January 2022: Happy New Year

Jan 23, 2022 | Stuart's Patient Newsletter

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and have a happy and healthy New Year.

Each new year is a fresh start as far as I am concerned as it gives me a chance to reflect on the previous year, see what I can learn from it and I also look to see what anniversaries will occur in the coming new year.

Maria thinks I am sad because I enjoy playing around with numbers. I always enjoyed maths at school, far better than English, in fact if Maria didn’t proof read this you would see all the spelling and grammatical errors. She thinks I might have been an accountant in a previous life.

So, what anniversaries does 2022 hold for us?

Firstly, it is 95 years since G.T. Harvey and Partners was established! It is quite a scary thought to consider that eye examinations have been carried out in the same consulting rooms for such a long period of time.

It is also amazing to think how the examination techniques and especially technology has changed in this time. I wonder what George Thomas Harvey would think if he could revisit the practice and see what we do now!

We have come a long way from just “Read the letters on the chart “!

Provided COVID or the ever-changing financial climate doesn’t kill us off, then I will look forward to celebrating the centenary of the practice in 2027.

I hope over the next 5 years to collect photographs and stories from patients about their earliest recollections of coming to G.T. Harvey and Partners, particularly if they have been coming since the very early years of the practice. So, if you or a family member have any fond or funny memories from your childhood about visiting the practice, I would be very grateful if you could send them to me.

Secondly, 2022 celebrates 40 years since I applied to study Optometry at university – or Ophthalmic Optics as it was called in those days – where have the years gone!

So, why did I choose Ophthalmic Optics and not Accountancy?

Well, it all started when I was 11 years of age. I had just gone into first year of seniors (what is now Year 7) and in those days you had to have a school medical, part of which was a very basic eye check, quite literally “read the letters on the chart “.

I knew I couldn’t see particularly well; in fact, I had passed the eye test at junior school because the lad in front of me in the queue, while waiting to see the school nurse kept telling me what the bottom line of letters were!

Unfortunately, at senior school they took us in one at a time and so I was found out and Mum got the dreaded letter at home; “We suggest you take your son for an eye test “.

The following Saturday morning I duly turned up at the local Opticians in Blyth, who confirmed my worst fears – I needed glasses!

Back in 1975 the choice of frames was limited. Basically under the NHS the boys had the brown or the black frame and the girls had the blue or the pink. No designer labels in those days……glasses were not cool!

To be fair Mum pushed the boat out and paid for a metal frame instead of the plastic NHS frame, however I still spent the whole weekend complaining that I was not going to wear my glasses, I was not going to be “Speccy four eyes!”

But the following Saturday back we went to the Optician’s, to pick up my new spectacles.

Through gritted teeth and some tears, I had to admit I could see much better and once I overcame my initial dislike for my spectacles, I became fascinated by how two bits of polished glass could make me see better.

I went back a year later for my annual review and was captivated by the whole eye test procedure and all the equipment – yes, some things haven’t changed! – and at the grand old age of 12, I had decided what I was going to do for a career.

So, 40 years ago I applied to Aston University to do Ophthalmic Optics and that’s how the journey all started.

Mum’s favourite school photo of me!

Huge thanks to everyone who has kindly asked after Maria and her ‘new hip’. I am pleased to say she is making good progress to the extent that she has just started driving again. In fact, I could tell she was starting to feel better after about 10 days. I was at home ‘helping’ and one of the jobs she asked me to do, was to hoover the lounge. No problem I thought even I can do this to her satisfaction – how wrong can you be!! Apparently, I was hoovering too quickly and simply sending the dust and dog hair everywhere. I was quickly ‘sacked’ from this job and it was delegated to Jenny who of course did it perfectly! So, as I say Maria is well on the road to recovery.

