IT WAS a day like any other for Johnny Blaxland as he skied the slopes but it was one that would change his life.

The 19-year-old had been on a weekend skiing trip in February this year when a back flip at a snow park left him with a severe brain injury and blindness.

For months, Johnny’s parents thought their son would never be able to return to a normal life and take his place at university.

But the skier made a dramatic recovery after having surgery at Optegra Eye Hospital in Whiteley which saved his sight.

Johnny, from Hampshire, had been working at a French ski resort during his gap year when he decided to take a trip to Switzerland but during the trip he fell during a back flip. He did not clear the jump and landed very heavily on his head. He was immediately knocked out and remained unconscious for a long time.

Once airlifted to hospital, scans revealed a brain injury so severe that he was put into an induced coma to avoid blood swelling around the brain. On awakening four days later, he was so weak he was unable to walk without a zimmer frame.

But worse than that was the loss of vision in his left eye.

Consultant ophthalmic surgeon Stephen Lash at Optegra Eye Hospital Hampshire met Johnny three weeks later and discovered he had been left with a rare eye condition.

Mr Lash said: “On examination, he had a bleed inside the eye preventing any view of the back of his eye and so a diagnosis was difficult at this stage. An ultrasound scan of his eye showed a dome on the retina which was very thin walled and vibrating with eye movements.

“This is so rare, I have never seen anything like it before.”

Mr Lash diagnosed Johnny with Terson’s Syndrome, which mostly leaves people with very poor sight, or a tear in the retina.

And because Johnny was young there were increased risks of retinal detachment during surgery but it was decided that he should undergo an operation because there was an even greater risk of him falling again, which could prove fatal.

Anna Blaxland, Johnny’s mother, said: “We knew that the procedure was risky, but the greatest risk was that Johnny would have a second fall. His balance was very poor at this stage as his right side was not working properly. The neurological team explained his biggest problem was if he were to fall over again, it could be catastrophic. And of course he was more likely to trip or fall with sight in only one eye. Also we were told the longer it was left, the greater the risk of infection.

“In fact he was something of a liability at this point as his confusion meant he still could not understand that he was not fighting fit. And we had been warned a second fall could prove fatal and so we needed to act quickly.”

And so the vitrectomy procedure went ahead within days to remove most of the vitreous jelly from the eye, but because of the bleed Mr Lash was not sure what he would find until the operation begun.

It was found that along with the cyst, multiple peripheral retinal tears were discovered but time would only tell whether the procedure had been a success.

After a week of rest, Johnny returned to Optegra for tests which revealed vision of level 0.24, which is around driving standard, and miraculously his most recent review at six months, it was - 0.04, which is better than 20/20 vision.

While Johnny was not aware that his long-term sight was at risk the results has been a “great relief” and he started studying at Exeter University in September.

He said: “This whole event has been quite an emotional rollercoaster. I woke up not knowing what was going on, but then as the situation became clearer, the aftermath of being 18 and on a gap year, but with constrictions like avoiding contact sport, watersports and even swimming alone – all the things I enjoy doing. But I know things could have turned out a lot worse, and thank God they turned out as they did. I think it has been more tough for the people around me.”

“My eyes were messed up for about a month, but I was taking in everything that happened, so I was not worrying about my eyes especially. I was just relieved to be alive. As I was getting better and becoming less confused, I still did not realise the impact of it all – I thought it was just a routine op. For the days after the op I was worrying I would never be able to see out of my left eye again. But now, it is pretty much amazing!”