‘Hero’ optician saves teenager’s eyesight

THE mother of a young Strabane footballer who had his eyesight saved thanks to revolutionary scanning equipment following an on-pitch injury, says her optician is “a hero.”

Patricia Devine was speaking after Gormley Opticians discovered a large retinal tear in her 13-year-old son Connor’s eye during a check-up after he was given the all clear from Altnagelvin Hospital.

“Connor plays for Maiden City,” the local mum explained. “He was down playing football in the Brandywell a couple of Mondays before Christmas and went in to kick the ball one time and whatever way it bounced up, it hit him in the eye. He got a fright and a black eye but he was OK. Everyone was so good and helped him.


“My husband Gareth took him to Altnagelvin Hospital and he was checked for concussion. He was fine and came home and was as right as rain. But a few days later he was still complaining that his eye was really sore and kept talking about seeing little lines in his vision.

“The way his eye was swollen, we thought that it might just be eyelashes. But I wanted to get him checked and phoned Gormley Opticians to book a check-up. They told me to bring him straight down.

“After two hours in Gormley’s they were able to show us on the Optomap scan that he had a tear in his retina. Gormley’s organised for us to see the doctors in Altnagelvin on Saturday morning. On the Tuesday afterwards we ended up in the Royal Victoria Hospital and he had an operation on his eye on the Thursday.”
Patricia says that she dreads to think what would have happened if the family’s optician hadn’t caught his issue in time.

“At the time we didn’t think anything of it,” she says. “We just thought he had got a bad bump to the eye. He was very lucky. The optician said that he could have lost his sight in the eye. We were just very fortunate that Mark and the staff at Gormley’s were able to catch it with this machine. They were so good, phenomenal actually, and only for their prompt actions, my son would have lost his sight. They are absolute heroes.”

Patricia said that other parents should be cautious with regards sports injuries and take a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach.

“This incident has really made us aware of injuries like this,” she continued. “It makes you stop and think. We were worrying about concussions and stuff, but not a torn retina. I want to make people aware that this can be the fallout from a head injury and to go and get checked.”

Gormley’s have had the ability to take Optomap Scans of the back of the eye since April last year. They are taken via an instrument known as a Daytona Plus.

A standard retinal photograph takes an image of approximately 15 per cent of the back of an eye.

Mark Gormley, who owns Gormley’s Opticians says Optomap Scans show as much as 80 per-cent of the back of an eye, making lesions, retinal tears and a whole host of retinal abnormalities much easier to detect than was previously possible.

“Connor Devine’s case is the classic example,” he said. “The outward signs of bruising gave little indication that a retinal tear could or would have been present.

“Connor’s retinal tear was spotted by Orlagh Conway, one of our optometrists. It was so far out at the side of his eye that it was always going to be very difficult to see or image, except using Optomap. That is why we are so glad that Connor’s mum brought him to be on the safe side.

“With sports and any other type of bang or knock to the eye, Optomap should be something that all parents of kids playing sports, sports enthusiasts and the general public as a whole should get done as a matter of course.

Gormley’s offer Optomap free of charge for all kids and at only a small charge for adults.

A spokesperson for the Western Trust said that they do not comment on individual cases.



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