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Put eye health in the driving seat

Electronics engineer encourages others to have a free eye test this Road Safety Week (20-26 November 2017)

A Herefordshire electronics engineer whose sight was saved thanks to a crucial referral bu Vision Express is urging others to give eye health the green light by getting a free eye test this month.

Gerald Cook had been driving when he notices a worrying change in his vision in March this year. Knowing not to ignore it after his mum was diagnosed with glaucoma 25 years earlier the Ross-on-Wye resident made an appointment with his local optician where a detached retina was detected.

The 60 year old says: "I was driving home from a gig one night- I play the saxophone in a convert band in Hereford- and my vision seemed a bit fuzzy. throughout the next morning,, I kept seeing a shadow when I looked up to the right. I initially thought there was something on the outside of my eye, but the speed it was growing made me suspicious.

"After calling Vision Express Hereford, I was advised to go to the store immediately. I think that determined what could be wrong from the description I gave."

Gerald was seen within an hour at the High Street optician, by optometrist Paul Royds. "Gerald had an inclination something was wrong so he thought it was better to come in and have it looked at, particularly as he was due to go on holiday the next day," explains Paul. "Following a thorough eye examination, I could see what appeared to be a detachment without needing to dilate him, so I wrote him a letter and told him to go straight to hospital.

"If we had delayed the referral, the retina could have potentially detached completely and he could have lost his sight."

Paul informed Gerald that the fact he had undergone cataract surgery previously could have played a part in his retina detaching. He adds: "People who are extremely short sighted, those who are older and anyone who has previously had cataract surgery are more prone to retinal detachment. It can also be caused by an injury or blow to the head or eye."

Gerald was rushed directly to Hereford County Hospital's eye clinic but unfortunately it meant he had to cancel his holiday. He was pushed up the surgery waiting list, to be operated on that night.

Working for a company in Malvern, which provides scientific instruments that are used to measure particles, Gerald relies heavily on his vision.. He adds: "I'm always working with lasers and I habe to focus on very fine detail on the computer- circuit boards, Computer Aided Design, Programming and such. When I was waiting to fo in to see the consultant at the hospital, I was thinking, how am I going to drive or work? You suddenly realise how important your vision is and I think we all take it for granted until something like this occurs.

"It's all happened so fast- by the time they operated, two thirds of the vision in my right eye had gone. Time was critical and even a couple more hours of waiting would habe made a massive difference. In fact, I was told if I had left it another day, my vision could have been completely lost in that eye."

The operation took two hours, during which doctors drained the eye, welded the retina back in place with lasers and inserted a gas bubble to help push the retina back. "I was awake but it was painless and it went very quickly," explains Gerald. "The NHS was fantastic- the nurses even stayed on in the prep room after their shifts to help treat me."

After a month's recovery, Gerald returned to work and another month later, he was ready to drive again.

While he still had sight in both eyes, he had noticed some changed in his vision and had been back to Vision Express to have it monitored. "It;s different for everybody and depends on how well it healed and how early it is caught," he explains. "The brain manages to cope with the changes but it does take time to get used to it so I'm waiting a little longer before I update my glasses.

“With my family history of glaucoma my vision has been under constant supervision and it’s made me concentrate on changes with my sight. I can’t emphasise enough the importance of staying on top of good eye health practices.”

Gerald is now backing the Road Safety Week 2017 campaign by Vision Express, which is offering a free eye test for all, in a bid to reduce road incidents attributed to poor sight. Around 2,900 road casualties per year are thought to be down to people getting behind the wheel with below-par vision.

Vision Express research reveals almost 30% of UK drivers are overdue an eye test, with 4% admitting to never having had one. It is estimated that five million drivers on UK roads would fail to read a number plate from 20 metres if they had to take their driving test again.

A free eye test is available at any Vision Express store nationwide by downloading the voucher until 26 November from the Vision Express website: The voucher can be redeemed until 31 December 2017 at any of approximately 400 Vision Express stores across the UK.

To find out more about Road Safety Week visit: 2017 or to find your nearest Vision Express store and make an eye test appointment visit:

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