An Orpington bus driver is championing the importance of regular eye tests after having both his ‘career and life saved’ by a visit to his local Specsavers store.

Routine Check-up

Croydon-born Robert Snelling visited Specsavers in Orpington for a routine check-up in July 2014 and was immediately referred back to his GP after optometrist Shahen Raj discovered an abnormality above his left eye.

Despite having been given the all-clear in hospital the previous day during his regular diabetes check-up, the 63 year-old was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma, leaving him requiring emergency operations to remove the tumour.

‘It certainly came as a bit of a shock,’ says Robert. ‘One day I was being told that there were no signs of anything untoward on my retinal scan and the next I was facing a battle against cancer.

‘It was incredibly scary to begin with – no-one wants to know they’ve got something in their eye that they shouldn’t have and it’s certainly a diagnosis you can never really prepare yourself for.’

Plaque Brachytherapy

Robert began treatment for the melanoma straight away and undertook plaque brachytherapy – which sees a radioactive implant placed under the eye to deliver a highly concentrated dose of radiation to the tumour.

‘It wasn’t the most comfortable of treatments but I was still able to see fine and I was just grateful that it’d been discovered in time. I had my second operation a week later to remove the plaque and, thankfully, it had been a complete success.

‘The only slight complication I’ve had is that the radiation causes excess leakage from the eye but I manage this with regular Avastin eye injections every six weeks and I really can’t complain given what the circumstances may have been.’

National Eye Health Week

The spotlight on eye health has been magnified by the upcoming National Eye Health Week (18-24 September), which Specsavers are supporting alongside the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

A new report published by the charity and Specsavers shows that one in five people will live with sight loss in their lifetime despite at least half of all cases being avoidable[i]. Furthermore almost six million people in the UK currently live with sigh-threatening eye conditions, yet 25 per cent of people are not having an eye test every two years[ii].

Importance of Eye Tests

Shahen Raj, store director at Specsavers Orpington, said: ‘We’re obviously thrilled that Robert has made a full recovery and we feel cases like this just go to show just how important regular eye tests can be in maintaining people’s health.

‘At no point did Robert think there was anything wrong with him when he came to us but, again, this highlights that there are several eye conditions that are symptomless and can cause real damage if they go untreated. We’d obviously, therefore, urge everyone to ensure they prioritise an eye test as soon as possible.’

Such sentiment is also echoed by Robert himself, who says he owes his profession, and indeed his life to Specsavers.

‘I really do think Specsavers are fantastic, particularly the team in Orpington. My job relies heavily on having good eyesight and without the diagnosis I probably would’ve lost my eye, so it really does feel like I’ve been given a second chance and for that I’ll always be grateful.’

All Orpington store information

[i]  The State of the Nation Eye Health 2017: A Year in Review, Specsavers/RNIB

[ii] YouGov Survey commissioned by Specsavers and RNIB 23rd June -7th July 2017 of 6,430 UK adults aged 18+