For those of you who haven’t yet visited us in 2022, you won’t have had the pleasure of our new front door. Following feedback from patients it became apparent that several of our older patients found the front door very difficult to open as it was so heavy. This I am pleased to say has now been replaced by a much lighter door which you can either push open or by using the disability access buttons (on either side of the door), activate it to open automatically. On the way out it is sensor controlled and activated to open as you walk towards it, so we hope this now makes it much easier for everyone to enter the practice.

Again, to try and improve the services we offer and improve your experience when you visit the practice, we are introducing a new feedback/satisfaction survey. So, after your eye examination and after you collect any new spectacles, we will Email you a quick 3 question survey. We plan to use this to continue to improve the practice – if you don’t have an Email but would like to take part, then we have a paper copy of the questions so please just ask at Reception.

As always you can still contact me directly by replying to this Email or simply by phoning the practice and I will phone you back if I am not immediately available.

AdaptDxPro: I would like to thank all our Eyecare 21 Patients who completed the survey about the new AdaptDxPro which we are trialling. The number of responses has been amazing as has the positivity shown towards this new technology. We hope to contact as many volunteers as possible in the next month to see how many patients we can see before the equipment has to go back to the States. So, thanks again for taking the time to complete the survey, the feedback has been invaluable.

I try and make these ‘Ramblings’ fairly lighthearted and slightly tongue in cheek however very occasionally I need to be a bit more serious. What you are about to read is one of these occasions.

Back in October last year Jenny saw a patient who we will call Jane, for an eye examination – I have changed her name to protect her privacy. Jane was not having any significant visual problems but was simply attending for her ‘routine’ two-year examination, which is normal for someone of her age – late 40’s.

Jenny found Jane’s vision was excellent and well within normal limits and a standard examination of the inside of Jane’s eyes, using traditional techniques, showed no obvious problems.

However, when Jenny examined the far periphery of the retina of Jane’s right eye using our Optomap (Ultra-wide retinal imaging system) she found what appeared to be a slightly pigmented, possibly raised area of Jane’s retina.

As this area was on the far edge of the retina, Jenny was not certain what she’d seen, so she repeated the examination for confirmation. The second Optomap image showed the same results; a slightly pigmented, possibly raised area. Concerned by these images, Jenny referred Jane to the RVI for a second opinion.

The consultant at the RVI was also not 100% sure if this area of Jane’s retina was a problem or a cause for concern, but had enough unease to send Jane to the top eye hospital in the country, in London, for a further opinion.

Jenny hadn’t heard from Jane for a couple of weeks so she phoned her to make sure she was ok – there was no reply, so Jenny left a message. A couple of days later Jane phoned the practice and asked to speak to Jenny. The first thing Jane said was “Thank you for saving my sight”!

The small area on Jane’s retina which was causing all the concern was indeed a Melanoma (tumour), of the type which can spread very quickly to the rest of the body with serious consequences.

I spoke to Jane earlier this week; to ask how she was doing and to make sure she was happy for me to relate her experience. Jane is in good spirits, she had an operation in London 3 weeks ago on her eye and the initial outcome seems good, although obviously it is early days. Jane returns to London for a follow up in a couple of weeks’ time and is optimistic that the outcome will be good. Her vision remains excellent and hopefully it will stay that way. Needless to say, we wish her well!

The reason I relate Jane’s experience to you, is to give you first hand knowledge of why it is important to have your regular eye examinations, even if your vision is fine. As in this case, with the latest equipment we can check the health of your eyes more thoroughly than we have ever been able to do before.

Jane’s words on the phone to me say it all – “Please tell everyone how important it is to have an eye test, even if you think there is no problem.”

So, please tell your friends and relatives, wherever they live in the country, to have their eyes examined by their local Optometrist on a regular basis – it really is that important.

This seems an appropriate point to close these ‘Ramblings’. Please don’t forget if you have any stories from your early visits to the practice, or even photos of you in your first pair of spectacles! – could you please take 5 minutes to email them to us, so I can start gathering them together ready for 2027.

I hope you all have a happy and healthy 2022 and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Best wishes,