Moorfields patient competes at World Triathlon Championship

17 year old para triathlete Oliver Gunning, from Northern Ireland, has reached out to Professor Sir Peng Tee Khaw, to thank him for the surgery he had at Moorfields Eye Hospital as a child.

He is now in his first full season as a competitive para triathlete (category B3/PTVI). Having just turned 17, he has now competed for the first time in the World Triathlon Championship in Abu Dhabi. Not only was he the youngest entrant, he finished 13th in the PTVI category in a race that featured four competitors from Tokyo.

He recently completed the European Triathlon Championships in Valencia (4th in B3, 12th in PTVI) and the points he has won from both these events will help him in his bid to qualify for next year's Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Congenital glaucoma

Oliver was diagnosed with primary congenital glaucoma, where children are born with raised pressure in the eye. This leads to cloudy corneas (the cornea is the normally clear window of the eye) and damage to the optic nerve. If not successfully treated, this can lead to loss of eyesight and blindness.

He initially had surgery to open his underdeveloped drainage channels (goniotomy). Unfortunately, this procedure failed due to scarring. He was then referred to Moorfileds, where he had operations to insert a micro-tube draining to a ‘spacer’ in his eyes. Despite this, his body’s strong healing response blocked off the drainage and he needed very specialised surgery using high-dose anti-scarring medication. This used a technique developed at Moorfields and based on research supported by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Moorfields Biomedical Research Centre. This has prevented the formation of further scar tissue, helping him to keep his vision and to compete so successfully in the triathlon.

Protecting my sight 

Oliver said: “I want to say a massive thank you to Moorfields Eye Hospital and all the staff who have helped me over my time there.  I have had many, many trips for appointments and surgery that I have needed over the years, and each one of them has helped take a step forward to protect my sight.  I want to give a very sincere thank you to Professor Peng Tee Khaw for helping preserve my eyesight as much as possible, but for his surgical skills and gentle encouragement I would definitely not be in this place right now.

“To all the Moorfields staff, fondly remembering the play teams as well, I give you all a very big thank you for your kindness, gentleness and encouragement throughout my time with all of you.  Thank you.”

Professor Sir Peng Tee Khaw, director of research and development and consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital, added: “Oliver arrived having had a lot of problems and difficult glaucoma and in trouble and great anxiety all round. The whole family were amazing.  So positive and funny, and interacted so well with the whole paediatric team. Fortunately, with surgery, we were able to turn the situation around and I am so very thrilled with his achievement in the triathlon.”

Follow Oliver on Instagram @oliver_gunning_triathlete



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