Man blinded by piece of metal has vision restored by specialists in Sheffield - and now he's taking flying lessons

A man blinded when a piece of metal penetrated his right eye now has good enough vision to start taking flying lessons, thanks to specialists in Sheffield who restored his sight.

Monday, 26th July 2021, 3:15 pm

Lee Rodger was in his car workshop in March 2020 when a piece of metal from a chisel struck his right eye as he walked past one of his colleagues who was working on a car.

The split-second injury was instantly devastating – immediately causing him to lose his vision.

Realising it was a bad injury, Lee was taken to the A&E closest to his garage in Lincolnshire and subsequently transferred to Sheffield’s Hallamshire Hospital Eye Unit.

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Lee shortly after his first operation.

The 46-year-old was then given the devastating news that the odds of saving his eye, let alone restoring his vision, were slim. He underwent a three-hour operation to remove the metal from his eye, with his surgeon skilfully attempting to secure his retina (the thin layer at the back of the eye), which along with his cornea (the protective front layer of the eye), had sustained significant damage.

His damaged natural lens was also removed, and a special oil was used to temporarily fill the eye.

“It was really devastating,” Lee said. “There was the initial trauma and then apprehension about living with this life-changing injury. I play golf, fish, race cars and it was just ticking round in my brain that I wouldn’t be able to do these things again.”

Lee expected to have lost his sight forever following the injury.

Having lost the use of one eye, Lee’s peripheral vision had completely gone, making it difficult to do everyday things.

“I had no perception of depth curves. I had to relearn even simple things like walking down steps. Ultimately I was scared and a little part of me was angry too. That piece of metal could have hit me anywhere, my cheek, my nose, but it hit my eye instead. But the specialist services at Sheffield made all the difference, night and day.”

Another two major eye operations were performed to remove the oil and scar tissue that had formed whilst further securing the retina with laser, then finally to insert a new artificial lens.

“From the minute I arrived in Sheffield everything changed,” added Lee, who spent a week setting alarms to take daily eye drops, antibiotics and looking face down towards the floor, morning to bedtime, to encourage his retina to reattach to his eye.

Lee after his surgery.

“When I started regaining my sight, I could literally see how unbelievably steady my surgeon’s hand was. The team at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals have been absolutely fantastic and I am forever in their debt.”

Mr Siddharth Subramani, Consultant Ophthalmologist and Vitreoretinal Surgeon at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Lee suffered a really horrific injury, which often results in significant vision loss or blindness, sometimes even complete loss of the eye.

"We are delighted that his vision is now restored as he has been a fantastic patient who followed all the instructions, which alongside multiple complex surgeries performed gave him the best opportunity to regain his sight.

The small piece of metal that blinded Lee.

"It would not have been possible without our specialist vitreoretinal nursing team and admin team who do an amazing job coordinating our emergencies, and our management who ensure we have the latest technology and best equipment here in Sheffield.”

Miss Zanna Currie, Consultant Ophthalmologist and Clinical Director for Ophthalmology at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Mr Siddharth Subramani and the team have worked exceptionally hard throughout the pandemic to ensure that our patients have continued to benefit from our specialist services. Retinal detachment surgery is a difficult and demanding procedure where a gas bubble or silicone oil is used to support the retina whilst healing takes place, so we are delighted that Lee now has his vision restored.”