A North Shields man has thanked his local optician for helping save his sight after a detached retina could have left him blind in one eye.
Retired mechanic engineer Edward Summerhill felt his vision change in the summer last year but thought it would go away.
But his condition worsened and he could have faced dire consequences if he had failed to take action.
Mr Summerhill, 70, said: “I’ve always enjoyed perfect vision, never worn glasses and not even been for an eye test, so I was pretty sure my eyes would sort themselves out by themselves.
“If it wasn’t for Eddie O’Gara at Specsavers in North Shields, I’d be blind. I owe it to Eddie that I can still see.”
After his initial symptoms, Mr Summerhill began experiencing quick flashes of light in his left eye, and a day later he woke to find he had lost half of his vision in his left eye.
Supported by his wife, Kath, he went straight to the Specsavers store in the Beacon Centre as soon as they opened.
He said: “I was really worried. I explained to the lady on reception that if I covered over my right eye and looked at her with my left eye, I could see only the top half of her face.
“She alerted Eddie O’Gara, an optician and director of the store, and he took me to the test room immediately and examined my eyes. He told me I had a detached retina and that needed urgent attention.”
Eddie called the emergency eye care department at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) in Newcastle, and was operated on that afternoon.
Mr Summerhill added: “When I arrived at the RVI I was seen straight away and was told I needed an operation urgently. I asked when they’d like me to come back and was told they wanted to do it that same day, as quickly as they could get me into theatre.
‘I had my operation at 4pm, everything went brilliantly and I was back at home by 7pm drinking a cup of tea.’
Mr Summerhill’s urgent treatment involved a procedure during which gas was injected into the vitreous gel of his eye.
The bubble of gas which was created helped to reposition the retina, the light-sensing membrane that captures and transmits images to the brain, back onto the wall of the eye and then held the tissues in place so that the eye could start to heal.
While his vision was slightly blurred immediately after the procedure, this gradually resolved itself as the bubble of gas dissipated, and after just 10 days his sight was back to normal.
Eddie O’Gara, store director, said: “On the morning he walked in to see me I was so pleased he had come in – in my view his situation was critical. The retina was significantly detached so there was no time to spare.
‘I knew if he could have the procedure very quickly his sight could be saved, but if he’d left it just another few hours I believe it would be a very different story. Mr Summerhill would almost certainly have lost substantial if not all vision in his left eye – so I’m relieved and delighted for him that the story has ended so very well.”
Mr Summerhill said: “I’m so very, very grateful to Eddie, as he was fantastic. He knew straight away what was wrong and personally ensured I was given the best chance of saving my sight.
‘I’m telling anyone I talk to now about the excellent care I received from Eddie and his team at Specsavers – and especially how important it is to go straight to get your eyes checked the split second you notice anything different or wrong.”