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Eye cancer children 'at greater risk here'

CHILDREN who have lost an eye due to cancer also face the possibility of infections and more surgery because Ireland does not have a laboratory that makes custom-made prosthetic eyes.

That's according to Professor Michael O'Keefe, consultant ophthalmologist at Temple Street Hospital, who is leading a campaign to establish such a lab in Ireland to help children and adults who lose an eye.

He has the support of parents of children who have lost an eye and need the specialist service to save their children from more trauma.


"This should have been done a long time ago. It is a significant issue and because we do not have a laboratory here the children can face multiple visits, trauma including having to take out the prosthetic eye, treating the eye socket and repairing it before replacing the eye," he said.

One of the parents backing him is Grainne Teeling whose children Jack (5) and Cian (3) have been successfully treated for retinoblastoma, or tumours inside the eye. "Jack lost his right eye and the latest prosthesis has given us one problem after another," Grainne explained.

"We now know that if there was an oculist facility in Temple Street that we would not have to source the prosthesis in the UK," she said.

"They would custom-make the prosthetic eyes for the children and the new eye could be fixed or made much sooner."

She said problems due to poorly fitting prosthetic eyes need "antibiotics, steroids and sometimes day surgery as well as rigorous cleaning to eliminate further infection".

"We really need the money to have the service here in Ireland."

She is one of many families fundraising for the €40,000 which Prof O'Keefe says, "would get this off the ground". And little Jack has handed over his piggy bank to Prof O'Keefe to help.

"There were 12 new children with cancer of the eye last year. We have one-and-a-half nurses and still our results are as good as those from the most advanced units in the world," he said.