When Annie Gibbins became CEO of Glaucoma Australia (GA) two years ago, never did she fathom the prospect of fighting for the cause alongside a rock star and the Governor-General.
However, that is the unlikely scenario she faced last week when she met with Mr Kirk Pengilly, from the iconic Australian band INXS, and Governor-General Mr David Hurley at his official Sydney residence.
Pengilly has been announced as an ambassador for the charity and will use his experience with the disease to raise greater awareness and drive early detection among the general population.
The saxophone and guitar player, who is also a backing vocalist, has become the latest public figure to support GA after the Governor-General was announced as patron earlier this month.
Gibbins said she found herself in the unusual position of having morning tea with the duo at the Governor-General’s residence, Admiralty House, last Thursday, alongside and GA president Associate Professor Simon Skalicky.
“It’s great to have them on board. Independently, both men have high impact profiles. To have them available to extend our reach is quite exciting. This is terrific news for people with glaucoma,” she said.
“Since launching their new referral pathway in 2018, Glaucoma Australia is thrilled to be receiving thousands of new patient referrals from eye health professionals.
“However, to find the 50% of people with glaucoma who are currently undiagnosed in the general community, it requires high-profile influencers to extend our reach. It’s particularly exciting to bring Kirk on board; he’s got glaucoma, he’s a patient and he understands what it’s like to value sight saving treatment which enables him to get on with life.”
In 1985, Pengilly “came within an inch” of losing his sight after the onset of narrow-angle glaucoma, which affects about 10% of all glaucoma patients.
“Due to the severity of the disease, I was fast-tracked to a pioneering Australian ophthalmologist who quickly treated my deteriorating sight and prevented further damaged to my vision. Until that point, I had no idea what glaucoma was,” he said.
Gibbins said Pengilly was treated by Sydney ophthalmologist Professor Ivan Goldberg with a form of laser surgery. He continues to manage his glaucoma with annual appointments and treatment as prescribed.
“Kirk’s personal experience shows that glaucoma can affect anyone, and his passionate plea for Australians to go and get their eyes tested will go a long way to increasing glaucoma awareness, early detection and intervention,” she said.
“Kirk also shares the positive message that good eye health can help save your sight.”
Gibbins said the rock legend’s image will feature in GA’s Don’t Be Blindsided by Glaucoma risk awareness campaign.
He will also be heavily involved in World Glaucoma Week (8 – 14 March 2020), which will include a social media campaign, advertising in approximately 300 shopping centres nationally, radio and television interviews, and community service announcements.