Jillian McIntyre – A Story About Loretta

The only thing that we noticed was that Loretta’s eye was annoying her. It was like there was sand in her eye or a little stone. Then one day she went riding on a bike and ran into a pole. Then her balance started to go. She was tripping over and bumping into people. She was five at the time. We didn’t realise she was blind in the left eye.

We are in a very isolated aboriginal community. We were lucky that there was a visiting doctor when the eye was bothering her. It was a pure coincidence that this man was an eye specialist from Princess Margaret Hospital. When they opened up the eye she screamed. The light really hurt her. The nurse thought it was bad conjunctivitis. That is when Rex Anderson told me we had to evacuate Loretta straight away. He said he didn’t want to tell me why until we were in Perth.

I noticed then that one pupil was bigger than the other. The specialist cancelled all his other visits and flew with us back to Perth. He told us that it was really urgent. Cancer was the very last thing on my mind. She was a really normal child. She started crawling and walking on time and all that.

We got down here to PMH and saw Dr Ward on level 4. He suggested we go to the Lions Eye Institute. That’s when I got hit with the hard word. It was a tumour that had grown over the eye itself. I kept saying save the eye, save the eye! They said it would be best to remove the whole eye so it wouldn’t leak to the brain. They didn’t want to take the chance with a sample. It was too risky.

I was devastated. I was in shock. I kept saying, can’t you do something else? They kept saying it was the best thing. They had to remove the eye. It was just the two of us in a room. I hugged her. I told her “baby they have to take your eye”. Because she is young she just went “ok Mum well let’s go.”

She had the surgery the very next morning. The worst part was that waiting during theatre. It was hard having to wait that long. At one o’clock in the afternoon she came out with a big bandage around her head. When they took the bandage off she saw she had one eye and cried. Then she saw the TV and said, “Mum I can still see!” After that it‘s like it never really affected her in any way.

I wish I had a camera the day Jenny put in her new eye. She was overjoyed. The look on her face – a smile that touched her ears. It was marvellous. She said, “I’ve got a new eye! I’ve got a new eye!”

Since she lost her eye she’s won a trophy for open running and won a medallion for swimming. For a girl with one eye she’s achieved a lot. I watch her out in the playground doing everything the other kids do.

It is only when I talk about it that I cry. People tell me its good to talk. I still feel that I am not over her losing the eye. It’s the strangest thing that out of my seven children she is the only one with coloured eyes. All the rest are brown. She got blue eyes from my granddad because he had some Irish blood. I don’t think I will ever really get over it.

As told to Julia Sutton. Reprinted with permission from Jillian McIntyre. You may link to this story, but please do not copy or otherwise circulate.