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Leah - 1992

Leah Graeve

Diagnosed with a serious eye condition in 1990, 14 year-old Leah Graeve faced the possibility of losing the sight in her left eye. Two years later, as her eyesight began to deteriorate; she was referred to the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital for treatment under legendary ophthalmologist Professor Gerard Crock.

“I was diagnosed with Fuchs Heterechromic Uveitis (FHU). The condition started with the initial symptoms coming on extremely suddenly, with a flash of tunnel vision that lasted only about 20 seconds. Following that episode, my vision was still generally ok, but with an opaque film coming across the eye when I moved my eyes from side to side.

“I was under the care of an ophthalmologist for a couple of years whilst the condition was ‘behaving’. Once I started experiencing flare ups and was not responding to treatment I was referred to Professor Gerard Crock at the Eye and Ear for further investigation,” she says.

Now 16, Leah was increasingly concerned at the prospect of losing the sight in her eye.

“Since I had been diagnosed at 14, I was always worried about the possibility of losing my vision. Professor Crock explained the condition to me and also what I could expect over time. He explained that there were options for surgery, which had very good success rates.

“Once I knew that I would have options when my vision became increasingly poor, I felt more at ease.

Leah’s condition was monitored closely at the Eye and Ear for almost 13 years until it was determined that surgery would be the best long-term solution. Leah underwent a vitrectomy in 2005 at age 29, during which the vitreous gel is removed from the middle of the eye, making it easier to access the retina and macula for repair or treatment.

“I finally underwent a vitrectomy more than 10 years after my initial consultation with Professor Crock. I can honestly say that the short time I was under the care of Professor Crock at the Eye and Ear absolutely changed my outlook on the condition and allowed me to stop focusing on the possibility of losing my vision entirely,” she says.

In the years leading up to her surgery, FHU had begun to severely impact on Leah’s quality of life and her ability to live independently.

“Before surgery, I was unable to read a book, found it very exhausting working all day and had stopped driving for a while. Within a couple of weeks of surgery, I was back to reading, driving and working full time. I guess you could say I made a full recovery!”

Leah went on to study journalism/communications at Monash University and later a Bachelor of Law at Monash University and was admitted to practice in the Supreme Court in August 2009.

Now, 23 years after she was first diagnosed, Leah says, “When I see vision impaired people I am reminded of how lucky I am to have a condition that was able to be treated. I am forever grateful to all the people who have put their time and intellect into the research and treatment of eye conditions.”

Fuchs’ heterochromic uveitis
Fuchs’ heterochromic uveitis (FHU), sometimes known as Fuchs’ heterochromic iridocyclitis, is a chronic, relatively mild form of uveitis.

FHU usually affects only one eye but in about 15 per cent of patients both eyes are impacted. A change in the colour of one eye compared to the other is one possible symptom and the disease is commonly associated with the development of a cataract and/or glaucoma. Similar to other uveitic conditions, researchers are still looking into the causes and treatment of FHU and research is ongoing.