Newcastle fan able to look forward to Champions League after eye surgery saves sight

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A Newcastle United fan will be able to enjoy watching his team for the first time in years after undergoing pioneering eye treatment.

Steve Routh, from Thornaby-on-Tees, has a rare genetic disorder, Axenfeld-Rieger Syndrome (ARS) which affects the development of the eye with common symptoms including cornea and iris defects as well as glaucoma.

He has been receiving treatment at St Paul’s Eye Unit at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and has undergone over 45 operations, receiving multiple corneal transplants, glaucoma and retinal surgeries in a bid to maintain his sight.

He lost complete sight in his right eye in 2014 as a result of a double retinal detachment but the sight in his left eye has now been saved thanks to pioneering Boston Keratoprosthesis (KPro) surgery which he received in April this year.

Steve Routh has received pioneering eye surgery. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

"Before it was just cloudy vision but it has given stability," he told ITV Tyne Tees. "That's the biggest thing I can say is stability because my vision would change, day to day, hour to hour.

"My vision is more or less the same all the time. It can be a little bit blurry but the clarity I've been told will come in time.

"Before it was like looking through a smokey room or a piece of tracing paper at its worst point but now it is clear."

Mr Routh is now able to look forward to things he risked missing out on including watching Newcastle in the Champions League and going on holiday to the Dominican Republic to celebrate his 30th wedding anniversary with his wife, Amanda.

Steve Routh is looking forward to watching his beloved Newcastle United in the Champions League. Credit: PA

"Before the surgery, I couldn't even see the ball on the TV," he said. "I could just about see the players so I would follow along with the commentary.

"The first match I was able to watch properly was the game that Newcastle secured Champions League qualification. It was quite inspiring."

KPro surgery is a specialist operation designed for people who have had two or more failed corneal transplants and poor vision.

Mr Routh had many corneal transplants, with his ARS further reducing the chance of success.

However, KPro surgery offers a greater chance of improved vision over a longer period. An artificial cornea, made from acrylic plastic on top of a titanium back plate, in the middle of a human donor cornea, is stitched into place at the front of the eye. It provides a clear central window, which restores sight.

Mr Routh has been attending the Royal Liverpool University Hospital for the last 20 years since being diagnosed with ARS and could not speak highly enough of the treatment he received as he looks forward to getting back out to his allotment.

“The whole team at the Royal have been unbelievable," he said. “My next goal is to get back into my allotment that I have not been able to tender for years.

"I loved being there, growing all kinds of vegetables and the fresh air and sunshine is wonderful for my mental health.” 

Professor Stephen Kaye, consultant ophthalmologist, said: “It’s been a privilege to look after Mr Routh, who has never given up hope on us working to save his sight, and for other similar patients.

"Through the generous and altruistic act of eye donation we are able to give patients this much needed surgery to improve their quality of life and enable them to live their lives towards a level they had before their sight-loss.”

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