A couple who have been happily married for 55 years thought they knew everything about each other, until his and hers restorative sight surgery meant they could see each other – warts and all – for the first time in years!
Since falling in love aged 17, two years after first meeting at a local youth club, retired hairdresser Terry Smith and his wife, Brenda, both 75, have been inseparable – having two daughters together and now enjoying their three grandsons, one granddaughter and three great-grandchildren.
When the pair, of Merstham, Surrey, booked in for lens replacement surgery earlier this year, after their sight was noticeably impaired by cataracts, they were sure they had nothing new to discover about each other.
But Brenda, who had worn specs since her 30s and was the first to go under the knife at the London Ophthalmology Centre in March, where they also had multifocal HD lenses fitted in both eyes, said: “After my operation, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
“I said to Terry, ‘You’re not shaving right.’ I had to trim his eyebrows and everything!”
And while Terry, who wore glasses for 25 years, is cautious about revealing what he could see for fear of insulting his beloved, he admits there were aspects of her appearance that surprised him.
He said: “I couldn’t believe the amount of stubble on my chin after I’d shaved. I clearly hadn’t been doing it right for years.
“I also noticed things like the colour of my wife’s hair, which I know she tints, was perhaps a little brighter than it really should be.
“The colour of clothes changed, too. Things I thought were a certain colour were completely different. This raincoat I’ve got that I thought was grey was actually green!”
Routine eye tests at their local optician’s triggered the couple’s decision to have surgery. after Brenda’s new glasses did nothing to improve her sight.
She said: “I went to collect the glasses and was asked to read out from the chart.
“I’d already been told I had cataracts, but when I looked at the chart, I asked what I was meant to be reading because, to be truthful, I couldn’t see any of the lines.”
Told not to drive until further notice, she was asked back for further checks and informed she needed surgery if she was to improve her sight, as her cataracts were “quite bad,” so she was being referred to the hospital.
She said: “I was worried I’d be waiting forever.
“We’d heard about corrective sight operations, so we looked into going privately.
“Finding out they cost about £11,000 each, we decided to both have it done, as your sight is so important and Terry’s eyes were bad, too, although not as bad as mine.”
Operated on by Mr Vik Sharma at the London OC, Brenda went first on March 31, followed by Terry on April 21.
After their cataracts were removed and their HD lenses were fitted, the pair were astonished by the difference.
“Almost straight away, we could both see without needing glasses,” said Brenda.
“I remember looking down and noticing the sparkling sapphires in a ring my sister bought me. I’d never really noticed them before.
“I’ve always put make-up on using a magnifying mirror, but after the operation, I couldn’t believe all the hairs and things on my face. I’d never seen them before!
“Seeing properly has also made me far better at cleaning windows – a job I really dislike.
“We used to have all these different pairs of specs in the kitchen for different purposes.
“Now we have 20/20 vision without needing them and I just have two pairs of sunglasses.”
An avid reader, it is great for Brenda to be able to peruse a book without needing glasses.
But the greatest advantage has come when she creates ‘floral art’ – a hobby she loves, which involves making jewellery out of plant materials.
Accomplished enough to have competed internationally in the field, it is extremely intricate work and being able to see properly has renewed her passion for it.
She said: “It’s made it much easier for me to create new designs and it’s far more enjoyable, too.”
And for Terry, a keen sportsman, ditching his specs has meant a return to playing tennis and he also plays bowls with “far greater accuracy.”
He said: “It feels like a miracle. It feels like my vision has been restored to how it was when I was 15 years old.
“I would have loved to have had eyesight this perfect when I was still working!”
Their consultant, Mr Vik Sharma, Clinical Director of London OC – a consultant ophthalmologist, cataract and glaucoma specialist – is delighted to hear his patients’ quality of life has been so clearly improved.
He said: “Brenda and Terry both have better than 20/20 vision and don’t need spectacles for anything. I am delighted to see them so happy and to witness the transformation that it has made in their daily lives.”