DRUMCREE College pupil Owen Tohill will undergo the first of two operations next Saturday to save his sight.
The 13-year-old, who lives in Craigavon, was recently diagnosed with keratoconus, a rare, degenerative eye condition which could eventually lead to near total blindness.
As Owen is autistic, his family decided to have him treated privately as they believed the normal Health Service treatment of contact lenses and a possible corneal transplant would have been too much for him to cope with.
Said his mum Michelle, “Because Owen is a visual learner his sight is so important to him. That why we are going down the route of cross linking which is more suitable for him.”
Since Owen’s problem was identified, Drumcree College have been raising money for the eye operations, which will cost around £5,000 in total.
To date, the school has raised £2,510 through its Drumcree’s Got Talent competition and donations from staff and pupils.
Fundraising is ongoing, with the school recently launching its raffle to win two tickets for a One Direction concert, which will be held at The Odyssey on March 11 next year.
Tickets are available from Judge’s and Costcutter shops on the Garvaghy Road, Litter’s, Dungannon Road and Lavery’s, Obins Street. They cost £1 each.
Michelle said it will take approximately three months to see the benefits of the operation, which will halt the progression of the disease and may even reverse some of its effects.
She added, “At the moment Owen has double vision, and he has to squint a lot to see properly or even recognise faces. His right eye is his worst and that’s what is being operated on next week. He sort of understands what’s happening but not properly. We will be glad when it’s all over although we know it’s the right thing to do.”
The second operation will be carried out in another three months.
Mrs Tohill praised Drumcree College for its fundraising and everyone else who had supported the family’s own fundraising events.
On Monday, Owen’s uncle Barry McCarrol ran the Belfast Marathon to raise money as did two Lurgan men, Sean Thompson and Marty Campbell, whom the family had never met before.