Sunday, 20 December 2009

Eye surgeon loses sight to crime

December 15 2009 at 07:22AM

By Shaun Smillie

An ophthalmologist could lose his sight because a robber tried to gouge his eyes out after the elderly man "looked at him".

Dr Marius Pretorius will possibly only know in January if he will regain the use of his eyes when a colleague performs a second operation on him to attach torn muscles to his eyeballs.

The doctor was attacked while leaving his home in Vereeniging on Wednesday morning.

His daughter Hannelie Warren said that just weeks earlier he had treated someone whose eyes had been damaged in a house robbery. A robber had apparently tried to gouge the patient's eye with a pool cue.

"He had operated (on the patient) and was so chuffed because he was able to get to all the muscles," explained Warren.

Three men, one of them armed, forced Pretorius to the ground at the door to his flat.

"One of the men sat on top of him and basically tried to pull his eyes out. He had told my Dad, 'Don't look at me,' and had gone straight for his eyes," said Warren.

One of the robbers then went into the bedroom where Warren's mother, Lien, 68, was. They forced her to the floor and tied her up and tried to strangle her.

"He also continually bashed her head against the floor," said Warren. They threatened Lien with a knife, which, Warren said, they kept to her throat.

"A robber then sat on my father's back while he lay on the floor, and smoked a cigarette," said Warren.

The men found the couple's walk-in safe and took money before they triggered an alarm. The three men, all dressed in black, then made their escape.

When he realised that the robbers had left, Pretorius was able to slam the door shut and, calling for his wife, began leopard-crawling towards the bedroom.

"At this time, both my mother and my father thought that each of the other was dead," Warren said.

In the bedroom, Pretorius was able to untie his wife and hand her the telephone.

"My mom said that she had never seen anything like this, there was so much blood."

Warren said the robber had ripped Pretorius's eyelids off but that his cornea had not been damaged. His right eye was more damaged than the left, she said.

Pretorius is a well-known ophthalmologist who, Warren said, had pioneered a cataract operation. He was president of the International Southern African Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery for 21 years, said Warren.

"The support from other ophthalmologists has been phenomenal. Some have flown out to see my father" said Warren.

Pretorius is in the Emfuleni Medi-Clinic and was operated on last week, when his eyelids were repaired. But doctors will only know next month if his sight will be restored. An MRI scan was preformed on Pretorius on Saturday and Warren said that one of the detached muscles could be seen. This has given the family hope that his eyes might be saved.

Last night police said no arrests had been made.

This article was originally published on page 3 of The Star on December 15, 2009


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