Australian Aphakic Spectacle Project
Have a read of this article published a few weeks ago in Sydney’s The Sunday Telegraph featuring Sydney Ophthalmic Specialists very own paediatric ophthalmologist Dr Michael Jones. In an exciting development, optical company Essilor has launched the Australian Aphakic Spectacle Project, which aims to provide children born with congenital cataracts free spectacles each year. This has been made possible by the Essilor Vision Foundation of Australia and New Zealand.
Mum Heather McIntyre with 14-month-old Myfawny. Picture: Adam Taylor
Most children hate wearing glasses but this pair never fail to put a huge smile on little Myfawny McIntyre’s face.
Born with congenital cataracts, which were surgically removed just after birth, these aphakic glasses are teaching her brain how to see and focus so one day she can put away the spectacles.
The glasses changed her world.
“She didn’t want to move because she couldn’t see so you don’t know what is around you,” mum Heather said, speaking from experience. She was also born with congenital cataracts and is now legally blind.
“(The first time) there was just this big smile and her hands reached out, she was looking at her hands and trying to see what was in front of her.
“She now rolls and sits up and she crawls now, it’s such a big thing and she can see a bright coloured block and you have no idea how happy that makes her, it’s such a big thing.”
Dr Michael Jones, head of ophthalmology at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, said: “It’s a high-powered lens to help the eye focus.”
“If they don’t have the glasses it’s like taking away a dirty lens but you’re not replacing it to put the eye back into focus so if these kids are left without glasses, even if they get them later on, they will always see out of focus.
“The aphakic glasses are — and I hate the term — but it’s a lens like a Coke bottle, really thick glasses but they are now much better at making them finely.”
Although rare, congenital cataracts are a major cause of blindness in children. The Children’s Hospital sees about 30 such patients a year and, due to the generosity of international optical equipment company Essilor, children receive the glasses for free through the Aphakic Spectacle Project.
Greg Johnson, CEO of Essilor, said the company was happy to supply the glasses free of charge to 200 children nationally each year.
Dr Jones says the gift of sight was so much more for children like Myfawny. “It giving her not just vision but everything that feeds into other development and social interaction,” he said.
“She has her life back, she’s the happiest kidlet.”
The spectacles are, in time, replaced with contact lenses or lens implants.
Text and pictures courtesy of The Sunday Telegraph May 15 2016. Article by Jane Hansen, photography by Adam Taylor.
Myfawny McIntyre’s aphakic glasses teach her brain how to see and focus. Picture: Adam Taylor