We celebrate a century of treatments

In June we celebrated a remarkable milestone for Florence Davidson – her 100th intravitreal injection. With family arriving from throughout the South Island to mark the occasion, the day was filled with balloons, cake and plenty of other happy sights for the 94-year-old.

Florence Davidson has been travelling from Ashburton to Southern Eye Specialists for this treatment since 2006.

Back then it was Kevin, Florence’s son, who had heard of an innovative new treatment being offered here by Dr Jim Borthwick. He suggested this would be ideal for his mother, who was starting to lose her sight. Her response was to the point.

“Nobody’s going to poke a needle in my eye,” she said at the time.

Thankfully for Florence and her family, she relented. The first trip to Christchurch did make her slightly nervous but since then she has taken everything in her stride.

She has been returning every two months or so for another appointment and, with it, another chance to live a full and independent life. While she has lost vision in her left eye, sight in her right one has been protected by the treatment.

Dr Jim Borthwick was the first in the South Island to start intravitreal injections as a treatment for macular degeneration. This approach involves applying numbing drops before injecting the drug directly into the sclera (the white part of the eye).

Florence isn’t alone in suffering from macular degeneration. Around 300,000 New Zealanders suffer from macular degeneration. It is a chronic disease and the main cause of blindness for the elderly.

There are thousands of patients in New Zealand that now benefit from regular intravitreal injections, with approximately 10000 injections administered by the Canterbury District Health Board annually.

Few of these nationwide have reached Florence’s milestone – 100 treatments is definitely worth celebrating!

 That’s why we helped spread the word of the occasion. And so it was in June that three of Florence’s children came to our clinic to celebrate the milestone, with a fourth joining us via Zoom from a locked-down Melbourne. There was cake and balloons and an important sash for Florence, and, above all, there were plenty of great sights for the 92-year old to enjoy.

“She lives in her own home, and she’s where she is still able to read and continue with everyday activities,” said Dr Borthwick. “The treatment has allowed Florence to live life on her own terms.”

He knows just how important it is to get in front of eye issues before small problems become big ones.

“Regular eye checks allow us to quickly gauge if there are any changes in vision, and early detection of macular degeneration means we can often halt progression of the disease and, in doing so, provide years of additional sight.”

 While she was apprehensive about the first treatment Florence couldn’t be happier with the result.

 “The first injection was the only one I have felt,” she says. “I always enjoy coming here (to Southern Eye), and Dr Borthwick has been a lifesaver.”

 At Southern Eye Specialists we are lucky to make such wonderful long-term relationships with our patients and to be part of such important occasions. Thanks to our tight-knit team who make such events possible!