Popular Irish authors put a twist on classic stories for AMD Awareness Week

‘Begin Your New Chapter’ campaign urges people to get tested for eye disease that can lead to blindness


Download a PDF version of the ‘Begin Your New Chapter’ booklet here.

Download a Microsoft Word version of the ‘Begin Your New Chapter’ booklet here.

  • AMD (age-related macular degeneration) is the leading cause of blindness in the over 50s1
  • One in 10 people over the age of 50 in Ireland have AMD with 7,000 new cases diagnosed each year 2,3
  • Innovative literary-themed campaign shows that vision impairment does not have to be an inevitable part of ageing
  • Classic stories such as Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice and Oliver Twist have been given a makeover by some of Ireland’s bestselling authors
  • Free AMD eye testing will be available nationwide from participating eye care providers and at the Novartis mobile testing unit which is travelling around the country during AMD Awareness Week, from September 15-21.

Five leading Irish authors have joined the unique ‘Begin Your New Chapter’ campaign for this year’s AMD (age-related macular degeneration) Awareness Week 2014. Each writer chose a much-loved classic novel and re-worked the ending of the story. In each case a new and exciting outcome has been created, emphasising that just as the endings to our favourite books can change, so too can we make positive changes for our eye health. The ‘Begin Your New Chapter’ campaign will be launched by Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor at an event in the Royal College of Physicians on Monday morning.

The campaign, supported by Fighting Blindness, NCBI (the national sight loss organisation), the Irish College of Ophthalmologists (ICO), the Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI), and Novartis, is offering free testing for AMD in participating eye care providers nationwide and on the Novartis mobile testing unit, which will be visiting Dublin, Galway, Limerick, Cork and Waterford from Tuesday 16 to Saturday 20. More details are available on www.AMD.ie.

AMD is the leading cause of blindness in the over 50s, with 7,000 new cases diagnosed each year1. Indeed, 1 in 10 people over 50 in Ireland have AMD2,3 which can lead to sight loss affecting simply everyday tasks like reading. The ‘Begin Your New Chapter’ campaign, which is supported by bestselling authors Sheila O’Flanagan, Sinead Moriarty, Andrew O’Connor, Jennifer Burke and Colm O’Regan, is calling on everyone to look after their eyesight and get tested for AMD.

Stressing the importance of awareness and testing for eye disease, Avril Daly, CEO of Fighting Blindness, said: We hope that the ‘Begin Your New Chapter’ campaign will appeal to everyone, as reading is something we take for granted every day. Research has shown that 70-80% of blindness in Ireland is preventable. Our key message is don’t delay going to your eye doctor because you are afraid of what they might tell you,   the most likely situation is that if you are diagnosed with an eye condition it can and will be treated. Research into common and uncommon eye conditions is constantly breaking new ground and Ireland is a world leader in the fight against blindness. So please don’t put off that appointment, make it today or come along to one of our mobile testing units in your area.”

Dr Marie Hickey-Dwyer, President of the Irish College of Ophthalmologists, said, “The main symptoms of AMD are blurred vision, wavy lines or a blind spot in the centre of the field of vision.  People can assume this sort of eyesight deterioration is simply down to old age, but it is very important to see an eye care professional as soon as you notice any change in your vision.  Effective treatment is available for wet AMD which can slow and stabilise progression in 95% of cases and significantly improve vision for 30-40% of patients, however early diagnosis is crucial to maximise treatment effectiveness.  Although there is no known cure for the dry form of AMD, eye doctors do recommend conservative measures such as eating a healthy diet rich in anti-oxidants, stopping smoking and taking a lutein based vitamin supplement.  If you are over 50 or have a family history of AMD, it is important to ensure you have regular eye tests to maintain good vision health.”

Loretto Callaghan, Managing Director, Novartis Ireland said, “We are delighted to support AMD Awareness Week and hope that by creating discussion and increasing awareness of this disease, more people will get their eyes tested to ensure early diagnosis and treatment of this potentially life-changing disease.”

For ‘Begin Your New Chapter’ number one bestselling authors Sheila O’Flanagan and Sinead Moriarty turned Jane Eyre on her head and gave Little Women a more satisfactory ending. Comedian Colm O’Regan, author of Irish Mammies, has muddled up the neat conclusion for Oliver Twist and Jennifer Burke has speculated what would happen in Pride and Prejudice if Elizabeth and Mr Darcy didn’t marry. Finally, Andrew O’Connor looked at how The Great Gatsby could have had a happier ending, for Gatsby at least! The five alternative endings are available to read in the ‘Begin Your New Chapter’ booklet, available on www.AMD.ie where people can also access more information on AMD.

On behalf of all the authors participating in ‘Begin Your New Chapter,’ Sheila O’Flanagan welcomed the opportunity to take part in the campaign. “Reading and writing are undoubtedly the most important things in my life. The idea of not being able to open up a book and see clearly what is written there really made me think twice. I loved the idea that we have the power to change our story and begin a new chapter. I hope people enjoy my alternative ending to Jane Eyre and that it makes them think twice about taking their eyesight for granted.”

Lynda McGivney-Nolan, Optometric Advisor, Association of Optometrists Ireland, said: “AMD Awareness Week is incredibly important to ensure we fight this disease and prevent it from causing further blindness in Ireland. Most cases of AMD are picked up by optometrists during eye examinations. Throughout this week many of our members are among the eye care providers offering free AMD testing to everyone over 50 who might be worried about their eyesight.”

Speaking about the need for more conversation about those living with AMD and the services available to them, Elaine Howley, CEO of NCBI Services, said: “While this campaign highlights how important prevention and testing are, we are also hoping to give those who have been recently diagnosed and living with AMD information and support. To ‘Begin Your New Chapter’ with vision impairment or sight loss can be made easier by speaking to the NCBI or a healthcare professional, as there are a wide range of services available”.

AMD Awareness Week encourages anyone who is worried about their eyesight to speak to a healthcare professional and get their eyes tested. For more information on AMD and the free testing locations please visit www.AMD.ie.