What you need to know about preparation, surgery and recovery
Up until he was 57, Raymond O’Brien enjoyed great vision. An extremely active person, Raymond took the time to train and compete in Taekwondo, while also heading up a large company in Melbourne. In 2014, he and his wife Victoria made the decision to move back to New Zealand. Soon after this move they had a conversation with each other which went along the lines of ‘ if we ever held a gun and had genuine cause to use it we would not know the first thing about how it works’. Based upon this conversation, Raymond and Victoria decided to join the Auckland Pistol Club. The rest, as they say, is history. This fledgling hobby soon turned into a passion and the next three years saw the couple move from complete novices, who had never before held a pistol, to NZ and Australian champions competing in several New Zealand, Australasian and World championships. Raymond placed 6th in his category in the recent World championship in France in August 2017, and 2nd at the French national championship.
For Raymond however, his sporting success also came amidst growing visual challenges in the form of presbyopia and more seriously, cataracts – a clouding of the natural lens that occurs in everyone. In fact, when Raymond initially took up the sport in 2014 both his eyes had some degree of visual impairment from his cataracts but he was unaware of his condition. Despite this, he was still a very accurate shot and, even with cloudy vision, won several championships and titles. As he describes, “I worked out my target through indexing off the position of the gun”. However, despite the hours of practice and dedication, there was a growing sense of frustration as his cataract-clouded vision progressively began to impede his ability to perform to the best of his skills and ability.
At this point Raymond made the decision to have his vision corrected and, in what now seems to be a common thread in most things Raymond does, he set about researching the best methods in vision correction with enthusiasm, intensity and precision. This led him to a company based in Canada that was conducting pioneering research and development in the field of lens replacement technology. This company directed him back to New Zealand to Auckland Eye’s Dr Dean Corbett, who had been leading trials in a new lens that had the potential to restore ‘practical vision’ to the patient. Practical vision refers to post-operative vision that does not require the use of bifocals or, ideally, any sort of glasses. Up until now, while lens replacement took away the cataracts and corrected focusing errors such as myopia (short-sightedness), long-sightedness and astigmatism, patients almost always still needed glasses and/or bifocals for reading vision. As we age, bifocals can result in trips and falls amongst some people and may be poorly tolerated, resulting in different pairs of glasses for different visual tasks. However, this new lens Raymond found, which lead him to Dr Corbett, gives most patients a very good chance of providing vision adequate for most daily tasks.
After much research and consideration, Raymond met with Dr Corbett to discuss his visual requirements. Following this initial meeting, Raymond decided to go ahead with the surgery, but before he did this he made up a PowerPoint presentation, with embedded videos, detailing his precise vision requirements post-surgery, particularly in relation to his pistol shooting requirements. It was a thorough document, with precise angles and expected visual outcomes. This was the first time that Dr Corbett had received such a document from a patient; he did however take it well in his stride, knowing that all patients want successful outcomes and that he had the experience and skills to help Raymond safely achieve this.
On the morning of the surgery Raymond’s wife Victoria was in the operating theatre with him as he had the latest Symfony IOL’s inserted into his eyes, to replace his natural lens. In his own words, Raymond says his results have been ” outstanding”. “I was aghast at how well I could see. Everything was so clear and pinpoint precise”. Dean did advise Raymond that his presbyopia was at the limit of what could be tackled through this procedure, and so Raymond also feels lucky and grateful that he came out of the operation not requiring to wear glasses at all. He also talks about being able to see colours again. “We went to visit my wife’s aunt and I had to stop my wife when I noticed that she had a pink driveway! I had previously not noticed that the concrete was pink and thought it was just dark grey. I can also see blues and other colours more vividly.”
Since having had the operation, Raymond was a part of the New Zealand team that placed 3rd at the Austral-Asian International Practical Handgun championships in Indonesia last year against 21 other nations, and in his category placed 1st at the Australian national championship, 2nd at the French national championship, 6th at the World championship and 1st at the NZ championship – all this with synthetic intraocular lenses (IOL’s). Dr Corbett believes it would be highly unlikely that Raymond would have achieved these titles with any other intraocular lens design.
In 2017, Raymond and Victoria bought 280 acres of land in Makarau (45 minutes from Auckland CBD) and have converted the landscape into a dedicated sport shooting facility that is home for the newly formed Auckland Shooting Club (AucklandShootingClub.org.nz). Opened in July last year by the Deputy Prime Minister, the Auckland Shooting Club is a sporting club set up for education, firearm safety and responsible firearms ownership. It is growing quickly – currently there are 450 members – and they are aiming to have the largest and best equipped facility in the Southern Hemisphere.
It is always heartening to see our patients achieving their goals and enjoying life to its fullest potential. Poor vision can have such a huge impact on people’s lives, and at Auckland Eye we are always committed to using the best of our experience and technology to make this critical difference to our patients’ lives.