“I DON’T want to let them win.” Those are the words of a Newport archer who lost an eye in a vicious New Year’s Day attack – but who has vowed not to let his injury keep him shut away.
Christopher Collins also made a heartfelt “thank you” to the people to helped him get his new prosthetic eye, and is helping his family organise a charity night for the hospital which fitted it.
In the early hours of January 1 this year, 55-year-old Mr Collins was walking home after a rare night out in Baneswell with friends and family, when he bumped into a group of men and was suddenly punched and pushed to the ground.
The attack by two of the men resulted in an injury so serious that he lost his right eye.
One of his attackers, Jay Lloyd, then 18, of Cedar Drive, Rogerstone, admitted inflicting grievous bodily harm without intent against Mr Collins by punching him and was sentenced to three years in jail.
The other, a 15-year-old who cannot be named, admitted common assault in pushing Mr Collins over and was handed a six-month referral order – sentences Mr Collins told the Argus were “a kick in the guts”.
But nine months on, and fitted with a realistic-looking prosthetic right eye, the former Welsh team archer paid tribute to the hospital staff at the Royal Gwent Hospital’s accident and emergency department, eye ward, the maxillofacial department and the prosthetics unit at Rookwood Hospital near Llandaff for helping him get his confidence back.
“The care I received at the Royal Gwent was absolutely brilliant, I can’t fault it at all,” said Mr Collins, who lives with wife Jayne, 45, who also shot for Wales in archery and helped her husband found the City of Newport archery club, which he intends to rejoin in October after training to shoot the other way around.
“They couldn’t fix (the eye) but they’ve put me in a position where I’m confident enough to go out and get on with life, which makes a huge difference.
“Big crowds I am still apprehensive of – I don’t know who will be in town. I don’t know who might be walking up the road beside me.”
In March Mr Collins had a mould taken of his eye and was fitted with a temporary prosthetic shell which connected to an implant inside his eye, attached to the inner muscles to give the new eye some movement.
In June at Rookwood Hospital he was fitted with the finished acrylic version – during which he and wife Jayne looked through dozens of artificial eyes with the orbital prosthetist, each with different pupil colours.
Now the prosthetic eye is identical in colour to his left.
“You used to see old fellas with glass eyes and it’s not been like that for a long time,” said Mr Collins, who also thanked his wife and family for their support.
“It’s a cup shape and fits behind your upper and lower eyelid, between there and the implant. It looks brilliant, better than I ever thought it would.”
Mr Collins had an eye test and was cleared to drive, with glasses, and has returned to his job as a precision engineer, but says everything is much more tiring – and his depth perception has been affected.
“You know those photographs where it looks like something far away is on top of someone’s head? That’s what my vision is like,” he explained.
“It’s been a hard year, without a shadow of a doubt.
“I still have bad days. But I get less of them now. Coping with work and driving is tough, but it’s no good shrinking into the corner and not doing anything, I’ve got to get on with it. It’s very easy to say, ‘I can’t do that’.
“Partly it’s that I don’t want to let them win.
“But it never goes away.”
l The Collins family, completed by daughters Tia and Bethan, are organising a Rookwood charity night at Baneswell Social Club on November 8 from 7.30pm with live music and raffle prizes. Tickets are £5 from the club or by emailing email@example.com.