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Centenarian Ethel Howard Has Sight Restored at Boston House

Newsdate: 4 March 2016Ethel Howard

Ethel Howard, a 106-year-old lady, recently underwent two procedures to have her cataracts removed by WWL doctors to fully restore her sight. It was a truly remarkable tale. On Tuesday 23 February, she returned to our Eye Unit at Boston House for her postoperative check and to share her incredible story.

She visited the Eye Unit, accompanied by her bright and bubbly niece, Tina Hunt, to see Dr Manoj Mathai who had been overseeing her care. Alongside two of our caring nursing staff, Emma Lynch and Stephanie Eckersley, both were happy to share the course of events that brought Ethel into our care.

Ethel had lived a very full life, a fact Tina attributes to her determination to always cook her own food from fresh ingredients and living healthily. “I don’t eat any junk food,” states Ethel with pride. “She does like a brandy now and then,” giggles Tina. “Well it’s cheaper than whisky these days,” Ethel jokingly replies, bringing laughter to the room.

Before retirement, Ethel had worked a variety of jobs. These included displaying her creative side, as a costume designer for the Tower Ballet in Blackpool, and a more serious side, when she had been a Housemother for teenage boys at a remand centre in Poulton-le-Fylde. There has been adventure in her life as well. When she was 26, she went on a world cruise. A highlight she fondly recalls was having her picture taken beneath the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

However, a couple of years ago, both Tina and Ethel noticed something was wrong. “You see, she loves reading and doing crosswords,” begins Tina, “and she also enjoys watching the telly. But suddenly she couldn’t do them anymore and found it difficult to see things.”

Eventually the problem got so bad that she had to go and see a specialist. This is where Mr Mathai and his team came in.

Ethel approached us in July 2015 complaining of foggy vision in both eyes. She was diagnosed to have cataracts and was listed for surgery. Her first cataract was removed in October 2015 and the second one in January 2016, with IOL (Intraocular Lens) implants placed in both eyes. Both procedures produced outstanding results and she has now been discharged from our care. 

Mr Mathai is an experienced Ophthalmology Consultant, but treating Ethel has left an indelible impression on him.

“I am not certain how many 106-year-olds we have in our borough. This lady has left a mark on me with her longevity and spirit. She is just a few years short of the oldest person in UK, who is 113. I feel she is a story that must be told, she deserves a standing ovation for her effort,” he says.

Her incredible effort and bravery when faced with a daunting procedure is something that Tina pays tribute to as well.

“She wasn’t nervous at all about the operation and they were lovely with her at the hospital,” she says.

When asked how it feels to have her sight restored, Ethel simply responds by saying, “It’s great.” Her niece, Tina, is overjoyed with how things have developed.

“It’s a blessing really, she had been so frustrated with her not being able to do her crosswords or watch the telly, but now that frustration has gone,” she enthuses.

But, fittingly, the final word in this story had to go to Ethel, who was very eager to pay tribute to caring, considerate staff that we pride ourselves on at WWL.

“I would like to thank the staff,” Ethel states, “Everyone’s been really good and helpful.”