A children’s author has won compensation of £250,000 after being left with blurred vision following laser eye surgery seven years ago.
Jan Fearnley, 47, is best known for her children’s book Mr Wolf’s Pancakes, which was shortlisted for a Blue Peter Award.
She was left permanently scarred after going to a private eye clinic for laser eye surgery in April 2005.
The ophthalmologist who carried out the procedure, Dr Haralabos Eleftheriadis, was found guilty of professional misconduct in 2007, but Mrs Fearnley spent another five years battling for compensation.
However, she said she would happily give back the money ‘in an instant’ if she was able to turn back the clock on years of problems that ‘nearly destroyed’ her.
Mrs Fearnley said: “The scarring on my eye is something I am aware of every waking hour of every day. Every conscious moment, I am staring through a scar. I wish I could have just one day when I don’t have to worry about my eyes.”
She continued: “I dread the winter months with the reduced daylight hours. Whenever my eye is tired or particularly blurry, I wonder, ‘Is this it? Am I going blind?’”
During the procedure, permanent changes are made to the cornea, which covers the front of the eye.
A suction ring is used on the eye before a cutting instrument makes a flap in the cornea. A laser is then used to remove excess tissue.
At the General Medical Council hearing in 2007, Mrs Fearnley said that during the operation, Dr Eleftheriadis ‘fumbled’ with the laser equipment before taking it away from her eye.
After apologising, he said he was unable to carry on with the surgery.
According to Mrs Fearnley, when she asked Dr Eleftheriadis about problems with her vision, he denied anything was wrong.
She added: “He knew full well I had irreversible scarring and that was the reason my vision was poor, but he chose to lie.”
Despite his actions having been found to be ‘inappropriate, unprofessional and not in Mrs Fearnley’s best interests’, Dr Eleftheriadis’s registration was not suspended by the GMC after he agreed to undergo further training and supervision.
It was revealed he had wrongly attempted to achieve suction on Mrs Fearnley’s left eye on more than one occasion, causing a tear to her cornea.
She has since undergone two operations in an effort to correct the damage, but she still suffers from blurred vision and sees double when trying to read.
Her injury lawyers reached a settlement worth £250,000 with Dr Eleftheriadis’s insurers.
Mrs Fearnley said: “I would return it in an instant were I able to return to the day before my surgery was botched. Creating picture books for children is my life.
“When my eye was ruined, I was determined not to stop working, no matter how difficult and uncomfortable the injury made things.”
She added that she had been forced to improvise her work by increasing the size and experimenting with collages.
Mrs Fearnley said: “Working this way also helped me to restore my shattered confidence, which was crucial because following the botched operation, every time I questioned my impaired vision, the surgeon told me that I was ‘mistaken’ and that I was ‘imagining it’.
“To have someone in a position of trust and power abuse that position in that way is despicable. It made me question the very things I was seeing, which is catastrophic for an illustrator. It nearly destroyed me.”