A FATHER from near York is gearing up to raise funds for a charity that supports the hospitals which saved his son’s sight.

Sixteen-month-old Theo Bennett, from Wilberfoss, is a picture of happiness after having his vision restored in an operation to remove cataracts from his eyes, a rare childhood condition affecting only three in every 10,000 youngsters.

Now his father Joe says he wants to help repay the Leeds hospitals involved in his son’s specialist treatment – Leeds General Infirmary, St James’s and Leeds Children’s Hospital – by cycling the long route of the UCI World Cycling Championships sportive in September, raising funds for the hospital’s charity, Leeds Cares.

“It is just wonderful to see Theo beaming and smiling again,” Joe said. “From watching him struggle to where he is now we have seen such a change in him.”

Theo was just a few months old when Joe, a 36-year-old scientist, and wife Lois realised he was having difficulty seeing the world around him.

The couple noticed a clouding in the lenses of both his eyes and that Theo was struggling to focus and would often tip his head down to be able to see.

His worried parents, who have two other sons – Noah, eight, and Toby, seven, took him to York Hospital and he was diagnosed with childhood cataracts, a clouding of the centre of his lenses which were impairing his sight.

As he was an infant, he was referred to the Children’s Eye Clinic at St James’s Hospital in Leeds and within two weeks was having surgery to remove the cataracts and replace his lenses with artificial ones.

Joe said: “As soon as Theo opened his eyes after the operation you could see him looking around like he’d never done before. You could tell straight away that he was seeing more.

“It was wonderful – just like when you see the reaction of people who are able to hear for the first time. And when Theo got his first pair of glasses his little face lit up when he could see clearly for the first time. That was very special.”

Theo has taken to it very well and the operation has improved his sight when, without treatment his vision would have got worse.

“We’ve still a way to go with Theo’s vision, but after another surgery in June he’s doing really well - and it’s all thanks to the amazing team in Leeds,” Joe said.

Consultant eye surgeon, Vernon Long, who has been treating Theo, said the paediatric ophthalmic teams at St James’s Hospital include multi-disciplines like orthoptics and optometry that provide continuity of care for patients like Theo over months and years.

“I am very happy that Theo’s vision has improved and we are all delighted to be involved in his care,” Mr Long said. “Here at St James’s we have a very good clinical back up for these type of cases which are quite rare.”

Joe, already a keen cyclist, was quick to sign up for a place in the UCI cycle event to support Leeds Cares. He added: “When I found out I could raise money through cycling for a charity that supports the amazing work of the Leeds hospitals I thought ‘sign me up!”

His JustGiving page is: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/joseph-bennett6