Sight-saving surgery sees art teacher driving around Australia

March 17th 2017

Ayers RockA woman who was diagnosed with an eye condition that can rob patients of their sight is back teaching arts and craft classes in Crayford following surgery at a Care UK NHS treatment centre.

When Mrs Joyce Sutherland received an unexpected double diagnosis of wet age-related macular degeneration (Wet AMD) and cataracts from her trusted family optician at Burnett, Hodd & Jenkins, in Sidcup, she listened to his advice and opted to use the Will Adams NHS Treatment Centre in Gillingham, Kent, despite the 50-mile round trip.

She said: “He explained that the consultant ophthalmic surgeon at the centre, Mrs Mahboub Hawkes, had an excellent reputation in the treatment of both conditions - and the centre also had very short waiting times."

Time is a key factor in Wet AMD. Abnormal blood vessels grow into the macula and leak blood or fluid, which leads to scarring of the macula and rapid loss of central vision, potentially taking away all but a patient’s peripheral vision.

Wet AMD can develop very suddenly and it can only be treated if caught quickly. A fast referral to a hospital specialist is essential.

Mrs Sutherland said: “The team at Will Adams NHS Treatment Centre were incredible, especially the nurses who were very caring and professional. They treated the Wet AMD first, putting me at ease during the series of injections into my right eye. I was very impressed by the cleanliness of the centre too and the free and plentiful parking meant the trip from Welling was not really an issue.”

Once the team had treated the AMD, Mrs Hawkes scheduled the first cataract removal. She suggested operating on the right eye first: Mrs Sutherland had some sight in her left eye and so she would have some vision while the right eye healed.

The operation was a success and Mrs Hawkes scheduled the second operation. Mrs Sutherland said: “She was wonderful: she gathered from our conversations during my treatment that we had booked a holiday to Australia to see our son and she wanted to help me make the most of it. And she did: my vision cleared almost immediately. I was amazed.”

Two months after her operation, Mrs Sutherland and her husband shared the 800 miles of driving as they travelled around Darwin and the Northern Territories, where her son works as an engineer.

She said: “It was incredible. Before the treatment, I could no longer drive and I had to stop teaching my regular arts and crafts group at Hall Place, in Crayford. Now I am back doing everything I love to do and it is all thanks to the team.

“To anyone who is placed in a similar situation, I can only urge them to go to their optician as quickly as possible. To lose one’s sight is so debilitating and frightening. There is hope and great professionals who can help.”

Mrs Hawkes said: “We were very happy to help Mrs Sutherland, who gives so much to her community with her work with older people.

“Wet AMD is a particularly troubling condition because, if it is not quickly spotted and treated, patients can be left with severe visual impairment. I am delighted Mrs Sutherland’s optician so quickly diagnosed her condition and referred her to us - that played a significant part in our ability to stop the degeneration and get Mrs Sutherland back behind the wheel.”