Pragna Raghwani, contact lens optician and director of Specsavers in Barnet shares her experience of her own eye disease this World Glaucoma Week.
In 2010, after seven years of owning a Specsavers store, Pragna had some blurriness in her peripheral vision and immediately saw one of her optometrists, Penny Thakrar, for a full eye test. She was referred to Moorfields Eye Hospital and was diagnosed with normal tension glaucoma having already lost 30% of her vision.
As a qualified contact lens optician since 1995, she had regular eye check-ups every two years. Pragna says: ‘My dad had glaucoma and my brother and son are currently also receiving treatment for the condition.
‘I am really pleased that Specsavers is raising awareness of glaucoma as it is a condition which can be symptom–free like mine, as my eye pressure was normal and I didn’t notice my peripheral loss until I had lost 30% of my vision which I could not retrieve.’
After two trabeculotomy procedures and also developing cataracts, Pragna struggled with some depression due to the vision loss. However, she managed to bounce back and although she has had to change her hours due to night blindness, she has been able to continue her role as director of Specsavers in Barnet.
‘It has been a tough journey, however being in a positive mind frame has encouraged me to be strong and determine to lead a healthy and normal life despite the adjustments I have had to make due to my condition. But overall, I have not let myself stop doing the things I enjoy doing.’
Pragna continues: ‘After my diagnosis I took a different perspective. I took on more roles within the community as well as ensuring that I have a good work life balance so that I can spend time with my kids. I take pride in investing time in my kids as well as my business.’
Even with 30% vision loss, Pragna is still actively involved in the clinical side of the business, running contact lens clinics for adults as well as children. She also specializes in pathological conditions such as keratoconus, dry eye management and iris coloboma.
Five years after developing glaucoma, Pragna took part in a midnight walk for Cancer Research with the support of her friends and family. She says: ‘It was a really daunting experience given that I am not able to see at night, but I was so proud to do it. Don’t let anything stop you doing what you want.’
Pragna says that she has great support around her, not only from her family but also from her colleagues. They understand her condition and are able to help her when she needs it. ‘My secret to running a successful business is creating a motivated team. If I keep my staff happy then my customers will be happy which will encourage them to come back regularly,’ she says.
She is also keen to give back to the profession: “I am on a Partner Selection committee for Specsavers new business owners, and am a Certificate 4 dispensing assessor and a facilitator at the Specsavers Professional Advancement Conferences, and do distance learning tutoring and examining with ABDO”.
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