A VISIT to Specsavers Dundalk proved to be life saving for 19-year-old Neche Okolo when her optometrist discovered symptoms of a blood clot in her brain.
In January 2021, Neche was admitted to hospital after experiencing a sore neck, nausea, and persistent headaches. As things improved she was discharged with a suspected viral infection. However, her symptoms began to return only this time Neche was also experiencing blurred vision and her left eye was drifting to one side.
She called Specsavers Dundalk for an appointment with her community optometrist where she was seen by Martina Kelly. After reviewing her symptoms, running some tests and performing a full eye examination, she knew Neche needed an urgent referral to the Mater Hospital Eye Clinic.
‘It was evident to me on meeting Neche that something wasn’t quite right. Her left eye was very much drifting to one side and she appeared to be in quite a lot of pain. A scan using the digital retinal camera confirmed what I had initially suspected, a case of papilloedema, which is typically caused by pressure in the head, particularly around brain. I tried to reassure Neche as I referred her to hospital straight away for further examination,’ says Martina.
The digital retinal camera takes a photograph of the back of your eyes giving optician’s a more in depth look at the health of the eye. This image is saved and can be useful in monitoring changes in eye health on future visits. As a previous patient of Specsavers, Martina was able to cross check Neche’s new images against her previous ones where it was evident that there was signs of papilloedema. The two sets of images were shared with the expert team at The Mater Hospital to help illustrate how bad Neche’s condition was.
After several MRI and CT scans it was confirmed that Neche had cerebral venous sinus thrombosis. Neche says: ‘Blood clots had formed and caused a stroke in my brain. My ophthalmologist told me that only one in one million people have this condition and it is highly unusual in one so young. I’m now telling everyone to make sure they get their eyes tested.’
Neche says: ‘I am so incredibly grateful to Martina for quickly detecting my condition and acting so fast in referring me to the Mater Hospital. Her professionalism and expertise in approaching the situation was incredibly reassuring. She was so calm and supportive through it all and this helped stop me from spiralling out of control. I am eternally grateful to Martina and Specsavers Dundalk for potentially saving my life.’
Martina had called ahead to the Mater Hospital to bring them up to speed on the situation. Within minutes the ophthalmology team called Neche to let them know they were ready and waiting and would be bringing her for tests.
Neche continues: ‘The team at the Mater Eye Clinic were incredible and the communication between Specsavers and the hospital was seamless which was incredibly reassuring.’
Thankfully Neche’s condition was picked up and she was referred for urgent treatment and care. She will continue to be monitored for blood clots as her doctor’s ensure she is in good care. Had this not been picked up it could have been a very different outcome.
Neche has also ensured to keep in touch with her optician Martina throughout the process and has been back to Specsavers Dundalk to have her eyes tested. Since her initial appointment she has also had an OCT scan, which gives an even more in depth look at the eye and the overall health of the eye so that they may continue to monitor her condition
Neche now wants to share her story to encourage people to take a proactive approach to their eye health and show that eye tests are much more than just about whether you need glasses or not. She also wants to stress the importance of paying attention to a sudden change in vision and the need to act fast.
Martina adds: ‘It’s important that anyone noticing a change in their vision gets it seen to right away. While usually this is down to a change in prescription or from our eyes feeling tired, in other cases it can be something more serious. If you have any concerns about your eyes, especially with a sudden change in your vision, make an appointment as soon as possible. Don’t delay.
‘If people have missed an appointment during the pandemic, we urge them to rebook. We are still adhering to strict safety precautions in our stores.’
For more information about the State of the ROI Eye Health Report visit www.specsavers.ie/eye-health/state-of-irelands-eye-health-2021 or to book an appointment visit www.specsavers.ie.