Glaucoma - Lillian's Story

Our Optometrist, Laura, saw a lady in Newtownabbey, her name was Lillian. She lived in a care home, was very frail and had severe anxiety. Her vision was fine for her age but her eye pressure was a little higher than we would have liked but everything else seemed normal. Laura sent a letter to Lillian's GP setting out her findings. A year later Laura returned to see Lillian whose vision still appeared fairly good but her eye pressure was higher than before and there were other changes to her eyes that suggested that Lillian may have been suffering from Glaucoma. Laura sent another letter of referral suggesting that Lillian be seen fairly urgently at the hospital in Belfast.  An appointment was made but when the time came Lillian refused to attend as her anxiety, not to mention her frailty just made it all too much. Laura phoned the hospital to see if some arrangement could be made to get Lillian treatment but there was just no mechanism for this. A year later, Lillian's eyesight had deteriorated so much that she could only really see shadows. A very sad story.

Lillian really needed to be seen by an ophthalmologist who may well have been able to prescribe eye drops to treat her glaucoma and preserve her sight. Unfortunately Lillian was unable to get to the hospital to get this treatment and there was no provision for the hospital to come to her.

Laura, however was not prepared to let this one go as there are hundreds if not thousands of Lillians out there. She holds a Professional Certificate in Glaucoma and just happened to participate in Project ECHO, set up by the Health Board. The project involved bringing together a multidisciplinary team of professionals to discuss and try to improve eye health in Northern Ireland. At one of the meetings Laura presented Lillian's story as a case study asking if something could be done for people like Lillian. One of the Consultant Ophthalmologists was appalled to hear that we were seeing this happen on a regular basis. He pledged to set up a system whereby referrals could be made directly to him. He would consider each case and would if appropriate, prescribe eye drops to treat the high eye pressure. He has been good to his pledge and we see this up and running in Northern Ireland. Well done him, well done Project ECHO and well done Laura. I can't tell you how proud we are of her.

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