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How top eye surgeon helped 100-year-old Meltham man see clearly again

Antonio Aguirre has carried out more than 10,000 cataract operations

A world-renowned Spanish eye surgeon has given a 100-year-old Meltham man a new outlook on life after performing a cataract operation on him.

Antonio Aguirre, 66, carried out the operation on the right eye of Wilfrid Verdun Coldwell at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.

Wilfrid who was born in Millhouse, near Penistone, during the First World War said Antonio’s skill had improved his life immeasurably.

He said: “Thanks to Mr Aguirre I can now see the patterns and colours on my neighbours’ washing lines! I can’t explain to you the difference that it has made to my life.

“I can see things now that I couldn’t see before. For example, I can look at my clock and see the second hand working. It’s made a big difference to my life. He has done a good job on me!

“Before the operation I struggled to recognise even old friends and that’s changed for the better now. I spend a lot of time reading too and I can make out the words a lot easier now.”

Cataract removal operation

Wilfrid’s granddaughter, Ruth Price, said: “His right eye was the worst so that one was operated on first and when it has all settled down he will be having a further operation on his left one.

“We are very grateful for Antonio’s care of him. My grandad is thrilled with what he has done. He had been looking forward to having it done for a while.”

Antonio said: “Although Wilfrid is of advanced years the operation was not any more complicated than it would be for anyone else. He can certainly see a lot better now than he did before.”

And Wilfrid is not the oldest patient Antonio has operated upon. When he was working in Tennessee in 1998 he performed a life-changing operation on a blind and deaf African American man aged 110 whose parents had been slaves.

Antonio, who has now notched up over 10,000 operations in a career that began 42 years ago in 1975, said: “The man was completely deaf and completely blind. He was effectively living on a sofa all day long. He could barely distinguish day from night.

“After the operation he was able to live a much more active life and could walk round his house and had supper by himself. He could see the spoons and eat without help.”

Now coming towards the end of his career, Antonio who lived in Fixby for many years, says he will not be a consultant ophthalmic surgeon for Calderdale NHS Trust much longer.

Antonio Aguirre, aka 'Spanish Tony', enjoys a game of blindfold chess

The father of two grown up daughters said: “I have been here 13 years which is the longest I have spent in any one place and I decided to go part time a year ago. We have a house in Madrid where my wife Laura lives and I might still work on an ad hoc basis as a locum when I return there in the future.

His love of nature and biology is one of the reasons why he was drawn to a career in medicine originally.

He came to work in the Huddersfield and Calderdale area in 2004 after working at the highly regarded King Khaled Hospital in Riydah, Saudia Arabia, between November 2002 and February 2004.

He said: “I am going to do more voluntary work in the third world.” He has spent time in India working on the Slum Doctor project where he gained immense satisfaction from helping children, blinded by cataracts see again and, more recently, Ghana.

And when he does retire he will have more time to enjoy a special skill – playing blindfold chess.

A long-standing member of Huddersfield Chess Club, where he is affectionately known as ‘Spanish Tony’, he first started playing without a board and pieces when he was 14 and by his own admission could only make two or three moves. He tried again when he was 17 and this time succeeded.

He says he prefers it to ‘seeing’ chess saying he finds it more challenging and more mysterious. He organised a blindfold tournament when he was working in the States which he won so he was officially the Blindfold Chess Champion of Memphis, Tennessee, in 1992.

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