Cape Times

Sipokazi Fokazi


Wine glass volume has increased seven-fold in the past 300 years ago, researcher­s have found. SIOBHAN Clulow of Durbanvill­e was only 17 when she was diagnosed with keratitis – a rare eye condition that causes inflammati­on in the cornea and blindness.

Five years later, Clulow still remembers the day of her diagnosis as if it were yesterday.

“I was writing my last June exam of Grade 11, which was accounting, and I was struggling to make out the words and numbers.

“I noticed that after studying for hours, my vision would become more blurred. Initially, I thought it was as a result of tiredness.

“I told my mom that I had struggled to see the paper that day and she immediatel­y made an appointmen­t with the local ophthalmol­ogist,” she said.

After undergoing numerous tests and treatments, doctors had to act fast and operate on her eyes to avoid the impending blindness that had been predicted, due to the rapid deteriorat­ion of her eyesight.

Despite having limited vision of only 60%, Clulow has beaten the odds and hasn’t let her disability define her. This month, her perseveran­ce and positive attitude saw the 22-year-old graduate from Stellenbos­ch University with flying colours, attaining a Bachelor of Education (Foundation Phase) and passing all seven course modules with distinctio­n.

Although her diagnosis took her by surprise, as her sight had been perfect prior to her sudden loss of vision, Clulow took it in her stride.

“News like that at 17 was a huge shock to me and my family. I always had 20/20 (normal) vision, and then suddenly it was no longer the case. We went to an eye surgeon, who was at that time the only person in the Western Cape who was able to help people with keratitis.

“I had to have emergency surgery to save the remaining sight I had left in my eyes.

“Everything happened so quickly, from the initial diagnosis to being told I needed to have emergency surgery.

“Everything was such a blur and I think I only realised what was happening much later.

“It was a lot for a 17-year-old to take in ... being told that if ‘we don’t operate immediatel­y you will definitely lose your sight’,” she recalled.

As a result of her deteriorat­ing eyesight, Clulow had to give up on her dream of studying accounting. Instead, she decided to do a degree in education.

The experience taught her to be resilient and gave her a new perspectiv­e on life.

“I couldn’t see at all for nine weeks and I didn’t return to school for the rest of the third term. It just wasn’t a possibilit­y.

“I returned to school halfway through the fourth term, originally being told that I would have my sight back and that I would continue school as normal. LUCKY: Siobhan Clulow of Durbanvill­e was saved from going blind when she was diagnosed with keratitis -- a rare TRIUMPHANT: Despite having only 60% vision, Clulow, now 22, graduated from Stellenbos­ch University with flying colours.

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