Pioneering surgeon saves Norfolk man’s sight - twice

A Norfolk man has had his sight saved by a pioneering surgeon - for the second time.

George Rushbrook, of Burnham Market, was only 13 when Sir Harold Ridley removed remove a rifle pellet from his eye following a shooting accident in 1961.

Now, 50 years later, the sight in his right eye has been restored thanks to a revolutionary cataract operation developed by Sir Harold, who persevered with the technique despite the heavy scepticism of his peers.

His invention of the intraocular lens (IOL) implant in the 1940s - where an artificial lens is inserted into the eye - has since saved the sight of an estimated 250 million people worldwide.

'When he originally suggested putting in a new lens, he went against the establishment,' Mr Rushbrook said. 'He should have won a Nobel Prize; he deserved it without a shadow off a doubt. The number of people he has helped goes up and up, it's astronomical.'


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Mr Rushbrook, a retired surgical instrument technician, had gone shooting with friends near his home in Rainham, Essex, when his accident happened.

As they stood chatting by the lake, an air rifle went off out of the blue and the pellet entered under the eye lid, hit the brow bone and ricocheted into the back of his eye.

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'None of us touched the air rifle,' he said. 'I don't remember what happened to me, but my friend said I did a complete summersault backwards. Blood was gushing down my face and I couldn't see. All I could do was laugh. It didn't hurt for an hour. I was always larking around and didn't realise how bad it was.'

Mr Rushbrook went to see his doctor and was rushed by ambulance to Moorfields Eye Hospital, in London, where he was seen by Sir Ridley.

'He gave me a sight chart and I could read it OK with my right eye, but my left eye was just blank,' he said. 'It was really painful by this time, but they wouldn't give me any painkillers until I told them what had happened.

'Of course I wouldn't say a word - I didn't want to grass on my friends. Mr Ridley could see I knew what had happened, but he didn't push it. I think with his experience as an air force surgeon, he must have respected my decision not say anything.'

Surgery to remove the badly damaged eye would have taken only 15 minutes, but Sir Harold went on to perform an eight-hour operation to partially restore the sight and save the eye.

Mr Rushbrook went on to have a normal life and was never held back by the damage he suffered to his eye.

But in April this year, he needed the surgeon's help again.

The 63-year-old was fast-tracked for IOL implant surgery on his right eye at the North Cambridgeshire Hospital, in Wisbech, after developing cataracts and was unaware of the coincidence until he arrived.

'The surgeon said 'we have a bit of a celebrity here',' he remembered.

With limited sight in his left side, Mr Rushbrook relied on his right eye for his quality of life and was delighted by the 'crystal clear' results.

'After my eye had healed the difference was just phenomenal. You can't explain how fantastic it is – the colours, the detail – everything. Just incredible!

'You don't realise how much colour you lose. So Sir Harold Ridley saved my sight for a second time. It's amazing. I couldn't thank him enough.'

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