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Rare eye surgery lets dad see son for first time

/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

Stephen Armitage of Yorkshire, England, was born blind in his right eye, and the bad vision in his left eye went hazy after an infection caused by a contact lens three years ago.

But three months ago, the 36-year-old father of two underwent a rare seven-hour surgery that allowed him to see his youngest son, 20-month-old Harry, for the first time, reports the United Kingdom's Daily Mail.

"I hadn't seen Harry's facial reactions before or the way he communicates, I could only see his silhouette. Suddenly I was able to see his face," Armitage told the Daily Mail.

The procedure involved the delicate process of rebuilding Armitage's eye. A team of surgeons at St. James University Hospital in Leeds fixed a detached retina and a dislocated lens, then grafted on a cornea from a donor.

Consultant eye surgeon James Ball called the surgery “unique.” He explained that a plastic cornea was attached during the operation to allow the surgeons to fix the retina at the back of the eye. “It is very unusual for us to use an artificial cornea to get a view of the back of the eye. I have only done it once before.”

Ball also noted that before the operation, Armitage "had extremely poor vision and was heading for no perception of light."

Prior to the surgery, Armitage was forced to rely on friends and family to get around and feared crowded spaces.

"When I was out with the lads someone had to take me to the toilet. Now I can find them myself," Armitage said.

Reliving the moment after the surgery when the bandages were peeled away, Armitage said, “It was like a thick cloud had been lifted and my first sight of the kids was wonderful — they were like angels."

The Daily Mail and The Sun contributed to this report.