Sophie: Louise’s sight problems encouraged me to help sight charities

In a rare interview, The Coutess of Wessex has spoken of her daughter, Lady Louise, her sight problems, and how they have motivated her to support sight charities across the world.

January 20, 2015 - London, United Kingdom: Prince Edward and Sophie, Earl and Countess of Wessex, attend engagements in support of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Trust and Tomorrow's People on the Countess' 50th birthday. The Countess of Wessex, Patron, Tomorrow's People, accompanied by the Earl of Wessex, visited the Tomorrow's People Social Enterprises, St Anselm's Church, Kennington, to meet staff and supporters at work on the Flower Stall, Coffee Mob and Market Garden. Their Royal Highnesses were greeted by school children and tour the different enterprises, all of which offer training and development for young people and adults aiming to get back into work. Finally, the Countess was presented with a birthday cake by a Tomorrow's People client now employed at the local bakery and received flowers from the Flower Stall. (Robin Nunn/Nunn Syndication/Polaris) ///

  (Robin Nunn/Nunn Syndication/Polaris)

Speaking to The Sunday Express whilst in Qatar, Sophie talked of Louise’s condition, which has been misreported for many years as exotropia:

“Louise was born with a squint. People have called it exotropia. It wasn’t ever exotropia – that has been incorrect,” the 50-year-old Countess said.

“Premature babies can often have squints because the eyes are the last thing in the baby package to really be finalised.

“Her squint was quite profound when she was tiny and it takes time to correct it. You’ve got to make sure one eye doesn’t become more dominant than the other but she’s fine now – her eyesight is perfect.”

The Countess delivered Louise prematurely, and it was so quick, in fact, that her husband, Prince Edward, could not reach the hospital in time. Sophie lost a lot of blood because of the birth and nearly died.

If untreated, squints can lead to blindness, as the brain begins to ignore the signals coming from the affected eye.

She did not confirm if Louise had had surgery to correct the squint, as has been speculated, but confirmed it was treated, as it ‘was cosmetically awkward’ for her daughter. Treatments for squints include corrective glasses, eye exercises, Botox injections into the eye muscles or surgery.

Patron of blindness prevention charity Orbis UK, the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness and a global ambassador for Vision 2020, Sophie admitted her daughter’s journey inspired her to support causes like hoping to eradicate preventable blindness across the world in five years.

The Queen’s daughter-in-law spoke of how 39 million people in the world today who are blind despite 80 per cent of their conditions being preventable in speeches last week, also calling on big businesses to support charity: 

“I have seen sight being restored and I can promise you there are few things more rewarding in this world that seeing someone step from the dark into the light,” she said at a gala dinner last Wednesday in aid of Seeing Is Believing.

The interview moved on to talk about her Royal relatives.

The Countess talked of her in-laws as role models – including the value of “listening”.

“What I find so fascinating about them is that they’ve never stopped learning. Their knowledge base is extraordinary.

“My father-in-law never stops reading, he’s always learning something new and engaging in new challenges – whether its history or whatever, he’s always learning new things.

“Watching The Queen in certain situations – she’s a great listener. she clearly has a great desire to learn all the time and I think that’s amazing.”

Speaking of her role in the public eye, she said: “I can’t shy away from it, I do have to be the front woman. It’s about confidence though, as well – they don’t see the jelly legs underneath.”

Sophie said she didn’t feel the need to be in the limelight – often her work goes unreported in the national news – although she emphasised: “I do have opinions!”

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