Optometrist saves little girl’s eye, possibly life

PHOTO: Emily Walsh with her optometrist Amy Giang.

Melbourne optometrist Amy Giang has been praised for her quick thinking that saved the eye and possibly the life of a little girl.

When Karen Walsh, mother of little Emily, noticed a white glow in her daughter's eye, a visit to her optometrist ensured that Emily received urgent medical attention and had started chemotherapy within five days of her optometric consultation. 

Optometrist Amy examined Emily's eye to find her vision was normal, but there was a large white mass on the retina at the back of her left eye. Amy took a photo of the back of the eye which immediately indicated the urgency of the situation, and referred her to ophthalmologist Professor John McKenzie.

The next day Emily was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, which is a rare malignant tumour of the retina that affects young children. Four days later Emily started chemotherapy at the Royal Children’s Hospital. 

 “Luckily the tumour was away from the optic nerve but not invading it and fortunately cancer had not spread to the rest of her body,” Amy said.

“Amy’s actions are evidence of the valuable public health role that optometrists have.  With a highly skilled optometry workforce in Australia, a comprehensive eye examination can save a life,” President of Optometry Australia, Kate Gifford said.

Emily’s last treatment was in January 2015 and she has been in remission since February. Professor McKenzie said she had coped well with starting school despite the therapy.

“She has some vision loss in the affected eye, possibly due to the chemotherapy, and a scar at the back of her eye but she doesn’t need glasses,” Amy said.

“When you realise the treatment saved her eye and potentially her life, that’s a small price to pay.”


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