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Veteran’s fears over eye surgery

War veteran Dennis Bell, 83, and his wife Vivian. PHOTO/EMILY NORMAN

By Emily Norman
[email protected]
A blind war veteran has increasing concerns for his wife as she waits for sight-saving surgery.
Dennis Bell, 83 of Masterton, fought in the Korean and Vietnam Wars for New Zealand.
He lost his sight in 2012, and his wife Vivian has since developed cataracts, impairing her vision.
He is worried she may lose her sight if surgery doesn’t happen soon.
“My wife saw a surgeon back in June because she has cataracts in her right eye,” Mr Bell said.
“The doctor told her, we’ll have your eyes done before Christmas – so we’ve waited and waited.
“Since then, her eyesight has deteriorated… It’s definitely getting worse.”
Mr Bell said he had just recently been told her surgery would not be until at least January, “which means she will have waited from June to January, seven months”.
He said he knew, more than anyone, how vital eliminating the waiting game was when it came to eye surgery.
He had surgery to remove cataracts in his left eye in September 2011.
“I was told I would go back for the other eye about three months later, so I waited.
“Three months went by, then four months went by, suddenly my vision started to get worse and worse, my eyes were weak.
“Seven months later to the day, April 18, 2012, I fell over in my garden and boom, hit my head, broke a tooth, and both my retinas detached. I was blind.”
Mr Bell said this fall could have been avoided if he had the other eye operated on earlier so he could see properly.
“This is the reason why I am so concerned for my wife — the breadwinner.
“I am 83 years of age and retired, I’m a war pensioner.
“If she goes blind, we are in a horrible state of affairs.”
The couple had been considering getting her cataracts removed through the private system, which Mr Bell said would cost $4000 for one eye.
“I’m not a rich man. Vivian keeps us afloat and if I lose her, we’ll be completely lacking.”
Tom Gibson, Wairarapa District Health Board’s executive leader of medical services, said all patients on wait lists at the hospital had been booked for eye surgery within four months.
“Waiting for any medical procedure can be difficult and Wairarapa DHB works hard to achieve the shortest possible wait times for our patients,” Dr Gibson said.
“Cataract operations can be life changing for patients, increasing independence and quality of life immeasurably.”
He said the Wairarapa DHB had greatly improved the service this year and was considering ways to develop and increase the capacity of the service
A spokesperson from the DHB said the growing demand for eye surgery and services was “significant”, and was in-line with the aging population.
In 2011, 29 patients received eye injections — a treatment for macular degeneration, an aging condition of the eye.
This year, 294 patients had received the same treatment, which reflected increasing demands in eye procedures.

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