Manchester Royal Eye Hospital posted 13 May, 2024

Titanic trek for charity; Cumbrian man stops by the Manchester hospital that saved his vision as he walks the length of Great Britain.

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  • Titanic trek for charity; Cumbrian man stops by the Manchester hospital that saved his vision as he walks the length of Great Britain.

Titanic trek for charity; Cumbrian man stops by the Manchester hospital that saved his vision as he walks the length of Great Britain.

John Barrett, 62 and from South Cumbria, has been walking from Land’s End in Cornwall and is on his way to John O’Groats in the Scottish Highlands to raise money for charity.

Previously a patient at Manchester University Foundation Trust’s Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, John felt compelled to do something to raise awareness and help others after he received several treatments to preserve his vision.

Now retired, John said of his giant journey:

“I’ve been doing the walk to raise money for Sightsavers, I have very poor vision in my left eye because of glaucoma damage and without intervention my right eye would have gone the same way and I would have very little vision.

“Across the world there are so many people who don’t have access to the kind of excellent care I had and I want to help change that. The work of the staff at the eye hospital has changed my life and ensured I can still enjoy the things I love to the fullest. Without the multiple surgeries I’ve had, I wouldn’t have been able to do my bucket list walk across the country and I wouldn’t live such a full life with my wife, three sons and their families.

“I love long walks and Land’s End to John O’Groats has always been the big one I wanted to do. After my care at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, I realise we need to get on with things whilst we still can and it seemed the perfect way for me to raise awareness and funds for a vital charity.

“You do have a new perspective and value on life when something you take for granted like your vision is almost lost. I remember after I had a cataract removed, I looked outside and commented on what a stunning day it was to my wife. She told me it was grey and miserable, but to me it was so bright and clear – it made me so grateful for the medical support.”

Whilst at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, John was treated by Mr Leon Au, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon who said of John’s time at the hospital:

“John was very appreciative as a patient, always smiling and popular with our staff. Everyone was so pleased to hear that he was doing this walk for charity. I’m so happy his condition is under control and he can do this to raise awareness and help improve the prospects of others.

“Glaucoma is the second biggest cause of blindness in UK and estimated 50% of patients are underdiagnosed. John came to us with already advanced glaucoma and needed several glaucoma drainage surgeries in both eyes to stabilise things, I’m glad it’s all worked out so well for him following his treatment with us. It’s something a lot of people go through and if it’s treated early it can be much easier to manage.”

As John made a quick stop at the hospital, he was greeted by staff who wanted to applaud his determination to do something for others and thank him for the kind words he has shared about staff and his care.


Speaking at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, he said:

“The care I received at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital was exceptional. What stood out was that no matter which staff member I met, or what their job was, they were so thoughtful and positive. No matter how busy they were, everybody was so charming and pleasant, I always felt comfortable and there was always a positive atmosphere which I know is really difficult to achieve in a big organisation. The complexity of what they do and the results they achieve are amazing.”

John started his adventure for charity on Monday 1st April, something his wife didn’t think was wise:

“My wife, Anne, thought it’s a poor idea to start the walk on April Fool’s Day, but it’s been great and I’ve seen so much since I started, I love the array of people you meet and the things you see you otherwise miss in a car.

“The best bit so far is probably standing on top of Exmoor completely alone surrounded by some of the UK’s best scenery, it felt a real privilege. The worst bit was probably the horrific weather in the first two weeks and some of the deepest mud I’ve ever seen in Cornwall.

“I’ve also been so touched by the acts of human kindness I’ve seen and the people I’ve met. There was one occasion where I was sat on a bench resting having run out of water, a lady walking her dog stopped to talk to me and insisted on taking my empty bottles home to fill up with water. She mustn’t have lived too close as she was gone a short while, it was a lovely moment when she came back with her arms full of full bottles.

“I’m aiming to finish around the 23rd June which will be nearly three months of walking and tenting. I’m hoping Anne will be there to see me finish, but we have a grandchild due so it could be a tough choice for her. If she’s not there I’ll probably cap it off with a pint instead.”