THE BEST Christmas gift imaginable was recently given to a woman from Scalloway when her sight was saved after an accident.
Chris Barton, 54, who moved to Shetland last year with her husband Nigel, a Methodist minister, fell down stairs at her home and landed on her head.
Eight weeks later, during November, she began to notice a change in her distance vision. An initial appointment with optometrist Linda Gunn of C. Kelly Opticians, where a detailed examination was carried out, did not reveal anything untoward, but Mrs Barton was told to come back if she noticed a deterioration.
Four days later, just as Mrs Barton was bending to put on her shoes to go out, a dark patch appeared in vision.
She said: “A black patch appeared and then it was like snakes moving across the eye. It was late afternoon. I phoned the practice expecting they might fit me in the next day but they insisted I attend immediately. The result of another very thorough eye exam was the discovery of a tear in the retina and a booking to go to Aberdeen the next morning.”
The horse-shaped tear meant the retina could have become detached at any time and Mrs Barton was in danger of losing the sight in that eye.
She was seen as an emergency during an eye clinic in Aberdeen where the specialist confirmed the diagnosis and lasered the tear.
Mrs Barton said: “The specialist was very impressed that Mrs Gunn in Lerwick had detected the tear as it was in a difficult position. He said this a few times and said I had been very fortunate.”
The specialist also said he would prefer to spend an hour and a half giving laser treatment to mend the tear rather than perform a four-hour operation that may not have been successful.
Mrs Barton flew home the same night and had two and a half weeks off her work as a podiatrist at Lerwick Health Centre, waiting for the blood left by the treatment to dissipate.
The successful treatment means she is able now to continue in her job, which needs “3D vision” as a lot of scalpel work is involved. If she had lost the sight of the eye she said “it would have meant the end of work.”
Paying tribute to the staff at the Lerwick opticians who worked late in order to diagnose her condition, Mrs Barton said: “Mrs Gunn and the receptionist were so very kind and generous with their time even though they worked way beyond 5.15pm. I can not thank them enough for the excellent treatment and diagnosis. There was no feeling of wanting to go home.”
Mrs Gunn, 28, who spotted the tear, said she welcomed a challenge, and working in Shetland (she moved here in the summer with husband Dugie and baby Eilith) presents plenty with the nearest hospital eye department being in Aberdeen.
The first-class honours graduate in optometry explained: “The small tear on the retina, the lining at the back of the eye, was not detected by our camera. If left untreated this can lead to retinal detachment and loss of sight.
“I phoned Aberdeen immediately and she had an appointment next morning. They used a laser to re-seal the tear, halting any further damage to the eye.”
Mrs Gunn, who previously worked in Aberdeen and Brighton, said: “I thrive on this [a challenge] and it pushes me to further my clinical skills, the latest of which is the completion of a foreign body course, which should help relieve pressure on the Gilbert Bain Hospital and reduce the number of patients having to go to the mainland for treatment.”
C. Kelly Opticians proprietor Christine Kelly said: “I’m delighted for the patient that it was dealt with so quickly and efficiently and want to thank the staff for staying late and being so caring. It’s great to be able to provide this service for the people of Shetland.”