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He'll Soon Be Able to Read Again

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The Straits Times, Mind Your Body, 31 October 2007, By ELAINE YOUNG

Mr Siew Teck Kang, 76, had three conditions that impaired his vision. He tells ElaineYoung about how surgery has helped, and that he shouldn't have waited so long

I am a primary school teacher who retired in 1992, when I was 60.

But I've had problems with my sight ever since I was a young man growing up in Malaysia.

I was a good student and became a Chinese teacher. In 1956, I moved to Singapore to further my studies in university.

But because of my poor sight, I would get tired reading and often skipped lines of text as they looked distorted. I began failing in my studies and had to give that up. So I started teaching at a primary school in Holland Village instead.

I felt no pain, and my vision deteriorated so gradually over the years that I did not seek treatment.

It wasn't until about 10 years ago that I first saw a doctor about the problem. He couldn't find anything wrong, so I went to an optician to have my sight corrected.

I had two pairs of glasses made, one for reading and the other for daily wear. But neither could help me see properly.

At first, I couldn't focus on things up close and then, gradually, I couldn't see things afar as well . What I could see appeared distorted and slanted.

My wife, Dia Guat Hee, 73, and I have three children. We live with my eldest son, his wife and their two children in Bukit Timah.

My grandchildren are worried I may fall and try to dissuade me from going out. But I do grocery shopping for the family, so I have to go out.

When I visit the supermarket, I cannot see the labels so I take a magnifying glass with me. If I forget, I have to go back for it because there is no point going shopping otherwise.

I have fallen before but, fortunately, was not hurt. At home, I cannot judge where things are so I hold on to objects to steady myself.

I talked about my eyesight a lot with my friends and former students.

One of my former pupils told me he had attended a forum where Dr Lee Jong Jian from Raffles Hospital talked about eye problems.

I saw Dr Lee on Aug 6. He told me I had cataract, glaucoma and epiretinal membrane in both eyes. My glaucoma wasn't that bad, he said, but the other two conditions were serious.

I had never heard of epiretinal membrane and asked what it was. Apparently, it is a growth over the retina of the eye. He said the cause is often unknown but it needed to be "peeled" away.

A week later, I had laser surgery for the glaucoma. A week after that, I had surgery to correct the other two problems in my left eye.

Now, I feel the improvement in my vision. The distortion and slanting images are gone. My right eye will be operated on in a couple of months for the same conditions.

I wish I had not ignored my problem for so long. For 20 years, I haven't been able to read as much as I would have liked to.

I read a few lines and then they appear to jump. It is so irritating. All I want to do is to be able to read.

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Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission