WHEN North Belfast resident Ruth Kelly woke up one Saturday morning to discover she couldn’t see through her left eye, little did she know she was on the brink of having a stroke.
A regular customer at Specsavers in Abbey Centre, Ruth’s husband Tom immediately phoned the store and explained the situation to optometry director Tony McGinn, who asked Ruth to come up to Specsavers for an urgent appointment.
Ruth says: ‘A couple of weeks earlier I’d noticed a white film over my eyes but it cleared up and I thought nothing of it. Then it was such a shock that Saturday morning to have no sight in my left eye, I just didn’t know what was wrong.
‘I get my eyes tested regularly with Tony at Abbey Centre Specsavers which isn’t far from home and knowing that Specsavers was open for urgent and essential care, my husband Tom called the store and got speaking to Tony personally. We went straight up to the store by car and thank goodness we did.’
Although Specsavers had not been able to undertake routine appointments during lockdown, stores had been open for emergency eye and hearing care.
Tony McGinn says: ‘We had been open to deal with any urgent and essential eye health issues, as well as support key workers, and Ruth’s situation was very much an emergency. After a full examination of her eyes I detected a TIA (Transient Ischaemic Attack or mini-stroke) had taken place in the eye. Effectively the artery in her left eye had been blocked which caused the loss of vision. I phoned the eye casualty at the Royal Victoria Hospital and advised them of Ruth’s condition and arranged an urgent appointment.’
When Ruth arrived at hospital, eye specialists carried out a number tests and procedures on her before she was referred to the hospital’s Stroke Unit.
‘Following the tests, I was given blood thinners to prevent me from having a full-blown stroke,’ she said.
‘I’m really lucky that I was diagnosed early as members of my family have suffered strokes and heart attacks and it could have happened to me had I not visited Tony at Specsavers. While I do have high blood pressure, I don’t smoke or drink alcohol and I certainly didn’t realise my sight loss was as a result of a mini-stroke.’
While doctors have indicated the sight in Ruth’s left eye won’t return to normal, she expressed her thanks to Tony for his care and hospital referral and to the doctors and nurses in both the eye and stroke units at the Royal Victoria Hospital.
‘I’m doing much better now and will be monitored regularly at hospital with checks and scans,’ she said.
‘My husband Tom has been fabulous throughout this time as have our sons Tom and Andrew. Our eldest son Tom has been going through a challenging time with cancer and recently underwent a bowel cancer operation and is currently self-shielding. Surgeons are very pleased with his progress to date.’
Tony adds: ‘Everyone at Specsavers Abbey Centre is delighted that Ruth is keeping well and was so wonderfully cared for by our heroes in the NHS.’
Specsavers’ teams were classed as key workers to provide urgent and essential eye care to those in need. This included supporting other key workers who couldn’t function without their help and people who would come to harm without their health expertise, especially where the usual hospital services and NHS facilities were being prioritised for the fight against COVID-19.
Specsavers are now back open with you in mind. They’ll be following government advice and carrying out new safety measures in store.
You can also access Specsavers services at home with RemoteCare. Customers with urgent concerns can use a new RemoteCare service, which allows video consultations by visiting www.specsavers.co.uk/online-consultation-service, or phone the store for advice and to be assessed on the level of care that they might need. Glasses and contact lenses can also be purchased online for customers with a current prescription.
Specsavers has also set up an Ask the Expert group on Facebook for people to ask the team of expert optometrists and audiologists questions they might have about their sight or hearing while stores are open for urgent and essential appointments only. The group can be found here…