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'Don't delay': How taking quick action saved George's eyesight during lockdown

Three memebers of staff wearing plastic aprons, glasses, face masks and plastic visors stand socially distant frm each other. They are stood inside the optometrists, witth glasses in the background, One woman, to the right is holding a sign saying Broadhurst Saving Eyes
Staff at Broadhurst Optometrists in Friargate, Preston

Had George Bettess ignored the flashing in his eyes any longer, he could have lost his sight.

But thanks to warnings from Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, sight loss charity Galloway’s and articles in the media, the 77-year-old from Fulwood decided to take action.

He made a phone call to his optometrist and after a diagnosis of a detached retina, he was booked in for surgery the next day. Grateful for the swift response by medical experts which saved his sight, he now urges others not to delay in seeking advice during lockdown.

He says: “My eyesight has always been pretty good. But a few months ago, I had noticed when I opened and closed my eye I could see a shaded disc in the bottom corner. It was like this for a few days and I realised it was not clearing. It was a bit like a lava lamp, with white blobs flashing in my eye and then disappearing.

“I had been reading in the papers about hospitals and eye clinics saying they were open, but people were staying away because of the Coronavirus. The advice was that your eye health was still urgent and needed paying attention.

Head and shoulders image of George, He is wearing a white shirt. Behind him is a TV screen on the wall and a picture frame
George Bettess

“On that same day I got an email from Broadhurst Optometrist, in Preston, saying that they may not be able to see everyone in person, but they were still here for us.

“I had kept coming up with reasons why I didn’t want to see anybody about my vision, but after seeing that email, I decided to ring them as obviously something was not quite right.

“I described my symptoms and my optometrist Jennifer Smith strongly suggested I come in, saying they would take all the steps to protect me because of the Coronavirus. I had to wait at the door until she was masked up and I was invited to enter.

“She quickly realised what was wrong and she told me how critical it was and that if I had waited much longer I might have lost my sight in that eye.”

George, a father-of-two with two grandchildren, was told he had Macular On Retinal Detachment. He was booked in for surgery the next day at Royal Preston Hospital, where his eye was treated with a vitrectomy procedure.

He adds: “I felt very safe and had no worries about my treatment or the Coronavirus.”

George hopes that sharing his story will reinforce the message Galloway’s is sending out about people seeking advice if they are concerned about their eye sight.

He says: “It is nice knowing that Galloway’s is here to provide support and services for people with sight loss. I feel so fortunate that I got help in time as I could have suffered a loss of sight.

“So I want to urge others not to delay in getting help, because they are worried about the Coronavirus. Taking action really could make a difference and save your vision.”

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