Meet Abigail and help to save sight this Christmas

As a researcher herself, Abigail recognises the resources and time it takes to make important discoveries. She also recognises that it is thanks to research of the past, that her life changing surgery was possible.

Thanks to research and advances in modern medicine, 80% of blindness and vision impairment is now avoidable or treatable. Whilst this is a great achievement, our work is far from done. Our goal is to put an end to all preventable blindness in the community.

We would like to introduce you to Abigail, a 34 year old PhD student who has battled with vision impairment since childhood. If, back then, Abigail had access to the treatment options we have today, so much pain and anguish could have been avoided. For now, Abigail remains hopeful that medical research will one day result in a cure for glaucoma and a way to bring back the sight she has lost.

Abigail holding plants wearing a QUT lab coat
Abigail has been studying to improve insect resistance in plants; eliminating the need for harmful pesticides.

Abigail first noticed issues with her vision when she was just 12 years old. As she grew up in a small town in Kenya, there were very few eye specialists and treatment options available. For this reason, she was prescribed a pair of glasses, with no further monitoring or investigation. It wasn’t until years of vision loss had gone by that it became apparent that her vision problems were a result of something much more sinister. Travelling cross country to a variety of different ophthalmologists, Abigail was finally diagnosed with a retinal detachment. However, the cause of said detachment has to this day remained a mystery.

At the time, the treatment process for retinal detachments was nowhere near as advanced as it is today. Sadly, treatment Abigail received for her retinal detachment when she was younger has caused a ripple effect of problems, some of which still affect her to this day. As a result of her treatments, Abigail has faced cataracts, a dislocated lens, dry eye and worst of all, glaucoma.

In 2014, Abigail came to Brisbane to visit her husband whilst he was a PhD student at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), where he is currently conducting a post-doctoral research fellowship. Whilst visiting the QUT optometry clinic, Abigail was referred to QEI Clinic’s Dr Mark Chiang. Still a patient of Dr Chiang’s, Abigail credits him for preserving her sight in her glaucoma affected eye.

Those who have glaucoma (or have a loved one with the disease) will know that it is the silent thief of sight. For years Abigail has had to come to terms with her loss of vision, despite her young age and promising career, where she has been studying to improve insect resistance in plants to eliminate the need for harmful pesticides.

“When I was told my sight was deteriorating, I was in a very dark place. Working in the lab, I rely so much on my vision. I thought I might have to change my career if my vision continues to deteriorate.”

In March this year, Abigail decided to undergo surgery to insert a glaucoma drainage tube, in order to keep her eye pressure under control. After months of recovery, Abigail has managed to gain back some of the independence taken from her by glaucoma.

“My sight and my quality of life have both improved. Now I am able to do things in the laboratory that in the past I would have needed help with, like studying plants under a microscope.”

As a researcher herself, Abigail recognises the resources and time it takes to make important discoveries. She also recognises that it is thanks to research of the past, that her life changing surgery was possible.

“I sometimes think that if better treatment options had been available when I was younger, I wouldn’t have these issues now… This is why research is so important to help the next generation of those affected by eye disease.”

Abigail and her husband Dawit

This Christmas, we ask you to consider the impact medical research has had on your life. Where would you be without the hard work of past researchers, clinicians and students? Our mission at QEIF has remained the same for over 55 years: to end preventable blindness and provide a clearer future for the next generation of those facing vision impairment.

Please show your support this festive season by donating directly to our sight saving research.

Please support our sight saving work

Your support will help us recruit the best researchers to develop better treatments, purchase the latest equipment, advance clinical trials of new treatments, improve eye health education, and support talented students to become tomorrow’s leaders in eye research.

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