully was successful in managing the lymphoma. As I was at a high risk (70%) of the Non-Hodgkins lymphoma returning within one year, I had little choice but to undergo a bone marrow transplant in May 2017. This was a difficult decision as it is a difficult process. One of my sisters was a suitable match. I had hoped the bone marrow transplant would have minimal side effects as this is the case for some patients. I developed Graft V’s Host disease following the transplant which is common. For the first three months post transplant, I developed common side effects of Graft V’s Host disease such as rashes and dry eyes. Unfortunately, in October 2017, issues with my eyes got much worse. I was referred to the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear hospital in Dublin for treatment whilst also receiving treatment post transplant with St. James in Dublin. I had numerous admissions to both hospitals which were long term on occasion.
I went on to have several surgeries on each eye. The soreness in my eyes (which were like ulcers in both of my eyes) seemed to make little improvement, the condition became worse. Following a final surgery in August 2018, the inflammation, soreness and dryness in my eyes gradually reduced. However, in December 2018 I was informed that I have been left with permanent corneal scarring in both eyes resulting in a significant visual impairment. One of my eyes is closed and the other I have very limited vision in. I now require support and assistance to access the community and I am now dependent on others to guide me every day. I depend on my mother, family and friends every day. I am very limited in terms of options to restore my sight.
In December 2018, I was referred by the Royal Victoria in Dublin to the Sussex Eye Hospital in Brighton, England. I have travelled to Brighton in January 2019 for an assessment with a pioneering eye surgeon who has reviewed my case. The proposed procedure is very invasive and is called Osteo-Odonto Kerato Prosthesis (OOKP). This involves one of my teeth and part of my jaw bone being extracted and harvested along with a skin graft from the inside of my mouth to create a prosthetic eye to replace the front of one of my existing eyes. A prosthetic lens is also fitted. If the procedure is successful, it will essentially bring the vision through as technically the middle and back of my eyes are healthy. It’s because of the significant corneal scarring on the front my eyes that I cannot see. The procedure will take a number of surgeries and could take up to 3-4 months to complete. If it works, I will also be required to attend check up appointments in Brighton every 3 months for the rest of my life. There are no guarantees but this procedure is my only hope for sight.
I hope that this will work and that I will have restored vision to one of my eyes. This will give me my independence back and allow me to move forward with my life. Thank you for reading about my story and supporting me on my journey.