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'Diabetes is a blinding disease' - Dr James Muecke AM, 2020 Australian of the Year

Posted on April 08 2020

Dr James Muecke AM, 2020 Australian of the Year

The following is the first in a series of weekly guest posts from 2020 Australian of the Year, Dr James Muecke. 

About Dr Muecke

56-year-old Dr James Muecke AM is passionate about fighting blindness. His focus is the leading cause of blindness in working age adults – type 2 diabetes – a spiralling epidemic that in some regions of Australia is impacting over one-in-ten people. It's also the fastest growing cause of vision loss in Aboriginal people and the sixth-biggest killer in this country. James wants to challenge our perception of sugar and its toxic impact on the development of type 2 diabetes.

James co-founded Sight For All, a social impact organisation aiming to create a world where everyone can see. Sight For All’s comprehensive and sustainable educational strategies are impacting on the lives of over one million people each year. 

With 80% of world blindness avoidable – and almost 90% in low income countries – James treats blindness as a human rights issue

 

Diabetes is a blinding disease

In 2018 I met an everyday Aussie bloke whose story had a powerful impact on me. Neil Hansell constructs light machinery for a living. He has a wife and four kids. He also has diabetes. A few years ago, diabetes changed Neil’s world overnight.

Unfortunately, Neil had neglected his diabetes, and he paid the price. He went to sleep one evening with normal eyesight and woke up the next morning blind in both eyes. One of my surgical colleagues worked hard to retrieve his sight, however sadly, it was too late. At the age of 50, Neil was faced with the rest of his life in darkness, and all that he can see now are black objects on a grey background. Neil had to give up coaching the javelin, a hobby and a passion that gave him so much pleasure. He lost his driving licence, his independence, and his ability to see the beautiful smiles on the faces of his grandkids.

Neil is not alone. Over half of all Aussies with diabetes are not having their regular all-important sight-saving eye checks. As a result, diabetes is now the leading cause of blindness amongst working age adults in this country. It’s also the fastest growing cause of blindness in Aboriginal people.

If you have diabetes, make sure you have your eyes checked regularly by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

It’s easy to nominate now for the 2021 Awards, just complete the online nomination form at australianoftheyear.org.au.

Want to read more? Click here to read the next blog!

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