After arriving ‘fashionably late’ for a contact lens appointment at Harpurhey Specsavers, style-conscious Failsworth resident and self-styled shopaholic, Debbie Lesalle, watched intently as store staff unpacked and set up a brand new retinal camera before remarking: ‘Can I be the first to have a go on that?’

She was the first; and less than 24 hours later Debbie, aged 46, would undergo emergency surgery at Manchester Eye Hospital having been diagnosed with a full retinal detachment in her right eye, a rare and severe condition which, if not treated, can lead to permanent blindness.

Contact lens check saved my sight

Looking back at the morning that changed her life forever, Debbie admitted she was tempted to skip the appointment and continue clothes shopping. It was her last minute change of heart which turned out to be the perfect timing to make her the very first customer to use the store’s new retinal photography machine - its second fundus camera - and save her sight.

Now recovered but still taking medication to control the condition, Debbie, a keen gardener and three time winner of Oldham in Bloom, explained: ‘For weeks before I went into Specsavers, I had had periodic symptoms including blurred vision and watering eyes, but I wrote them off as an allergy, hay fever or a reaction to the new makeup I got for Christmas.

Thought I had symptons of an allergy

‘Looking good is really important to me and I much prefer to wear contact lenses than glasses. When I started to have discomfort when wearing them and occasional sensations, like flashes of light and jelly moving over my right eye, I begrudgingly switched to my glasses for a little while but it didn’t go away.

In the end it was pure vanity that made me stop shopping and go into Specsavers that morning for a contact lens check-up as I wanted to wear my contact lenses again!

I remember taking a seat then watching the team set up the new machine and, as I’m a bit nosey, I asked if I could have a go once I’d had my regular contact lens check-up.

Then the laughing stopped

The store team were obviously keen to use the machine and we were laughing and joking together right up until Rob, my optician, put his eye to the machine. Then the laughing stopped.’

Following the test, conducted by Harpurhey store director Rob Millard, Debbie was immediately referred to hospital as an emergency with a suspected full retinal detachment, a condition which occurs when the thin lining at the back of the eye called the retina begins to pull away from the blood vessels that supply it with oxygen and nutrients.

After undergoing a variety of scans and tests, the diagnosis was confirmed and Debbie underwent a two-hour operation to reattach her retina.

Two hour operation

Debbie has since thanked Rob the store team for the immediate care and immediate referral she received. At Debbie’s insistence, all her close friends have visited the store for an eye test.

She added: I’m living proof that getting your eye checked regularly can save your sight or even your life. The entire Specsavers team and staff at the hospital were excellent and, if it wasn’t for Rob, I wouldn’t have known about my condition and the effects would have been worse.

It’s definitely given me piece of mind. I cannot explain how important it is for everyone to get their eyes tested regularly. You cannot put a price on your health and I’m so glad I went to Specsavers.

I’m doing well and to be honest the hardest part has been working out how to include my eye patch in my outfits but if the pirate look is good enough for Johnny Depp, it’s good enough for me. I can’t wait to get back to using my contact lenses.’

You cannot put a price on your health

Specsavers recommends everybody visits a trusted and experienced optician every two years. Not only will this ensure their eye health remains in optimum condition, it will also help to detect any underlying health problems.

Harpurhey store director Rob Millard commented: ‘Debbie is such a character and the entire team here is delighted to hear that her recovery is going very well.

It is cases like this that highlight the importance of regular eye checks and why it’s so vital to get any problems or concerns you may have, no matter how minor they may seem, checked out as soon as possible.

It was such a lucky turn of events that led of Debbie visiting us at just the right time, as we took delivery of our new photography machine. This is our second fundus camera and we’re delighted that this investment in improving optical care in the Harpurhey area has paid off immediately on its first use!

You only get one pair of eyes so it is important to look after them – if you’ve not had an eye test in the last two years you should make an appointment as soon as possible.’

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