Have you heard of Kirk Pengilly, the Aussie rock star who performed with the music group INXS (In Excess)? The group was co-founded by Andrew Farriss and Michael Hutchence. Pengilly has a long history as a musician, dating back to 1971 when he was lead singer of a high school band called Guinness. The band evolved into INXS with Michael Hutchence as the lead singer, selling more than 30 million records.
However, my focus today is not on INXS but on Kirk Pengilly. He is a talented musician, playing guitar and saxophone. He was also a principal song writer for INXS and a backing vocalist.
In 1987 Pengilly when travelling with INXS came close to losing his eyesight. If he had not followed up and had his eyes checked he would be severely vision impaired today. He was diagnosed with glaucoma.
It is World Glaucome Week 2020, March 8 – 14 and Pengilly is Glaucoma Australia’s Ambassador. He is encouraging Aussies not to ‘turn a blind eye’ when it comes to having regular eye checks. Early diagnosis of glaucoma is the key to preserving eyesight. If you can see okay it does not mean you don’t have glaucoma. It is the silent thief of sight. There are no early symptoms. If you have undetected glaucoma the nerves in your optic nerve can die. They cannot be repaired or replaced.
Like Pengilly, I have glaucoma. My glaucoma, since being diagnosed six years ago, has been treated with eyedrops. My condition over the years has remained stable. Late last year I had eye surgery to insert a stent in both eyes to increase the outflow of intraocular fluid and reduce high eye pressure. The operation was a success. While stent surgery usually means the elimination of eye drops it is not the eradication of glaucoma. Ongoing assessment of eye health is paramount.
Eye tests to check the health of your eyes should happen every two years. Or more regularly if you are at a higher risk for glaucoma, that is, if you have a relative with glaucoma.
Glaucoma does not happen just to older people, it can affect people of all ages. Congenital glaucoma occurs in babies and young children and is usually diagnosed in the first year of life. There are different treatment options including medication and surgery. Once again, the earlier the diagnosis the better. The aim is to preserve this precious commodity – eyesight.
Our eyesight is not only important, it is indispensable. Yet, despite this those with a vision impairment or blindness are high achievers. I stand in awe of such people. One person I admire is Graeme Innes. Of course there are others you might know and applaud.
The key message from Kirk Pengilly, Aussie rock icon, is to take care of your eyes. Be aware of your eye health and have your eyes checked regularly. Early intervention could save your eyesight. And by the way, remind others to do the same.
During World Glaucoma Week, 8 – 14 March, 2020, have a conversation with your friends and family about glaucoma. That one conversation could make a world of difference.