Moorfields is supporting World Glaucoma Week 2017 by encouraging people to talk about glaucoma to raise awareness about the risk factors, and to share best practice on effective management of the condition.
Glaucoma most commonly affects adults in their 70s and 80s, but it can affect people of all ages. Rose Richardson’s daughter Gabrielle was born in 1993 and it was soon discovered that she had a rare form of glaucoma that affects babies and young children. Rose and her daughter Gabrielle have been regular visitors to Moorfields throughout the years. Here she tells her story of bringing up a child with developmental glaucoma.
My daughter Gabrielle was born in June 1993. It was a normal delivery and her elder sister Tanya was so happy that she had a new baby sister.
During routine checks the following day, one of the doctors was concerned about Gabrielle’s eyes. Her left eye was not recognising light and reacted differently to tests done on her right eye.
Two weeks later Gabrielle had an appointment at Great Ormond Street Hospital to remove a cataract in her eye. This was the beginning of something no parent could be prepared for. Gabrielle was prodded and poked; electrodes were placed on her small head to identify light reactions from her brain. The removal of the cataract was successful, but we left the hospital that day unaware that Gabrielle would have to endure many more procedures to control the pressure in her eye, as she was later diagnosed with glaucoma.
At the age of three, Gabrielle was referred to Moorfields Eye Hospital under the care of Professor Sir Peng Tee Khaw, who is a glaucoma expert. Gabrielle’s condition is extremely rare and it was apparent that Professor Khaw and his team had to find a way to manage the pressure in her eye to save her sight. Gabrielle attended clinic weekly and from an early age learned to climb into the adult sized examining chairs, balancing on her knees to rest her chin on the bar ready for a check-up.
By the age of five, Gabrielle needed a very delicate operation to drain some of the fluid in her eye which was causing the build up of pressure.
Despite the many procedures, the pain and the thousands of eye drops Gabrielle had to put up with, she always remained positive. Moorfields was becoming her second home and she looks back on these days as being special. This was the place where she played and painted with her play specialist Flossie, and where she sat and waited patiently with Sister Aero before her next operation. Whose turn was it to wear the funny hat and go down to theatre with her this time, Mum’s or Dad’s?
Each year brought its challenges, but one of Gabrielle biggest was to persuade the doctors to allow her to ride a horse. She had always wanted to learn but the doctors were cautious because of her condition. Eventually, Professor Khaw relented and Gabrielle began riding. It became her coping mechanism; a place to escape, something to help her through the bad times and the good.
Gabrielle’s condition is life long, but it has never prevented her from living life to the full. As she grew older, she learned to notice when her eye pressure was becoming too high with help from the nurses at Moorfields. The team there supported her throughout her education and her appointments were fitted around her studies and travel.
Gabrielle went on to study events management at university and worked in America during her summers teaching younger children to horse ride. She continues to have a special relationship with Professor Khaw and the staff at Moorfields and recently joined Moorfields Eye Charity to work in their events and fundraising team.
As a family we can reflect on Gabrielle’s childhood as having so many life changing and rewarding moments. There were huge challenges along the way financially and emotionally, but we feel that Gabrielle will always be special and that Moorfields and its staff are not only her support mechanism but her second home.
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