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So there I am, progressing nicely in Karate, competing in Kata (forms) and Kumite (fighting), making good progress, not winning but with each and every competition getting further and further, quarter-finals, semi-finals, winning the odd few, etc.
Then one day my world felt like it had been shattered. In February 2004 when I was eight years old, I suffered an horrific accident that had threatened the sight of my eye. I went into the kitchen to get a drink and accidentally knocked a glass. Not sure exactly what happened but it shattered and glass sprayed up into my face and a piece pierced my eye.
I was initially taken straight to Whipps Cross hospital before being admitted to Gt. Ormands Street Hospital for immediate surgery to remove the glass. However, the trauma of the injury wasn't over as I started to lose the attachment of the retina of my eye. This was about as serious as it gets, lose the retina and you lose your sight! Now under the care of London's Moorfields Eye Hospital I had another operation soon afterwards but I was back again shortly afterwards as the operation wasn't completely successful. I had an issue where I would start seeing flashing lights in my eye, this was my tell-tale sign that the retina was starting to become detached once more. A further operation to almost 'spot weld' by freeze the retina in place did go better this time. However, due to the amount of surgery I had to undergo, I developed a cataract, a misting up of the lens.
So there I was, back again for yet another operation to remove the cataract. This involved removing the focal lens from my eye. As a consequence I was left with approximately 5% vision in my eye. I would have to wait almost a year before I could have my final operation to have a replacement focal lens fitted where I now have approximately 75% of my vision back.
This was an extremely difficult time for me, not only did this affect my ability to train and compete in Karate, it also affected my confidence at school too as I was unable to participate in most PE lessons and had to give up my cross country activities. The one thing that kept my spirits up during this period was my Karate, the one constant that I maintained. Slowly my confidence began to build up again as my abilities continued to improve and my level of competitiveness didn’t desert me and I continued to improve. Despite my injury I was still beating my contemporaries in competition.
I was actually told by the surgeons that I had to quit Karate. Well that didn't happen. :-)
Although I maintained my training throughout this ordeal, I did suffer sporadic periods of convalescence where I was unable to train or compete because of hospitalisation and rest following my operations even though I insisted on training and competing in Kata as much as possible throughout. For the rest of 2004 and throughout 2005, I competed almost entirely with impaired vision. Although I was told I must avoid contact sports, I still maintained my Karate training throughout. I had avoided the direct contact side of the sport where possible but I had been known to wear a protective head guard on occasion to participate in Kumite (fighting) training.
2006 was my first full competitive year again being to compete uninterrupted by operations.
I have now learned to live with my impediment and have gone from strength to strength. Most of my friends probably don't realise I have an eye impediment or indeed the numerous operations I underwent to save the sight in my eye.
I live Karate, I train hard and compete on an equal footing with my peers.
By the way, I am now 3 times European Junior Karate silver medallist, 6 times British and 10 times English National Champion.
Moorfields really helped me, now help me to return the favour.
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