Fighting Blindness has presented a diamond award in ‘recognition and thanks’ to its sponsor, leading online car insurance company, its4women, for the ‘incredible and generous support’ that was instrumental in securing a RetCam machine for the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin; to detect and prevent sight loss in premature babies.
Up to 500 premature babies born annually at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin now receive the most advanced sight-saving screening available, following the introduction of a new retinal camera in its neonatal unit. It is hoped that more of these sight-saving technologies may be purchased for other cities on the island of Ireland – including Rotunda Hospital Dublin and the Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital in Belfast.
Kevin Whelan, Chief Executive Officer of Fighting Blindness, presented the award to Gary McClarty, Managing Director of its4women, at Queen’s University Belfast. Whelan said:
“We are delighted to have partnered with its4women for the purchase of the RetCam. Today’s award is a token of our sincere appreciation of the generous support provided by the team at its4women. The pandemic has proved difficult for many within our community, but through this support we have been able to build a resilience that has helped so many people live well despite the uncertainty; especially for those who rely on touch for orientation.
“Social distancing was also difficult for those citizens living with sight loss – and even to administer and read antigen tests was challenging. Our thanks are to its4women whose support ensured we were able to continue some of our innovative support groups.”
The joint Belfast Trust and Queen’s University Belfast research team has been working on inherited retinal degenerations in the Northern Ireland population for over 20 years.
Professor Julie Silvestri added: “The recent funding made available through its4women’s charity partnership with Fighting Blindness will be crucial to our team progressing our work in the adult patients with IRD. The funding allows confirmation of research genetic results in clinical grade laboratories. This will be translational as it allows the information to be passed to the patient for counselling and for enrolment in future clinical trials.”
Gary McClarty, Managing Director of its4women, said: “We are delighted to have won this diamond award. It was without question a hugely challenging year and this award is a testament to the entire team’s determination and resilience at a time of massive adversity.
“This partnership came about because both organisations share a synergy and a goal to support and empower women. Fighting Blindness was collaborating with The National Maternity Hospital Foundation to purchase a Retinal Camera Scanner (RetCam) to enable premature babies that are born in the hospital to receive the most advanced sight-saving screening available.
“To deliver this goal, its4women made a donation to assist with the purchase of the life-changing equipment, which is now in-situ in the neo-natal unit. Over the course of the next 10 years the RetCam will check the sight of 5,000 premature babies, and save the sight of at least 300.”
Mr McClarty continued: “We are absolutely thrilled that our donation has contributed to making such a life-changing difference. Our team is looking forward to working with Fighting Blindness over the coming years to help them achieve their goals of supporting and empowering people with sight loss across the island of Ireland. I have already signed up to take part in the Paris2Nice cycle challenge on a tandem with a visually impaired Paralympian, Peter Ryan, in September. Thank you and congratulations to everyone involved.”
Paralympian Peter Ryan added: “I relish the challenge presented by Paris2Nice and the unique camaraderie of those taking on the six day event. I’m really looking forward to getting to know my pilot Gary as we make that journey together. The money raised will go directly to a great cause, driving the cure for sight loss. As a visually impaired athlete I will be interdependent with Gary and it’s that relationship and understanding that makes the team; Fighting Blindness and its4women working towards our collective goal.”