Meet Dr. Sarah Chamney

Images from a KnowTheGlow global campaign are making an impact on the Emerald Isle. 

Dr. Sarah Chamney, a pediatric ophthalmologist in Dublin, said she was deeply moved by the photographs shown to her by Megan Webber, co-founder of KTG. Dr. Chamney felt that the messages from the images were clear and extremely valuable, lending themselves to a high-yield awareness campaign.  Dr. Chamney, along with the ophthalmologists in Dublin, want the very best for every Irish child but sometimes they are receiving these cases late. For this reason, Dr. Chamney said she feels that what KTG does is so wonderful because the sooner they find these children, the better the prognosis. 

Dr. Chamney explained that in the Republic of Ireland, the waiting time to see a pediatric ophthalmologist for general cases is too long but when there is a glow seen by the referring doctor those cases are triaged as urgent and seen within 1 week.  This makes awareness campaigns like those from KnowTheGlow particularly vital, alerting parents of the significance of finding leukocoria in their young children.  

Dr. Chamney shared that there is currently an expansion of the community ophthalmology services with new facilities and staff. This has resulted in a reduction in waiting times for patients to be seen closer to home before being referred to the hospital system. The doctors and healthcare professionals working there are trained to very high standards. As community service continues to grow it will result in shorter waiting times and earlier detection of diseases.

Dr. Chamney also shared that the ophthalmology departments of Crumlin, Temple Street and Tallaght children’s hospitals in Dublin will join together under Children’s Health Ireland in the new state-of-the-art children’s hospital at the St James’s site. This will result in more space for outpatient clinics and increased theater capacity. 

The ophthalmological world recently suffered a great loss when Professor Michael O’Keefe passed away, Dr. Chamney said. She marveled at the way he cared for so many patients with complex ophthalmic problems. He knew each and every one of his patients and their stories inside and out!  

Dr.Claire Hartnett who also works in Children’s Health Ireland has a specialist interest in Retinoblastoma and has completed a fellowship in London. There are 2-3 children a year diagnosed with Retinoblastoma in the Republic of Ireland. These children need intensive follow-up for many years and are currently seen by Dr. Hartnett in a special clinic in Temple Street. The ophthalmologists work hand in hand with the oncology team based in Crumlin. Ms. Kerrie Chambers is a specialist ocularist who travels from Northern Ireland to Temple Street to see patients and to ensure the difficult process of prosthetic fitting is as easy as possible for those who require it. The doctors in Dublin maintain close relationships with the 2 large centers in Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Royal London Hospital treating retinoblastoma and some Irish children attend Birmingham for specific treatments that are not available in Ireland. 

Retinoblastoma cases are not the only cases they see in Dublin. Infants are screened at birth and at six weeks for screening for other vision conditions such as PHPV and congenital cataracts. Preemies are screened for Retinopathy of Prematurity as well. At five years of age, all children in Ireland have a vision screening done by a nurse. If there is even a slight reduction in vision, they are referred to see a doctor. The nurses are also looking for squint (strabismus). Megan was encouraged to hear that this was a standard of care in Ireland and reminded Dr. Chamney that, in many cases, the five-year-olds being checked may have younger siblings at home so it’s an especially beneficial time to make parents aware of the glow.  

Dr. Chamney shared that there are many wonderful supports for families and patients in Ireland.  The Gavin Glynn Foundation helps with all the unexpected expenses that can accompany having a child who has to travel to access treatment abroad for Retinoblastoma. This foundation is so appreciated by the families who are already dealing with so much. The NCBI is Ireland’s national sight loss agency and supports, encourages, and empowers adults and children with visual impairment through many different programs.

Dr. Chamney truly wants the whole system in Ireland to one day run like clockwork. Early detection, short wait times with easy referrals to treatment and care. Megan and all of us at KTG have faith that the future is bright for all of the children of Ireland thanks to all the ophthalmologists and allied health professionals who are looking after these children and their families.