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Blind County Durham man to become first in the UK to receive surgery on the NHS in hope of regaining his eyesight

Jake Ternet will be the first person in the UK to receive this groundbreaking surgery. Credit: NCJ Media

A blind County Durham man is to be the first in the UK to have groundbreaking surgery on the NHS in the hope of saving his eyesight.

At just three months old, Jake Ternent was diagnosed with leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), a rare inherited retinal condition caused by defects in one of a number of different genes.

This caused him to lose his sight and he was later referred to Moorfields Eye Hospital in London where he has helped experts' research into finding a way to recover eyesight.

LCA has previously been untreatable, but doctors have now revealed Jake will be the first person in the country to receive pioneering treatment on the NHS.

The Newcastle United season ticket holder will travel down next week for the operation which is to take place on Thursday.

Jake plays for the Durham Viper Jets Visually Impaired Cricket Team. Credit: NCJ Media

I never expected the operation to happen in my lifetime but after participating in 15 years of research I have been giving the opportunity. I feel very lucky and privileged to be the first person in the UK to have this treatment and I hope the research continues to help others with my condition."

– Jake Ternent

The gene therapy hopes to restore aspects of vision using a harmless virus to replace and correct the defect.

The family had been told the surgery would cost £250,000 in America if Jake couldn't receive the treatment for free on the NHS.

£250k
The procedure would cost £250,000 if the family had to go to America for it.
Jake's mum Diane said she was speechless when they got the news that he would get the surgery on the NHS Credit: NCJ Media

Jake's mum Diane, 53, admits she was speechless when receiving the phone call telling her the vital news which could transform her son's life.

When we got the call it absolutely floored me to be honest.

I guess I have always blamed myself and felt guilty for him having the condition in the first place. I was devastated by it all.

I always hoped that one day Jake would be able to get help and I can't believe it is now happening.

Jake isn't getting his hopes up too much. There are no guarantees the treatment will work but he is wanting to give it a go to see if it helps at all."

– Diane, Jake's mum

Jake is hoping the operation will prove successful not only for himself, but will be the launchpad to helping other people with his rare condition in the future.

Jake doesn't know any different with him being diagnosed so young. He had a difficult time at school making friends and it was a lonely time for him.

He suffers with anxiety and doesn't go out on his own. He's also allergic to animal hair so he can't have a guide dog.

But Jake just jokes through everything.

If it helps someone else then he is happy to do it for them."

– Diane Ternent
Jakes recovery process will also be a costly one as he is required to travel to London regularly for follow-up appointments. Credit: NCJ Media

After the operation Jake will be required to attend weekly follow-up appointments at Moorfields Eye Hospital - an expensive process for the family who live in Ludworth, County Durham.

Diane has set up a Gofundme page to help pay for travel and accommodation in London to ensure Jake doesn't miss out on a 'once in a lifetime' opportunity.

The trains are so expensive and then we have to find accommodation when we're down there too.

It is a once in a lifetime opportunity though and we don't want Jake to miss out. We don't know how much money we're going to need but the funds will be put towards travel and accommodation so Jake can attend his appointments to see if the operation is having any impact on his vision.

– Diane Ternent