Lightning Ridge resident Steve Wright is now able to enjoy life to the full, with much improved vision in his left eye, thanks to intervention from the Outback Eye Service.
At the age of six, Steve lost his right eye in an accident and now wears a prosthetic eye. He had more recently developed an ulcer and scarring in his left eye due to shingles. Over a period of ten months, Steve’s vision began to deteriorate, he was suffering the gradual loss of sight and increasing damage to his left eye. This had multiple impacts on Steve’s health, as well as his state of mind. Steve is a miner and builder, a hardworking and hands on person, and the idea that he may lose his vision and not be able take care of himself and his family was starting to take its toll.
When Steve presented at the Outback Eye Clinic in Walgett in September last year, the ophthalmologist realised the severity of his situation straight away, and the team organised for Steve to be flown to Sydney Eye Hospital that afternoon. The ulcer that developed had caused an infection and the cornea was melting away. Steve received a full cornea transplant which was monitored daily over a period of seven days.
On the seventh day, Steve had his regular daily check-up and when asked what he could see, he responded “I can see everything”. While the specialists had expected an improvement in Steve’s vision, the end outcome was far greater than they had hoped and anticipated. Remarkably, Steve’s sight has been restored to 6/12*, a result that was completely unexpected.
Steve says he is thrilled by the outcome and what the service delivers for outback communities.
“I would be blind today without the Outback Eye Service. The people who live out here would be in a whole world of trouble if we didn’t have the Outback Eye Service. They are absolutely amazing, all of them; the specialists, the whole team.”
He added, “Their ongoing support has just been terrific. Jo (Joanna Barton) kept in contact with me throughout my recovery; she called every week.”
Service Ophthalmic Nurse, Joanna Barton, says Steve’s experience epitomises the service’s aims to bring access to world-class services to the bush.
“Steve’s story is astonishing, but it’s exactly why this service exists, to be able to provide assessment, diagnosis, management and treatment, including surgery, for our outback residents experiencing sight issues, vision impairment and at risk or poor eye health.”
The Outback Eye Service is jointly funded by Western NSW Primary Health Network (WNSW PHN) in conjunction with the Fred Hollows Foundation and delivered by the Department of Ophthalmology at the Prince of Wales Hospital as part of the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District.
Joanna says she is thankful for the funding and support for the program.
“Without the funding from WNSW PHN, this service would not happen. Even having the WNSW PHN office in Dubbo that allows for face-to-face visits with the staff when we have our quarterly meetings. I love this, and I’m so appreciative that we have such great support to deliver the service.”
WNSW PHN CEO, Andrew Coe, says Steve’s story is the latest in a consistently high standard of service delivery by the Outback Eye Service.
“The complete function and support to deliver the Outback Eye Service to our outback communities has at its core the basic drive by everyone involved to deliver exceptional health outcomes and support for residents.”
He added, “Steve’s incredible recovery is another great success story for a service that continues to put country people first in everything they do.”
The Outback Eye Service provides care for adults and children across Bourke, Brewarrina, Cobar, Lightning Ridge, and Walgett. Services are provided via referral from GPs and specialists.
*6/12 Vision: 6/12 on the Snellen scale is a measure of visual acuity. It means that at 6m you see what a perfect eye would see at 12m.
Our Communications team sat down with Steve in Lightning Ridge to capture his incredible story of recovery:
About the Outback Eye Service
Outback Eye Service is an outreach service designed for people living in rural and remote western NSW experiencing vision impairment or are at the risk of poor eye health.
Services such as eye surgeries including cataracts, consultations and eye injections are delivered in Bourke, Lightning Ridge, Walgett, Brewarrina and Cobar.
Outback Eye Service is jointly funded by Western NSW Primary Health Network and the Fred Hollows Foundation and delivered by the Department of Ophthalmology at the Prince of Wales Hospital as part of the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District.