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Published: 13:16, 04 December 2018
| Updated: 13:17, 04 December 2018
A great-grandfather from Tonbridge says he may not have been alive for Christmas this year were it not for the work of an eagle-eyed optician.
Graham Butteriss was fast-tracked by West Malling Opticians when they realised there was a potentially serious cause to his intermittent blurred vision
Scans revealed a 70-80% blockage in an artery in his neck – and Mr Butteris, of Cardinal Close, was told he was lucky he had not already had a major stroke.
The 71-year-old, who has six children, five stepchildren, 22 grandchildren and six great grandchildren, was told by his doctor to see an optician in August when his right eye became blurry whenever he bent down or lifted anything heavy.
Within less than a week of getting checked, he had undergone scans revealing that he had probably already had two minor strokes and was waiting for emergency surgery to clear the blockage on his artery.
The part-time caretaker said: "I am eternally grateful to Linzi Bacon at West Malling Opticians for detecting something was not right in my eye and definitely saving me from a major stroke.
"When the consultants saw the extent of the blockage on my artery, they were amazed I hadn’t already had a serious stroke.
"I am very lucky to be here – and very lucky that Linzi picked up the warning signs and rushed me through the system."
Senior optometrist Linzi Bacon spent several years working in high-street outlets before joining the independent opticians.
She said: "The eyes give a real window into general health, so a major part of our training is understanding the underlying complications that can manifest in changes in vision and eye health.
"Although Mr Butteriss has regular eye checks because of a family history of glaucoma, I knew when I examined him that there was something serious that needed investigating straight away, and am delighted that my colleagues in the hospitals were able to act so quickly to investigate and solve the problem, so that Mr Butteriss is no longer in immediate risk of a major stroke."
The blockage was removed by vascular surgeon Waleed Edrees at Medway Maritime Hospital just 10 days after Mr Butteriss visited the opticians.
"This was a very severe blockage in the main artery that supplies the brain and was potentially very dangerous," he said.
"Mr Butteriss is very lucky that the optician who examined his eyes identified this and made an urgent referral for him to the vascular unit.
"Blockage in the main artery that supplies the brain is one of the leading causes of stroke.
"Careful examination of the eye can identify changes that indicate blockage in the main artery that supplies the brain leading to further investigations and surgery to prevent stroke."
Mr Butteris added: "I never go to the doctor for anything at all, and would probably have put the blurred vision down to old age, if I hadn’t felt a bit of pressure in my eye and thought I ought to get it checked out as my nephew was born blind from glaucoma and both my brother and sister now have it.
"I also had two instances in the previous three weeks in which my left leg had gone completely lame, and I had put those down to old age as well.
"But it turns out they were probably minor strokes and it was all related."
The pensioner, who works part-time as a caretaker at Zoe Evans Childcare in Holborough, was left with a scar from his ear to the top of his neck following the surgery to remove the blockage, but says this is a small price to pay.
"Even though the scar is seven inches long, it’s almost completely gone now, and I am gradually getting back to normal," he said.
"I was talking to a chap shortly after the operation whose best friend had just died of a stroke in his 30s.
"It brings it all home – and make me realise how lucky I am that West Malling Opticians acted so quickly."