The life of self-professed Melbourne ‘cyclops’, Chloe Watson, changed forever this morning, when she was fitted with a prosthetic eye. Taking a light-hearted approach to a confronting procedure, Watson often joked about living the ‘cyclops’ life.
For the past seven weeks, the 23-year-old Coburg woman has been rocking an eye patch after having her right eye removed.
“I’ve never experienced what it’s like to have two eyes that look the same. I am so incredibly happy that this saga is over. This is one of the best feelings,” Watson said moments after seeing her new prosthetic in the mirror for the first time.
Channeling her inner pirate, wearing an eye patch to a recent punk gig, caught the attention of former Triple J host and guitarist of punk band Frenzal Rhomb, Lindsay ‘The Doctor’ McDougall, who is also donning an eye patch after his own recent emergency procedure for a detached retina.
Watson was in the audience at a Frenzal Rhomb gig in Mulgrave last Saturday night, where guitarist of support act Clowns donned an eye patch in solidarity for McDougall, who made himself a running gag throughout the show.
When McDougall spotted Watson in the crowd mid set, he yelled into the mic: “Look, guys, it’s totally a thing!” to which Watson shouted back saying it wasn’t ‘a thing’ and she had an eye removed. McDougall fist bumped her for being a legend, and they sought each other out for a photo after the show.
“Through his set he kept telling the crowd he was complaining about his eye patch, when there’s a girl here with an eye removed. People were clapping,” Watson laughed as she recalled the event.
“I went and found Lindsay after the show and he was excited to take a pic with me and ask about my eye,” she said.
Watson made the bold decision to have her right eye removed in November last year, after living with chronic pain for the past eight years as a result of a rare congenital abnormality from birth.
The condition, Persistent Hyperplastic Primary Vitreous Disorder (PHPV) impaired sight to her eye, and over time, she developed glaucoma and cataracts, in addition to being naturally cross-eyed.
By her first birthday, Watson already had five eye surgeries.
While she was born with sight to both eyes, she was blind in her right eye from as long as she could remember.
Watson had eight surgeries, before her latest November procedure, but nothing could help restore her sight, or keep her pain-free. The glaucoma made it really uncomfortable, causing spikes of pressure in her eye.
“After all the surgery, my brain couldn’t recognise the sight anymore because of all the complications and scar tissue,” she said.
Over the years, her eye began to shrink noticeably smaller than her left ‘seeing’ eye. Late last year, a calcium band appeared, creating a sand-like feeling in Watson’s eye, which was the last straw.
“Eight years ago was the last time I was pain-free. I’d gotten to a point where it was so normal for me to be in pain, and the glaucoma was getting worse.”
On November 18 her eye was removed. She was fitted for an acrylic implant to be inserted into the socket and attached to her eye muscles so she could move it in the same way she would a natural eye – a three-and-a-half-hour procedure Watson said was the ‘one of the most traumatic experiences’ of her life.
Under the eye patch, she said was a pinky-purpley muscle, but her eyelid didn’t open the full way because there was a big empty space.
“I looked a little bit like I’m out of a sci-fi movie,” Watson said.
The ocularist made a mould of her left eye and attached it to the implant, similarly to sliding on a giant contact lense. He then painted an iris on by hand, matching her left eye with great precision.
Yesterday the fitting was complete, and Watson’s prosthetic eye now matched her ‘seeing eye’ by look and size. No pain, no patch, no small eyeball.
“It wasn’t an easy decision (to remove the eye). I freaked out a bit. I was a basket case. But the decision I needed to make was clear to me. I came to a point where I just wanted it done and to start having a quality of life.
“I was prepared I’d mourn the loss of a body part, but I’ve been fine because I gained the ability to live life pain free. I just focus on how excited I’ll be about having two eyes that look the same,” she said, ahead of Thursday’s fitting.
“I’m looking forward to not having to worry about putting four lots of drops in my eye, four times a day, and people looking at me like ‘what’s going on with your eye?’”
Her sight limitations have not hindered her from playing roller derby, a full contact sport on roller skates that relies heavily on balance and spacial awareness – a huge disadvantage for a woman with 20 per cent less vision than most others on the track.
“Derby has forced me to the realisation that I can’t do things like everyone else. I might look a bit silly and it takes me a bit longer. But I’m getting better at being nicer to myself, being positive and accepting my limitations.