LEGENDARY Coventry FA Cup winning manager John Sillett can see clearly again after undergoing laser eye surgery to restore his deteriorating vision.
The 83-year-old, who also played for the Sky Blues, Chelsea and Plymouth Argyle before returning to Coventry to manage them to FA Cup glory in 1987, had cataracts resulting in blurred vision and clouding in his eyes.
It was starting to impact his day-to-day life and stop him from doing the things he loved most, including watching his beloved Sky Blues, where he remains Life President.
He said: “I was really struggling with my vision. My eyesight had deteriorated over time and I couldn’t read the paper and wasn’t able to drive – it really became quite bad. At times it was like I was walking through a mist or fog, nothing was clear and it was getting very frightening. I knew I had to do something.”
A friend recommended he see a specialist at Midland Eye, a private eye clinic in Solihull. There, John met Professor Sunil Shah, a Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon and pioneer of LASEK laser eye surgery. After a consultation in September 2019, John was diagnosed with cataracts in both eyes and told his vision could deteriorate and ultimately result in blindness if he did not have corrective surgery.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens which is essential for focusing images on to the retina. Surgery is the only treatment for cataracts and involves an operation to restore the sight. The cataract, or cloudy lens, is replaced with a clear artificial lens which remains clear for a lifetime. Approximately 330,000 cataract operations are performed each year in England alone, with around 30 per cent of people aged 65 years or older having a visually impairing cataract in one or both eyes.
Within a few days of his consultation John underwent an advanced laser cataract removal procedure, called a femto laser-assisted cataract surgery, The surgery takes only a few minutes and involves making precise cuts to remove the cataract. It is more precise than ordinary manual cataract removal and favoured by many specialist cataract surgeons.
“It’s a remarkable procedure using state-of-the-art equipment”, says Prof Shah. “The femto laser surgery replaces many of the steps during cataract surgery that require a blade and softens the cataract, allowing for an easier and smoother removal.
“Mr Sillett really did require this operation, and it’s good he came to us when he did. The longer he left it, the worse his vision would’ve got. This could’ve ultimately led to blindness.”
Despite his nervousness about the laser operation, the procedure was a success
John said: “Eyes are special so I was a bit nervous but wanted to get back to living my life. Nothing could’ve been worse than continuing with my poor vision. I had no reason to worry though – the whole procedure was perfection, a painless five minute job. They placed a cloth over my eye and within a few minutes I was good as new. It really was incredible.
“Post-op recovery was almost instant. I noticed a remarkable improvement virtually straightaway with full vision restored within hours. I was home the same day and fine within hours. It was really unbelievable.”
And the op was so successful, John no longer has to wear glasses.
He said: “I’ve worn glasses of some kind for many years so not having them certainly took some getting used to! It’s only since I had surgery that I realised how poor my vision actually was. I’m back to driving, I can read the paper without my eyes straining, it’s like I’ve been given a second lease of life. It’s completely transformed my life and I’m so grateful. I’m back to watching football games and enjoying myself.
“For me, the main benefit was the speed at which I was seen, from my initial consultation to the actual operation being carried out. I honestly thought after the procedure, ‘a miracle’s happened here’. I could actually see clearly again – it was amazing.”