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The consultant at Ashtead Hospital examined his eye thoroughly. It was so severely damaged that there no chance of restoring sight. The surface of his eye was covered with deposits of calcium, leaving a rough surface. This meant that every time he blinked, the inside of his eyelid was being scratched, and it was very sore. It became apparent that a contact lens was not just a cosmetic desirability, but medically necessary.

Vova was referred onwards to Charing Cross Hospital so that his eye could be fitted for a lens. We took a picnic up to the gardens of the hospital and watched the London buses go by! The consultant was overwhelmingly generous with his time and resources. He examined the eye, and said that he felt that it would probably continue to shrink over time, and would be suitable for a shell in about ten years. Until then he would need contact lenses. He took photos of the good eye, taught Vova how to put in, remove and care for a lens, and arranged for him to have glasses to protect the good eye, keep dust out of the eye with the lens, and distract attention from the difference in the eyes. He introduced him to a lady who had suffered a similar injury to Vova, and had been wearing lenses for a number of years. We were able to talk to her and ask her questions, and see her eye with and without the lens, and her spare lens floating in a bottle! He undertook to provide two hand painted bandage lenses which would last Vova for up to three years.

Vova took a machine-produced blue contact lens away from the hospital with him, and a mirror. He practised putting it in and taking it out, and then after three days, decided to wear it all the time. It was a vivid blue, not a perfect match to his normal eye, but he was delighted. The glasses arrived, and did indeed draw attention away from the eye itself. We also bought him a couple of pairs of safety goggles for when he is chopping wood – his one good eye is very precious!

The hand-painted lenses arrived after Vova had returned to Belarus. I took them to Gatwick to hand to a group leader travelling back to Minsk. I also gave her a photo of Inna, the teenager who helped last year – she and her mother met the flight and collected the lenses. They then posted them on to Vova, telephoning them to check that they had arrived safely. Vova’s sister has since emailed, and his mother has written to let us know that they have received the lenses. I have asked if it might be possible to have a photo of Vova wearing his new lens.

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