Sight-saving treatment praise from church fundraiser Julia

WHEN a Saddleworth church needed to raise £60,000 to cover a shortfall for renovation work Julia Dawson stepped up to the collecting plate.

Her decision to contact television antiques expert Caroline Hawley as resulted in an auction of items donated by locals in support of St Thomas’ Church, Delph next February.

Julia’s efforts and determination came at the same time as ongoing NHS sight-saving treatment for her degenerative eye condition, age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Julia Dawson

So when the country was locked down last March the active Uppermill resident was concerned she might be unable to continue with her two-monthly appointments. Without treatment the condition would deteriorate.

Julia can hardly read the test chart with one eye. But her other is better and good enough for her to continue important activities for independence, including reading and cooking.

Julia attends specialist Didsbury-based Optegra Eye Hospital Manchester every eight weeks for injections to keep her vision at a consistent level and prevent any deterioration.

“I feel so grateful to have these injection treatments as 20 years ago they were not available,” she said.

“Without them, I would really struggle as I cannot read with my right eye at all.

“I hope everyone who needs this treatment continues to do so despite lockdown.”

Initial concerns her treatments might stop during lockdown were quickly allayed; so too additional health risk worries.

St Thomas’ Church

“Optegra feels so incredibly safe,” she said. “My temperature is checked as soon as I arrive and they ask questions about my general health.

“Facemasks are provided and seating is socially distanced. Patients are seen very quickly so there is no waiting around.

“Unless there were any changes or reasons for concern, the injections were provided straight away, with a full round of tests every third appointment.

“Specialist nurses give the injection and I do not mind them at all as they use anaesthetic, and I know how important it is to keep the treatment going.”

By keeping her AMD in check, Julia has been able to keep up her very busy social schedule.

As well as her fundraising initiative she took part in Zoom yoga and French lessons plus aqua aerobics when pools were open.

Surgeon Mr Sajjad Mahmood, consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Optegra Eye Hospital, said: “Julia’s lifestyle is a fantastic demonstration that despite a condition such as AMD, if you keep to your regular treatments, you can live life to the full.

“Across Optegra we are committed to maintaining AMD injections – both NHS and private – as even during periods of lockdown it is essential that treatment continues.

“Without it, vision will deteriorate often irreversibly so it is vital to save the sight that our patients have.”

Wet AMD (exudative macular degeneration) – which Julia has – accounts for around 10 per cent of all AMD cases.

It is caused by the growth of abnormal blood vessels under the retina.

These new blood vessels leak fluid into the retina and cause rapid onset of distorted vision and eventually lead to scarring at the back of the eye.

If left untreated this results in retinal tissue in the area being destroyed, leaving a large central blind spot. Macular degeneration cannot be reversed once this has occurred.

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