Benfleet man’s sight saved by pioneering treatment at Southend Hospital

Thanks to quick-thinking medical staff at Southend Hospital, a man who suddenly lost sight in his right eye has had it restored.

Ronald Jackson, 81, from Benfleet, had a ‘stroke of the eye’, but thanks to a brand new fast-acting way of delivering treatment, his sight came back in just a couple of days. He is one of the first people in the UK to be treated in this way.

He said: “My sight suddenly got worse. I was worried I was having another stroke so got checked out at the stroke clinic, and it was recognised to be something else.

“From diagnosis to treatment it took just a matter of days, and then my sight started coming back in the second day of receiving care.”

Ronald had experienced giant cell arteritis (GCA), a condition in which medium and large arteries, usually in the head and neck, become inflamed and stop blood flowing through the optic nerve. This can trigger sudden and irreversible sight loss.

He was treated by Professor Bhaskar Dasgupta, consultant rheumatologist, and Dr Alwin Sebastian, the professor’s research fellow. Ronald was given a drug called tocilizumab. Normally it is given by injection but this time it was given by drip direct into the vein, which meant it was faster acting.

This is one of the first times it has been given this way in the country.

Southend Hospital played a pioneering role in the use of tocilizumab when it was at its trial stage, with Professor Dasgupta chief investigator for the trial in this country.

Professor Dasgupta pointed out how critical swift treatment is. He said: “Our innovative use of the drug we gave could save thousands from sight loss. If we are to avoid irreversible sight loss from GCA, it needs to be treated with fast track care as much as the warning signs of a stroke or heart attack.

“If you can get people treatment quickly, you can prevent sight loss, which I’m pleased to say is exactly what happened here.

“Mr Jackson was one of the happiest men I’ve ever seen in my clinic. Thanks to our fast action, he has no permanent damage and an ultrasound on his blood vessels has shown huge improvement.

It is estimated that there are 1,000 people across the country with GCA, with Southend Hospital typically seeing 40-45 new cases a year, and up to ten of those patients experiencing permanent sight loss.

Of his treatment Ronald, said: “Everyone was so quick and on the ball, it was incredible. The professor and his colleagues even pushed me in a wheelchair themselves, to get me to the infusion suite where I received my treatment.

“Life would have been amazingly difficult and awkward had they not been able to restore my sight. My undying thanks go out to the professor and everyone who looked after me.”

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Mick Ferris

Editor Email: [email protected]