Grandpa and footballer support campaign to end avoidable blindness

Proud grandpa, Rupert Downie aged 88 from Cotgrave wasn’t able to see his granddaughters, Rebecca and Ellie Downie presented with their gold medals for gymnastics because he lost his eye sight to the silent thief - an eye disease called glaucoma, which in its early stages often has no symptoms.

Black and African-Caribbean communities are six times more likely to develop glaucoma

People from black and African-Caribbean communities are six times more likely to develop glaucoma than other ethnic groups and Rupert is now speaking out to warn other members of his community about the importance of regular eye tests as they are the only sure way to guard against the potentially life-changing impact of glaucoma.

National Eye Health Week 18-24 September

This week is National Eye Health Week (18-24 September) and Rupert will be working with footballing legend, Michael Johnson and local sight loss charity, My Sight Notts to raise awareness of glaucoma and other forms of avoidable sight loss like diabetic eye disease with community groups and in the local media.

I would have liked to see my granddaughter's faces

“Of course I should have liked to see the pride and joy on Becky and Ellie’s faces when they won their gold medals for gymnastics, but instead I had to settle for someone else  describing how they looked to me,” said Rupert.  “Glaucoma has robbed me of all of my eye sight but the shocking thing is that this eye disease, so common in black communities, is actually preventable in many cases. I want to make sure no one else has to go through what I’ve been through, I want people to know that going for a quick 30-minute eye test at any opticians could save their precious eye sight – it’s as simple as that.”

Keeping my eye on the ball

“I’ve spent my entire career keeping my eye on the ball and I can’t imagine what it must be like for Rupert to live without sight,” said Michael Johnson. “Keeping fit and adopting a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of glaucoma by keeping blood pressure low. Exercise also helps prevent diabetes, another leading cause of blindness and so I’d encourage people to take their health and the health of their eyes very seriously. That’s why I’m happy to lend my support to this important local campaign.”

Raising awareness in communities at greatest risk 

Michael and Rupert have joined forces with local sight loss charity, My Sight Notts on a campaign to raise awareness of avoidable sight loss in communities most at risk across Nottinghamshire. The charity’s campaign gets underway during National Eye Health Week.

My Sight Nottinghamshire’s Services Manager, Angela Phillips, said: “Most people don’t realise that around 70% of sight loss is actually avoidable and we’re so pleased that Rupert Downie and footballer, Michael Johnson are supporting our campaign.

Impact of sight loss is life changing

“The shocking truth is that Black African and Caribbean people are four to eight times more at risk of developing certain forms of glaucoma compared to other ethnic groups. The risk of diabetic eye disease is around three times greater in South Asian people compared to the rest of the population. It’s important that we begin to tackle these shocking health inequalities in our local communities and this campaign, with its simple messages of the importance of regular eye tests coupled with simple lifestyle changes, we hope will make a visible difference to at-risk communities across Notts.

“As Rupert Downie testifies, the impact of sight loss is life changing not only for the individual affected but for their families too. If our campaign encourages people to take their eye health seriously and book an eye test then it will be a job well done.”


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