A man spent a year basically blind after he blinked once and couldn’t open his eyelids again.
Retired Robert Graham was saved by Botox injections but spent a year with a debilitating disability that he had no answers for.
The 67-year-old was walking out of a train station in Leeds one morning in April 2014 when he blinked in the sunshine. His eyes were suddenly glued shut.
Robert says: ‘It was a journey I’d made a thousand times before from my home to the office.
‘I walked into the main road outside the station, turned down the street and the sun was rising. Everything was completely normal.
‘I looked towards the sun, blinked into the light as anyone would and then it just hit me.
‘That was it. There was no pre-warning. My eyes just shut down. The eyelids absolutely wouldn’t open.’
Although he was basically blind, Robert recalls trying to ‘simply get on with things’, hoping it would be temporary.
Robert, who now lives at home in Bingley, ibuprofen alaxan fr West Yorkshire, with his wife Suzie, was still working as an accountant at this point. He played down what was happening out of fear and the hope it would go away.
Instead, he tried to force his eyes open manually or squint. A year passed like this before Robert, who always had and continues to have perfect vision, discovered he has blepharospasm.
There is no known cause or regular treatments for this sudden-onset condition where the muscles that close the eyes contract involuntarily.
What Robert experienced that day outside the station is known as a ‘shutdown’. After that, he couldn’t read, watch TV or drive. ‘It was truly debilitating,’ he added.
He initially thought it was the bright light, so he shoved his fingers into his eyes and pushed the lids open manually, so he could just about see enough to move into the shade.
He somehow managed to stumble to work, squinting his eyes open a fraction every now and again to see where he was going.
Finally in the office, he had to keep his eyes as his lids felt heavy and his eyes were watering.
He continues: ‘If I got up to walk across the office, even the stimulus of the wind moving across my eyeballs was enough to have another shutdown where I couldn’t open my eyes at all.
‘I had to keep forcing my eyes open for a very short space of time, seeing what was around me, then closing them again as I walked.
‘I repeated this same strange process to make my way home. But I didn’t let myself panic. I assumed it would go away.’
The next morning, it seemed it had. Until another shutdown came at 10am.
Robert made a visit to his doctor, who gave him eye drops. They didn’t work, so Robert adopted this ‘new normal’.
He’d walk with his eyes closed, opening them very briefly to get his bearings.
Luckily, he was winding down at work for his retirement, so most of his time was spent training a new team – something he could do with his eyes closed when necessary.
‘I didn’t want people to think I was being rude or was uninterested. If I needed to say something, I would briefly open my eyes.’
He also felt very self-conscious, adding: ‘I’m sure everyone at work thought I was quite mad.’
Robert bought numerous pairs of sunglasses and goggles to protect his eyes from any air movement, which seemed to trigger his eyelids to close.
This stopped working towards the end of the day when his eyes became more tired.
One day, Robert walked into a lamppost. ‘Which made me realise that I couldn’t continue with this bizarre routine,’ he says.
Professor Bernie Chang, a specialist at Optegra Eye Hospital in Bradford, diagnosed Robert with blepharospasm in March 2015 and suggested Botox (a procedure used cosmetically to reduce wrinkles) straight away.
Robert didn’t hesitate, adding: ‘At that point, I would have tried anything.’
The results were remarkable. Robert hasn’t had a complete shutdown since.
Every two to three months, Robert has 15-16 Botox injections into his eyelids and the area around his eyes.
He says: ‘I look no different before and after the treatment, as it’s not cosmetic.
‘I can still feel the condition. I feel a lot of pressure in my eyelids, almost like I’m always tired when I am not. But now, with the Botox in place, I can use other techniques to help open my eyes when they close.’
Blepharospasm still leaves Robert with irritating eye strain. Once an avid reader, now can’t read for more than half an hour – but he is largely functional.
He adds: ‘Thanks to Botox, rather than being a disability now, it is now more of a nuisance.’
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