CLIVE Worrall is more than simply grateful to Bolton consultant Simon Kelly who battled tirelessly to save the 53-year-old’s sight.
“Without Mr Kelly, my eyesight would have deteriorated by now and I certainly would not be able to work. My life would be completely different — I could easily have been blind,” he insists.
Now, Mr Worrall, from Radcliffe Road, The Haulgh, attends the Royal Bolton Hospital every couple of months to have eye injections of a drug that stabilises vision loss and which has significantly improved his sight. It is a drug he was originally denied.
Mr Worrall was diagnosed with diabetes around 20 years ago when his weight soared to about 20 stones, but started taking daily medication which seemed to control it well.
Three years ago, however, during a routine health check at the Royal Bolton Hospital, which included retinal screening, it was discovered that he was suffering from visual impairment caused by Diabetic Macular Oedema (DMO).
DMO is an ophthalmic complication of diabetes. Although one of the main causes of vision loss, it only occurs in a small proportion of people with diabetes. However, it affects around 5,000 new patients in the UK each year, significantly reducing their quality of life.
In Mr Worrall’s case, he had a period just after his divorce nine years ago when he admits he failed to look after himself properly.
“My weight dropped by around seven stones, which actually helped the diabetes,” he recalls. “So I suppose I felt I was OK and didn’t need to keep up with my medical appointments.”
When his eyesight deteriorated gradually and he started needing glasses. “I just assumed this was part of getting older and thought no more about it,” says Mr Worrall, who works for the RAC as a Customer Services Specialist, based in Stretford.
After his father died three years ago, Mr Worrall returned to what had been the family home in Bolton and he resumed seeing his original doctor.
“I got back into the system again and this involved regular health screening,” he adds.
He was “quite shocked” when he was told that his eyesight deterioration was caused by DMO. Mr Worrall was initially offered laser therapy, but his eyes failed to respond to this. By then, he was under Simon Kelly, consultant in ophthalmology, who tried to get funding for eye drug Lucentis, at that time not automatically available on the NHS.
“Mr Kelly wanted to get the local primary care trust to pay for it but that failed,” said Mr Worrall. “Then he tried to get NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) involved, but they turned him down.
“He appealed and they turned that down, so he tried to appeal again but they wouldn’t let him appeal twice.
“Mr Kelly was really amazing, such a fighter. He never stopped trying for me, and he used to ring me in his own time as well to tell me where we were up to and what he planned to do next.”
After failing to get Mr Worrall on to a drug trial in Manchester, Mr Kelly then contacted Novartis, the company which manufactures Lucentis, and applied for “compassionate access”. They agreed and arranged for Mr Worrall to have the sight-saving injections. Now, he goes to the hospital every few months for the injections in a procedure that lasts around an hour.
He firmly believes in fellow diabetics monitoring their health properly, and being alert to changes in physical areas like vision.