The road to better vision…

Karen DarkeAs a full-time athlete within the British Para-Cycling Team, Karen Darke, MBE FRSGS, has devoted her life to training, competing and pushing herself to her limits. Embarking on adventures from covering the 372-mile ice cap in Greenland whilst sitting on skis and using her poles traverse the ground, to climbing Mont Blanc, Matterhorn and El Capitan, she doesn’t let anything stop her.

In 2012, she became a silver-medallist in the London Paralympics, and in 2016 she became a gold-medallist hand-cycling Paralympic Champion at the Rio 2016 Games.

Until recently, she has benefitted from good vision which is crucial to her performance whilst competing and training, in particular being able to react to demands of the race circuits. After noticing significant deterioration, struggling with ill-fitting contact lenses for many years and glasses being out of the question, she has chosen to undergo laser eye surgery at London Vision Clinic to address her vision.

‘I have always had a rose-tinted view of the world, but gradually things are turning into a colourful blur. I have managed to progress to a ‘minus three’ short-sighted fog without wearing glasses (except for driving). Distant faces are beyond expressionless, more like featureless. Signposts are helpless, and flight information boards no longer call on squinting but on physically pulling my eyes into slits to decipher them. I have read books on ‘better eyesight without glasses’ and tried the ‘Bates’ method for weeks in a row, but certainly never long enough to see a difference.

Denial is a wonderful thing to lessen the pain of reality. I like the world I live in, one of wrinkle-free faces, eternal youth and soft-focus landscapes. However, I am finally accepting that not being able to read distant signs is more than inconvenient (on Sunday I went to the wrong gate as I read the airport information board wrong and nearly missed my flight!), and reason that riding my bike, and certainly racing at speed, is probably starting to become hazardous. I have found no magic curative powers and glasses and contact lenses seem to both cause me problems.

This process led me to contact the London Vision Clinic to enquire about whether I might be a suitable candidate for laser surgery. I confess to having felt very nervous about the process, and whilst having had the idea about 3 years ago, had done nothing about it due to FEAR. But a good acronym for ‘Fear’ is ‘False Expectations Appearing Real’ and I decided that if I found out more information rather than going by ‘rumour’ then I could make an informed decision. That led me to a series of preliminary tests at the clinic and acquiring a lot of information. The process has removed my concerns (whether astigmatism is suitable, how to manage a small amount of weakness in my reading vision in addition to distance, dry eyes etc. etc.!).

Karen Darke

I will soon be going ahead with the surgery and am super excited about the prospect of entering a new world where I can see better! I will not nearly miss flights! I will not nearly run into goats! I will be able to see my competitors on the road (hopefully behind me, haha!).

Thank you London Vision Clinic for supporting me through this process!’