Australian ophthalmologists joined other worried viewers in contacting the ABC last week when News Breakfast presenter Mr Michael Rowland appeared onscreen in hotel quarantine with a dilated pupil.
In responding to the ‘torrent of concern’ he received, Rowland penned an online article to explain to viewers that this was his right eye’s permanent state, but there was no cause for alarm.
“Like David [Bowie], my eye condition is the result of trauma,” Rowland explained, referencing the singer’s anisocoria that occurred during a fight with friend George Underwood in 1962.
In January 1988, Rowland was a passenger in a car driving through Sydney’s inner west with windows wound down when he suddenly felt a blow to his right eye.
“At first it didn’t hurt. There was just a general numbness. Then came the excruciating pain, and the eye started filling with blood,” he wrote.
“It later turned out someone was firing slingshot pellets at cars that night, and I just happened to cop a bullseye.”
He was sent to the old Sydney Eye Hospital in Woolloomooloo for emergency surgery. A team, led by ophthalmologist Dr Frank Martin, managed to save the eye, but the pupil was to stay permanently dilated.
Rowland, who is also colour blind, said he was acutely aware of how different his eyes looked, and spoke of being self-conscious about his “bung eye” growing up.
He said several doctors and ophthalmologists had contacted him after the hotel quarantine segment expressing concerns for his ocular welfare.
“Close-ups and harsh lighting accentuate the larger pupil, especially as it can’t adapt to light and shade,” he said, adding this was the case in the recent appearance.
He said it usually wasn’t an issue on live television, as he is normally positioned a fair distance away from the cameras in the better lit News Breakfast studio.
Rowland thanked viewers for sharing their concern.
“I really appreciate the level of interest Breakfast viewers have in my wellbeing and appearance. Eye really do,” he concluded with his trademark attempted humour.