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A blind british man has had his sight restored after pioneering surgery that involved implanting one of his teeth into his eye.
Ian Tibbetts, 43, who first damaged his eye in an industrial accident when scrap metal ripped his cornea in six places, had his sight restored by the radical operation, chronicled in the new BBC documentary The Day I Got My Sight Back.
The surgery allowed Mr Tibbetts to see his four-year-old twin sons, Callum and Ryan, for the first time, a moment he describes as “ecstasy”.
The procedure, called osteo-odonto-keratoprothesis, or OOKP, was conducted by ophthalmic surgeon Christopher Liu at the Sussex Eye Hospital in Brighton, Sussex. Mr Tibbetts and his wife Alex agreed to the revolutionary surgery after all other options had failed, leaving Mr Tibbetts depressed and out of work.
The complex surgery is a two-part procedure. First, the tooth and part of the jaw are removed, and a lens is inserted into the tooth using a drill. The tooth and lens are then implanted under the eye socket. After a few months, once the tooth has grown tissues and developed a blood supply, comes the second step: part of the cornea is sliced open and removed and the tooth is stitched into the eye socket. Since the tooth is the patient’s own tissue, the body does not reject it.
"The tooth is like a picture frame which holds this tiny plastic lens" documentary maker Sally George told the BBC.
After the bandages came off, Mr Tibbetts’ sight gradually returned, and he saw his sons’ faces for the first time.
"I just cried, gave them a big hug and a kiss. They were totally different than what I’d pictured in my mind" he said.
"They were just shapes. I couldn’t make them out. I had to actually learn to tell them apart by their voices. I could tell whichever one it was by the way they spoke and sometimes by how quickly they moved. I had a picture in my head of what they looked like but they were better. I’m a bit biased there."
Now, Mr Tibbetts’ vision is now about 40 per cent, and although at first strangers stared at his new eye - which is pink, with a black pupil, he no longer is bothered by the attention.
He had been blind for twelve years.