Charity fund-raiser living life to the full thanks to NHS eye treatments

Date published: 23 November 2020

Saddleworth lady, Julia Dawson, has received sight-saving treatment for the past seven years and her commitment to continued treatment despite lockdown have enabled her to help fundraise for a local cause.

Julia suffers from Age-related Macular Degeneration, an eye condition which is a leading cause of sight loss in the UK and which would deteriorate if treatment is not continued. While she can hardly read the eye test chart with one eye, her other eye is better and good enough for her to continue important activities for independence including reading and cooking. Julia attends specialist Didsbury-based Optegra Eye Hospital Manchester every eight weeks for injections to keep her vision at a consistent level and prevent any deterioration.

When lockdown was announced in March she was concerned that her treatments would stop, but received a letter from Optegra to encourage her not to miss any appointments.

With all the safety measures in place, Julia says she feels perfectly safe to continue her treatment. She said: “They check my temperature as soon as I arrive, and ask questions about my general health. They provide facemasks, and the seating is socially distanced. They also see patients very quickly so there is no waiting around.

“Unless there were any changes or reasons for concern, the injections were provided straight away, with a full round of tests every third appointment. Specialist nurses give the injection and I do not mind them at all as they use anaesthetic, and I know how important it is to keep the treatment going.”

By keeping her AMD in check, Julia has been able to keep up her very busy social schedule. From zoom yoga and French lessons, to aqua-aerobics when pools were open, she is also particularly busy with helping organize a charity auction to help raise funds for her local church St Thomas’ in Delph, Saddleworth.

With silver and gold valued at an all-time high, local people have made donations and Julie is helping to arrange an auction with Caroline Hawley, Beverley auctioneer and a regular on BBC Bargain Hunt. An online auction from Beverley Racecourse is planned for a February auction and will include items such as costume jewellery, gold and silver lockets, and even a dress from a Paris fashion house and a full-length mink coat.

Julia’s surgeon, Mr. Sajjad Mahmood, consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Optegra Eye Hospital Manchester, said: “Julia’s lifestyle is a fantastic demonstration that despite a condition such as AMD, if you keep to your regular treatments you can live life to the full.

“Across Optegra we are committed to maintaining AMD injections – both NHS and private - even during periods of lockdown it is essential that treatment continues. Without it, vision will deteriorate often irreversibly so it is vital to save the sight that our patients have.”

Wet AMD (exudative macular degeneration) – which Julia has - accounts for around 10 per cent of all AMD cases. It is caused by the growth of abnormal blood vessels under the retina. These new blood vessels leak fluid into the retina and cause rapid onset of distorted vision and eventually lead to scarring at the back of the eye. If left untreated this results in retinal tissue in the area being destroyed, leaving a large central blind spot. Macular degeneration cannot be reversed once this has occurred.

Julia concludes: “I feel so grateful to have these injection treatments, as 20 years ago they were not available. Without them, I would be really struggling as I cannot read with my right eye at all. I hope everyone who needs this treatment continues to do so despite lockdown, Optegra feels so incredibly safe, there is no need to worry, and it is so important to have the treatment needed.”

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