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Otwell nurse aids two with rare eye woes
Anita Erickson, the nurse at Otwell Middle School, helps a student with a minor ailment during a recent visit. Erickson's work led to the discovery of serious eye conditions in two students earlier this school year. - photo by Autumn McBride


A local school nurse is being credited for helping two students with conditions that could have potentially led to blindness.

Anita Erickson, nurse at Otwell Middle School, said the students were among five who earlier this school year were chosen to receive free eye care through a LensCrafters program.

Erickson said the visit proved to be "very surprising" when two of the students were found to have severe and rare eye conditions.

It was discovered that one student had a partially detached retina, which if left untreated could have lead to blindness in the affected eye.

A second was found to have increased pressure in one eye and thinning of the optic nerve, signs of glaucoma. The disorder, which is typically found only in older adults, can over time also lead to blindness.

"I was pretty much shocked," Erickson said. "I've spent eight years [as a school nurse] and never come across anything like this."

Erickson said the partially detached retina in particular had been causing the student major problems.

She said the student would have to hold materials at the tip of her nose to be able to read.

The retina problem was so severe that doctors at LensCrafters immediately referred her to a specialist, who agreed to take on her case at no cost.

The other student is also in the care of a specialist for treatment of his glaucoma.

Each year, about 35 students from Forsyth County elementary and middle schools are selected to take part in LensCrafters' OneSight program, which provides free exams and corrective lens.

They are chosen after schoolwide eye screenings that Connie Trent, facilitator of nurses for the school system, said are held each year.

"It's so important when they're at school to be able to see properly to read and do math," she said. "So we like to make sure all the students are able to see as they should."

After the mass screenings, school nurses work with teachers to pick several students who need eye care but whose families aren't able to afford it.

Erickson said both Otwell students still are seeing specialists to receive treatments, but are doing well. 

"I was just so grateful we were able to assist these students," she said.

Added Trent: "This was so huge. Both of these students could have lost their sight if these problems weren't caught.

"We're so fortunate in Forsyth County to have school nurses who work every day to help detect and treat problems like these."