James Hargrave – It Isn’t A Big Deal

I’ve had an artificial eye since I was four. I had retinoblastoma. The first thing I really remember was when I was about eight or nine in the UK. I went to the hospital to get a new eye. It was weird watching this guy painting an eye that I was going to wear. Now I am used to it. They look at your eye and try and replicate it. I think they do a good job really.

Because it is done so well people tend not to notice it. Other people tell them and then they are really surprised. They try and guess which one it is – some people get it wrong. At school a lot of people ask me to take it out to show them. They ask me to play tricks by putting it in others drinks. I don’t do it. Some kids like to wave their hand over my eye as a joke because I can’t see them. You get used to that and can feel when it is going to happen. I can feel the heat off the hand on my face so I can tell they are doing it and that stops the fun.

Having an artificial eye makes judging the ball at sport a little harder. I avoid contact sport. In England we were told to avoid sport where the ball was coming straight at me.

Generally speaking I don’t have a problem with the eye because I got it at a young age. I am a teenager, and a boarder at a high school now. I made the decision to tell friends and they told other friends. It isn’t a big deal and it isn’t a secret.

Sometimes I get out of sport I really don’t want to do – that is an advantage. Once when I was at school, I was getting changed in a dormitory and the eye fell out on the bed. So I just showed everybody. Some people were a bit freaked so I just put it back in.

As told to Julia Sutton. Reprinted with permission from James Hargrave. You may link to this story, but please do not copy or otherwise circulate.