Wendy keeps a close eye on her Dad, Jasper (87).

He has a long history with glaucoma and has had a tough run. But the future is looking bright with support from people like you.

“I only took a lot more interest in Dad’s eyes probably two years ago because of the extraordinary pain he always seemed to be in…The condition of his eyes was just deteriorating so much. And he was in pain. It was just like all scratchy, massive dry eye, pain.”

Jasper lives in the Hawkes Bay. He has travelled to Auckland, the Waikato and Wellington to manage his glaucoma. He’s lost one eye because of serious complications. The last thing Jasper and his family needed was the hardship that followed.

“Part of the problem with Dad was the drops, because every drop he was on to reduce the pressure damaged the cornea of his eye, which then meant it really hurt him to open and close [his eye]. And it damaged the surface of his eye so much that they thought that he had this immunosuppressant condition.

We have been lucky to have an eye specialist who has been relentless in investigating this further to provide further options.” Wendy’s Dad went to every other specialist that he could. There was rheumatology and dermatology to name a couple. He took new drops. He endured one biopsy that was inconclusive. And he went to Wellington to see a colleague of his eye specialist for more advice.

The preservative in the drops was really damaging his eye. His eye was in dire need of relief and time to heal. So, it was decided that it was best to switch from drops to an oral pill.

Speaking about the pill, Wendy said “it’s incredible at getting the pressure down, but as a result of that, Dad was rendered an incredibly old and helpless man. He was unsteady on his feet. He would sleep all day. Some days he struggled to dress himself. This becomes another problem because what if he falls over?”

Wendy mentioned the toll it has taken on family gatherings. Last year they intended to celebrate her parent’s 60th wedding anniversary, but her Dad was in too much pain.

“He had his birthday last September…he stoically sat there for as long as he could, then he had to go to sleep. The poor bugger, this drug was just awful…his life has just been diminished to zero.”

Fast-forward to February 2024. After even more investigation, treatments, two operations (after finally getting a conclusive biopsy to rule out the immunosuppressant condition), his pressures had reduced sufficiently to no longer need an oral pill.

“He can walk…every day, he’s got a little bit more of his vision back…he’s in the best place he has been for a long time…Now we’re back on the problem with the eye drops.”

One of Wendy’s sisters is sourcing a preservative-free glaucoma drop for their Dad in the United States. He is still suffering from dry eye and soreness from the only option (preservative version) available in New Zealand.

“I just don’t understand why, why? If preservative damages the eye so much, why don’t we just make the preservative-free ones available?

How much more is preservative-free over preservative? That’s the million-dollar question. If they [Pharmac] want to save money, how much money would have been spent on my father that could have been saved if he’d been using preservative-free drops?

We are grateful that me and my other sister are around to help him, as that would be another cost to the system but the drops and additional medications can be complicated so I feel for anyone doing it alone, my other sister who is a nurse has helped navigate the system when I couldn’t.

For me, it’s multiple hours off work… I can’t guarantee how many appointments Dad’s going to need to go to during the week. Will he be able to see tomorrow? Will he be able to walk tomorrow? Because of the constant result of not having options for preservative-free.

All those years of pain, discomfort and destruction of his eye could have been prevented. All that misery and suffering could have been prevented”.

Things don’t stop there for Wendy and her family. Other families could be in the same situation. You can help.

Glaucoma NZ is supporting a clinical trial that can help people like Wendy and her Dad Jasper, but it needs funding. Please consider donating towards it. Every little bit helps. You can donate here.

Glaucoma is an extremely complex disease to diagnose and treat. Everybody’s experience will be different. Report any new symptoms to your eye specialist, or doctor, such as redness, irritation, itching, tearing, or decreased vision. Symptoms may be related to the disease, side effects, or complications of medication or surgery.

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