Since 2002, Ian Tibbetts, a forty-two year old former forklift truck driver from Telford in Shropshire, has been slowly going blind. He has never seen the faces of his twin four-year old boys. Despite numerous treatments to save his eyesight, nothing has worked.
The Day I Got My Sight Back is a new single documentary from Walker George Films, which follows Ian Tibbetts as he undergoes two radical operations in a last bid to restore his sight. The procedure, called OOKP, involves the reconstruction of a new eye using a tiny plastic lens and one of his own teeth.
The surgery is extreme. The lens is inserted into a hole drilled through the tooth, which is later implanted in the eye. As long as the retina is still functioning, the lens effectively provides a new window through which the patient is able to see. And because the tooth belongs to the patient, the body does not reject it.
OOKP – Osteo-Odonto-Keratoprosthesis - is only suitable for certain types of blindness, specifically patients who have severe and irreversible corneal damage. Only one surgeon in Britain performs it, Christopher Liu at the Sussex Eye Hospital in Brighton.
Some of his patients had been blind for decades before they recovered their sight.
Patients who have the surgery are often able to see immediately and the quality of sight can be extraordinarily good.
Two people who have already had the procedure are also interviewed in the film. Martin Jones was a construction worker who went blind in 1996 when a vat of molten aluminium exploded in his face. Eleven years later, in 2007, he underwent OOKP. The moment his bandages were removed he was able to see his wife for the very first time. “She was absolutely gorgeous!” he says.
Bunnie Adams went blind as a result of an extremely rare auto-immune disorder in 1999. She recovered her sight in 2003. “I felt,” she says, “as if somebody had lifted my grave and I could get out.”
Now Ian Tibbetts hopes he too will be able to see the world again. The success rate is good but it is not guaranteed. If the procedure fails, he will be blind for the rest of his life. But if it succeeds, he will finally see his twin sons for the first time in his life.
Directed by Sally George & Stephen Walker