Campaigning recognition

Eye care campaigner shortlisted for Campaign of the year in the Vision Pioneer Awards

Irenie Ekkeshis

Charity supporter and eye care campaigner Irenie Ekkeshis has been nominated for an award in recognition of her No water campaign over contact lenses.

Ms Ekkeshis, who supports Fight for Sight, has been shortlisted in the Vision Pioneer Awards 2016 for Campaign of the Year. In their inaugural year, the awards are designed to celebrate “excellence in the eye health and sight loss sector,” with the winners due to be announced at a special ceremony in London’s The Grange, Tower Bridge Hotel today (13 June).

In 2011 Ms Ekkeshis almost lost an eye after contracting a rare corneal infection called Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK). She underwent two corneal transplants, suffered scleritis and lost the sight in her right eye.

In light of her treatment, Ms Ekkeshis wanted to raise awareness of the sight-threatening condition, as well as the dangers of poor contact lens compliance, which the condition is associated with.

Spearheading a No water campaign established to highlight the risks of non-sterile water for contact lens wearers, her initiaitve was backed by the British Contact Lens Association, which produced No water stickers that could be used on lens packaging.

Shortly afterwards contact lens manufacturer Clearlab became the first manufacturer to adopt the labels on its packaging in the UK, while the American Academy of Optometry produced its own version of the stickers.

This practice has since been adopted in a number of other countries.

Speaking about her experiences, Ms Ekkeshis, who is a member of Fight for Sight’s Speaker Network, told OT: “Being diagnosed with a rare and debilitating eye infection changed my life in the course of one weekend. From being a confident, self-assured individual, fully in control of the course of my life and its direction, this awful condition struck and I suddenly found myself in the unfamiliar position.

“I was determined to raise awareness of the condition which led me to campaigning. I’ve since become a champion for citizen involvement and participation in health and social care – which is a great way to spread the campaign and the research work Fight for Sight funds into the condition.”

In 2015, Ms Ekkeshis was awarded the Sheila McKechnie Foundation’s Health and Social Campaigner Award and was identified as a HSJ Patient Leader.

Ms Ekkeshis previously shared her experiences with OT.